Taranaki's status as "the second best region to visit in the world" is putting pressure on the Pouakai Crossing in Egmont National Park.
The travel bible Lonely Planet - which bestowed the title on the area - identified the crossing as one of the province's 'must-dos', but this summer much of it has been knee-deep in mud, and calls are growing for investment in the track.
The Pouakai Crossing is three existing tracks that have been rebranded in an attempt to attract trampers away from the overcrowded Tongariro Crossing.
It traverses the slopes of Mt Taranaki and negotiates the Ahukawakawa alpine wetland, before climbing the Pouakai Range and descending through the bush to Mangorei Road.
The crossing is 17km long and can take up to nine hours to complete.
New Plymouth woman Rosemary Hutchins tackled it for the first time at the weekend, but said the hype had got ahead of the reality.
"I just think it is very difficult to come here and really not know how difficult the track is. It's much more difficult than I imagined.
"So it's quite difficult and needs some maintenance. I certainly wouldn't suggest anyone do it now until we get some really good fine weather."
Top Guides co-owner Rob Needs said the track was struggling with the increased traffic and needed upgrading.
"If the track doesn't get some maintenance or some expenditure on it, people are going to have a muddy experience.
"Taranaki rains a lot and we're getting numbers going through that are increased on what the track was built for, and this summer we've got a wet summer and it is turning to mud."
The Department of Conservation's best estimate was about 3500 people completed the crossing last year, but said that number would have increased with the publicity.
About another 4000 just do the lower third of the walk, from Mangorei Rd to the Pouakai Hut.
Mr Needs said the Lonely Planet endorsement had perhaps came a year or two too soon, and some people were who completed the trek were grumbling.
"There is people coming back saying 'wow, that was harder than I expected and why was it so muddy,' because they've come from other places where there is more refined infrastructure."
New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young took the Minister of Finance Steven Joyce over the crossing at the weekend to impress upon him the need to get the track up to scratch.
Mr Young said Lonely Planet's gong had created huge expectations and it was important to deliver on that.
"The risk is that people return overseas and say that it wasn't up to what they expected, simple as that.
"We have to understand that that is a very powerful advertising, word of mouth."
Department of Conservation (DOC) spokesperson David Spiers said walkers had to be realistic about the challenges of the trek.
"It's a pretty big walk and it's not one, that at the moment anyway, I would recommend everyone contemplate.
"I think people need to temper their expectations a little bit, but, that said, on a good day it is absolutely spectacular and I don't think you can beat it anywhere in the country."
Mr Spiers said DOC was talking to Internal Affairs about funding a $1.5 million upgrade of the crossing, which would involve creating a new route across the Ahukawakawa swamp and up the Pouakai Ranges.
"At the moment you have to walk up to the Pouakai Hut and back down again, but the idea is to bypass that.
"It is much more direct route it would cut more than an hour off the route and make it a much more viable proposition."
If funding was approved, DOC expected it would take two summers - until the end of the 2019 summer - to upgrade the track, about the time the glow of the Lonely Planet endorsement was expected to have faded.