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Time: 6 to 8 hours one-way | Distance: 19.4 km one-way

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the best known New Zealand day hike set in the middle of the central North Island volcanic plateau.
Pick a good day and the scenery of Mt Tongariro and it's surroundings are incredible! However there is something mysterious and exciting about this area even if it is overcast. If you hate crowds then think again before you walk here in the middle of the high season. It's super busy and you will just be part of a marching ant trail. Attempt the Tongariro Crossing during the week if you want a slightly quieter experience or near the end of the season around March/April when the weather has settled a bit.

The walk is challenging, so good shoes and lots of water is a must. The walk is in an alpine environment and weather here can change by the minute, each season many people are caught out. See the reviews for evidence of this!

If you are a bit uncertain of taking on this beast on your own, there are plenty of guiding companies that can safely take you over the crossing. Enjoy!

Emerald Lakes - Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Emerald Lakes - Tongariro Alpine Crossing

fleaphotos

Into the depths of Red Crater - Tongariro Crossing

Into the depths of Red Crater - Tongariro Crossing

Rosino

In the mist: South Crater Mt Tongariro

In the mist: South Crater Mt Tongariro

Rosino

How's the serenity.....? - Summit, Mt Tongariro

How's the serenity.....? - Summit, Mt Tongariro

Rosino

Contact

Operating Times: NOTE - Recent notification from DOC - October 2017 Vehicle crowding at both ends of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing has adversely impacted on people’s enjoyment of this world famous day hike. The Department of Conservation has worked closely with concessionaires and local iwi to improve the experience for all visitors. People planning to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this summer are urged to use a range of shuttle services from the local towns around Tongariro National Park. The suggestion is being made because parking restrictions will be in place at both road ends of the track and the shuttle services will provide safe and easy access to the popular one-day hike. Changes this summer season, between Labour Weekend (21st of October 2017) and 30th of April 2018 include a four-hour time-restriction for private vehicles at the Mangatepopo Road end. This gives visitors time to enjoy short walks, but people wanting to do the entire hike, which takes an average of six to eight hours to complete, will need to use shuttle transport. The Department of Conservation recommends using shuttle services to access the start and to get picked up. The shuttle services operate from Whakapapa, National Park Village, Turangi, Taupo, Ohakune and Raetihi. Shuttles take visitors to the start, at Mangatepopo Road end and pick them at the end of the hike from Ketetahi Road end. Information on all approved operators is available from the i-sites around the region and on the DOC website. Developing a stronger appreciation of the cultural and environmental values of Tongariro National Park, a dual World Heritage Area is also on the agenda. Local kaumatua, Te Ngaehe Wanikau, explains; “The mountain peaks and all waterways on Tongariro and his peaks, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are sacred to the local hapu Ngati Hikairo Ki Tongariro” Mr Wanikau asks visitors to the area to keep their own safety and wellbeing paramount and also to respect the sanctity of the maunga tapu (sacred mountains) by not touching or entering any of the waterways, including the alpine lakes. “Ngati Hikairo ki Tongariro places extreme importance on their guardian role in protecting not only Tongariro and his peaks, but also the safety and wellbeing of visitors to the region,” he says. The Department of Conservation is removing access signs to the peaks and visitors are asked to stay to the marked and formed tracks. This summer there will be additional toilets in place on the hike and people are encouraged to use them as defecating on the tracks or in the alpine vegetation off track is unacceptable, offensive and a human health hazard. The Department also reminds people that drones are not allowed be used in the park. Tongariro Alpine Crossing is unique and a special journey, so please leave your drones at home and let other walkers enjoy their experience. “This summer expect to see more conservation Rangers at the beginning of the track and on the track to share these important messages with our visitors,” says Brent Guy Operations Manager.

Map

map

Timing

NOTE - Recent notification from DOC - October 2017

Vehicle crowding at both ends of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing has adversely impacted on people’s enjoyment of this world famous day hike. The Department of Conservation has worked closely with concessionaires and local iwi to improve the experience for all visitors.

People planning to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this summer are urged to use a range of shuttle services from the local towns around Tongariro National Park. The suggestion is being made because parking restrictions will be in place at both road ends of the track and the shuttle services will provide safe and easy access to the popular one-day hike.

Changes this summer season, between Labour Weekend (21st of October 2017) and 30th of April 2018 include a four-hour time-restriction for private vehicles at the Mangatepopo Road end. This gives visitors time to enjoy short walks, but people wanting to do the entire hike, which takes an average of six to eight hours to complete, will need to use shuttle transport.

The Department of Conservation recommends using shuttle services to access the start and to get picked up. The shuttle services operate from Whakapapa, National Park Village, Turangi, Taupo, Ohakune and Raetihi. Shuttles take visitors to the start, at Mangatepopo Road end and pick them at the end of the hike from Ketetahi Road end. Information on all approved operators is available from the i-sites around the region and on the DOC website.

Developing a stronger appreciation of the cultural and environmental values of Tongariro National Park, a dual World Heritage Area is also on the agenda.

Local kaumatua, Te Ngaehe Wanikau, explains; “The mountain peaks and all waterways on Tongariro and his peaks, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are sacred to the local hapu Ngati Hikairo Ki Tongariro”

Mr Wanikau asks visitors to the area to keep their own safety and wellbeing paramount and also to respect the sanctity of the maunga tapu (sacred mountains) by not touching or entering any of the waterways, including the alpine lakes.

“Ngati Hikairo ki Tongariro places extreme importance on their guardian role in protecting not only Tongariro and his peaks, but also the safety and wellbeing of visitors to the region,” he says.

The Department of Conservation is removing access signs to the peaks and visitors are asked to stay to the marked and formed tracks. This summer there will be additional toilets in place on the hike and people are encouraged to use them as defecating on the tracks or in the alpine vegetation off track is unacceptable, offensive and a human health hazard.

The Department also reminds people that drones are not allowed be used in the park. Tongariro Alpine Crossing is unique and a special journey, so please leave your drones at home and let other walkers enjoy their experience.

“This summer expect to see more conservation Rangers at the beginning of the track and on the track to share these important messages with our visitors,” says Brent Guy Operations Manager.

Access

From 21st October 2017 to end April 2018, parking restrictions are in place at both road ends. A 4 hour max time limit is enforced. This is because so many people are doing the track and parking facilities are so limited. The area is under developed, fragile and the parking areas are too small and too expensive to upgrade. DoC have therefore decided it is better for walkers to organise a shuttle.

These can be booked and paid for at i-sites in Whakapapa, Turangi, Taupo and Ohakune.

Track

The track is only possible to walk in one-direction from Mangatepopo Valley to the Ketetahi Roadend. This limits people bumping into each other on the narrower sections and avoids clogging.

This is an alpine crossing and you should consult DoC before thinking about walking this track. Avalanche danger, high winds, horizontal rain, not to mention this being an active volcano, are all hazards that are life-threatening if not managed. Don’t be a hero.

The track is varied, with some rocky section, some rough, some boardwalks and plenty of steps.

After climbing gently through the scoria fields of the Mangatepopo Valley, pass the Mangatepopo Hut and Soda Springs. Toilets with camouflaged exteriors are now installed here. You are in a large bowl with volcanic cliffs all around. Bizarre turrets of scoria stand alongside the track, while Ngauruhoe stands sentinel to the right.

A steep, stepped climb known as the Devils Staircase leads to South Crater, always in the shadows on Mt Ngauruhoe. Views back to the plateaux and Ruapehu can be distracting while you pick your footfalls. Last toilets before Ketetahi Shelter.

South Crater is a moonscape. Tongariro to the left, Ngaruhoe to the right. Old lava flows and pyroclastic ejections line the flanks of Ngaruhoe. Blacks, browns and ochres contrast the snow remnants in the hollows.

Another steep section on the side of a shoulder, with chains bolted to the rocks, climbs to Red Crater (1868m), the high point of the track. The 45 minute return detour to Mount Tongariro Summit is discouraged, as the summits of these mountains are sacred to local Maori. Would you tread on an ancestor’s head?

The descent past Emerald Lakes is loose pumice and you are guaranteed to draw blood if you slip over. It’s like walking in slo mo as you moonwalk down. Steaming fumaroles spew sulphurous vapours so you can fart with impunity. Mineral crusts on the rocks and the fluro waters of the Emerald Lakes make this place seem like another world. This is what the planet looks like with an ‘Under Construction’ sign.

Stop to empty your shoes before sidling around Central Crater and the short climb to a traverse alongside Blue Lake. This is the last of the volcanic desert before starting the winding descent past the smoking fumaroles to Ketetahi Shelter.

This dilapidated shack is ripe for renovation and sits with views of Lake Rotoaira, Lake Taupo and more fumaroles around the Ketetahi Hot Springs (closed). Sub alpine vegetation with tussocks, phylloclades, buttercups and pimelia are evidently, hardy to withstand the mineral laden air, cold, wet and occasional eruption. These are the pioneers.

In the forest, the bird calls and streams are a perfect counterpoint to the non-vegetated volcanic tops. There is a section close to the stream, where floods have compromised the track and potential lahar (mud slides) are indicated with warning signs. The track finishes at a shelter by Ketetahi roadend.

Geology

Tongariro National Park covers an area of 79,600 ha. The 3 volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro (1967m), Mount Ngauruhoe (2287m) and Mount Ruapehu (2797m) stand sentinel at the park’s centre.

Tongariro National Park lies within the Taupo Volcanic Zone and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. It is created by the Hikurangi Subduction Zone, a result of tectonic movement, as the Pacific plate slowly shifts underneath the Indo-Australian plate. The volcanoes of the Taupo Volcanic Zone are believed to be less than 500,000 years old.

The Taupo Volcanic Zone or Volcanic Belt extends 240 kilometres from Mount Ruapehu to White Island and also passes through the Rotorua Lakes area. The region is sprinkled with hot springs and geysers, and studded with volcanoes, both active and inactive. Lake Taupo covers a crater of the massive Taupo Volcano, believed to have caused the two biggest super-eruptions ever in New Zealand: The Oruanui Eruption (around 27,000 years ago) and the Hatepe Eruption that dates back to about 180 A.D. Some historians believe the Hatepe Eruption caused vibrant sunsets in parts of China and Europe. The 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption is a recent reminder of the awesome forces still at work, unceasingly reshaping the landscape.

The majority of rocks encountered on the crossing are less than 275,000 years old. Around 12 separate vents have periodically built up the volcanic structures of today. Ngauruhoe is the most recent, having commenced work on her composite cone around 7,000 years ago. Living up to her name of ‘hot rock thrower’, she has successively added layers to her perfect form, the most recent ejection being this decade. Old pyroclastic and lava flows cascade down her sides like flowing robes. This process of alternating layers of lava flows and ash forms stratovolcanoes or composite cones. More than 60 eruptions have occurred since 1839, the last lava flow being in 1954.

Red Crater was formed around 3000 years ago. The striking colour is due to oxidised iron in the rock’s chemical makeup. The dyke visible was an old lava flow.

Ice ages later scoured the Mangatepopo Valley, exposing the basalts and andesites on the cliff faces.

The fumaroles on the descent to Ketetahi are steam being emitted from a crack in the earth's crust. They release gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen sulphide.

Blue Lake and Emerald Lakes are former craters now filled with water. The high concentrations of minerals colours the water.

The Crown Research Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) monitors the area with 4 seismographs, 1 microphone, chemical analysis of water and gases, 3 GPS stations, and 3 web cams to spy on the Tongariro area.

Flora

The barren tops of the volcanos harbour little plant life.

Polynesian History

The legend of the vocanoes is tied to Mount Taranaki and the formation of the Whanganui River. Mount Taranaki lost his fight with Mount Tongariro over the beautiful Mount Pihanga. She was clad in a luxuriant forest of green, which made her especially beautiful in the eyes of the barren volcanoes. A battle raged between the two mountains and an age of darkness enveloped the land, as smoke poured from the fuming mountains. Tongariro lost his head in battle, which became Motutaike in Lake Taupo, but eventually defeated Taranaki. With a final venomous kick, which formed Rangitoto Flat between Fanthams Peak and the summit, Taranaki was forced to leave and fled the central North Island towards the setting sun, carving a deep scar as he travelled seaward. Mount Tongariro healed the wound left by Mount Taranaki and formed the Whanganui River, the rocks falling from Mount Taranaki’s sides forming the rapids.

957 reviews with the most recent first, showing page 12 of 74.

Maximilian Seitz's avatar

Maximilian Seitz

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

This publicly available track is incredibly beautifully stunning. The diversity in nature/vegetation you can see in a matter of hours is great. The 4 day walk or even 1 day walk are a must do in New Zealand. The Mt Ngauruhoe is super fun to climb, challenging but super worth it. Sticks would be recommended but if you do not have any the good ole' hands and feet will suffice. I suggest not doing it too late so you can see more.

Reviewed about 1 year ago and experienced in March 2016

Carolin's avatar

Carolin

Germany

Ranking: 7/10

Beautiful landscape, bus was too expensive, toilets were not very clean.

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in November 2016

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Katharina's avatar

Katharina

Germany

Ranking: 9/10

Amazing one day hike! Try to do it with good weather, I am sure you will have a much nicer view. Nice that there are some toilets provided. Only negative thing is that the companies driving you to the start of the track are quite expensive.

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in November 2016

Stuart's avatar

Stuart

Australia

Ranking: 10/10

Spectacular. Drive past and enjoy from the highway or enjoy the walks ranging from 10 minutes to days. Well worth a stop.

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in November 2016

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Emilie Bavard's avatar

Emilie Bavard

France

Ranking: 9/10

Great walk in the forest and then the mountain, wonderful landscapes! Only bad point is that it is a one way walk and a long one (29km) and at the end you either, have someone waiting to get you back to your car or you take the shuttle which is quite expensive......

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in November 2016

Gilbert Baptiste's avatar

Gilbert Baptiste

France

Ranking: 10/10

Fantastic track across Mt Tongariro, wonderful views of the valley and the other mountains/volcanoes (including the one that inspired Mt Doom!). The arrival on top of it with the emerald lake was incredible, even more with the snow that was sill here in November!

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in November 2016

Menguy Thibault's avatar

Menguy Thibault

France

Ranking: 10/10

Just amazing walk, need to be prepared physically for this! Great spring waterfall, wonderfull emerald lake and blue lake! Unforgettable!

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in March 2016

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Alexie Lion's avatar

Alexie Lion

France

Ranking: 10/10

Amazing place, 8 hours of walking. It was really physical but the best I have done since 10 months in New Zealand!

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in March 2016

Lukas Weberling 's avatar

Lukas Weberling

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

A must do in New Zealand. Spectacular views. The last 7km are a little tough.

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in March 2016

Cassandra Geyer's avatar

Cassandra Geyer

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

A very beautiful walk! They prepared the walking tracks very well and there are lots of signs so you don't get lost. It is a long walk though and quite exhausting, but worth it!

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in March 2016

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Sophie Rosenberg's avatar

Sophie Rosenberg

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

A 9 hour walk but a really beautiful one!!

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in March 2016

Celina's avatar

Celina

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

Very nice work, I enjoyed the nature around the track, it was a little busy (I went there at Easter weekend), the view over the lakes and the volcano was amazing!

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in April 2016

Jana Ebelina's avatar

Jana Ebelina

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

I never hiked on a volcano in my life before. The view from the top was amazing.

Reviewed over 1 year ago and experienced in April 2016