Travel Guide to Rainbow Mountain Rotorua

My Guide to a Successful Trip Up Rainbow Mountain, Rotorua 

I was primed for Instagram glory when I first went to Rainbow Mountain. Fueled by an overpriced latte and enthusiasm, I set off at the crack of dawn, ready to conquer the peak.

Except that the universe had a different plan for me. First, there was the rogue sheepdog who decided my rental car was a worthy opponent in a game of fetch. Then came the pouring rain during the hike to the summit. 

At some point, I was pretty much just a soggy mess perched half on the trail and half on a tree root. I retreated from that first attempt in dejection. 

Since then, though, I’ve returned to conquer Rainbow Mountain many times. And I’ve learned everything there is to know about taking it on. 

So, to spare you the same trials I went through, here’s everything you need to know for a successful trip up the mountain! 

Things to Know about Rainbow Mountain

Location: Waiotapu 3073, New Zealand

Directions: Google Maps

Elevation: 267 meters

Difficulty: Mild – suitable for most people

Best Time to Go to Rainbow Mountain

I’ve found that the best time to go to Rainbow Mountain is during the summertime (December to February). 

Summer is ideal for hiking up to the summit because the weather is warm, and you’ll have daylight for longer hours.

True, summertime is busy, but if you go early in the day and during the week you’ll deal with less crowds.

What to Do at Rainbow Mountain 

Hike the Crater Lake Walk 

Crater Lake Walk is perfect if you’re a hiking newbie. It’s short and sweet—1.5 kilometres long—and takes about 15 minutes to complete. 

The trail begins from the car park by Thermal Explorer Highway. You’ll pass through a pavilion, and hike about 500 meters before reaching the crater lake lookout.

There’s one pool on the left and one on the right—both are absolutely a gorgeous shade of turquoise. 

And the views from the lookout are stunning. So, this is the time to take all your selfies for the gram or some scenic photography.

Hike the Rainbow Mountain Summit track

So for those who are more advanced hikers like yours truly, the Rainbow Mountain Summit Track is for you. Really, everyone should try going to the summit at least once for those beautiful views I mentioned earlier. 

The track starts with the easy Crater Lake Walk. After you get past the crater lakes, you’ll continue uphill for about 1½ hours. The climb is gradual but steady, so you won’t be out of breath. 

Go mountain biking on the Rainbow Mountain MTB Trail 

Rainbow Mountain MTB Trail is the trail to take on for mountain biking enthusiasts. 

From the car park by Thermal Explorer Highway, you’ll head uphill towards the summit using the biking trail. It definitely will take some guts biking uphill, but I guarantee the views are worth it. 

There are also some steaming cliffs along the way, so be careful as you make your way through the trail. 

Extra Tips to Keep in Mind When Visiting Rainbow Mountain 

  • Bring good walking shoes. The terrain can be a bit uneven, so you’ll want to have shoes with good traction. 
  • Pack for the weather. The weather in Rotorua can change quickly, so it’s always a good idea to pack a rain jacket and an extra layer of clothing. 
  • Be sun-smart. New Zealand has a strong sun, so be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. 
  • Respect the land. Rainbow Mountain is a sacred place for the Maori people, so be sure to be respectful of the land and leave no trace. 
  • Go to the bathroom before you hike. There are toilets at the car park, but none on the tracks.