The Tararua Ranges lies north ot the Rimutaka Ranges and south of the Ruahine Ranges. The exact borders are the Manawatu Gorge near Palmerston North as the northern border and the Hutt Valley with the Rimutaka Hill Road as the southern border. The highest peak is Mitre at 1570 metres.
The landscape is mainly covered in temperate rainforest with Beech. Higher altitudes give way to alpine vegetation like tussock grass and subalpine shrubland. Some parts comprise of rocky scree that become snow capped in the winter months.