Mt Taranaki in New Zealand is a spectacular volcanic cone rising steeply out of the surrounding plains, a Mt Fuji lookalike, so much so, it was used in the Tom Cruise blockbuster, the Last Samurai.
It is a trail runner's paradise with the amazing challenge of 8000 feet of scrambling up the mountainside to a tremendous 360 degree outlook across iconic green New Zealand farmland, the nearby ocean and in the west, the snowy peaks of the Tongariro National Park.
There is an additional plus, in the lower forested reaches of the mountain there are fantastic narrow well maintained trails. On a recent visit I found the trails to be perfect for trail running because the volcanic surface is well drained and the terrain varies every few minutes from exposed ridge running to beautiful forest with bird life. Importantly there are varying view points all over the place, of broad forested valleys, ocean views and always the perfect volcanic peak revealing a new impression from different areas of the National Park. If you have a full day to fill, and you are fit and are well equipped, a loop run from the Park Info centre to the popular Department of Conservation hut, Holly Hut, is as good as it gets!
Recently I visited the area twice and had splendid blue days, one after the other, a real plus on a mountain that is exposed to squalls and weather bombs coming in directly off the ocean.
Visit New Plymouth and it's iconic mountain in the settled summer and autumn months before the winter snow and chances are, you will have a complete experience, from endorphin trail running highs complete with delicious fare in the quality cafes in New Plymouth or a surf on the many quality surf breaks in the area all in 1 day!