“Trek across a volcanic alpine landscape of dramatic contrasts – steaming vents, glacial valleys, ancient lava flows, alpine vegetation and vivid crater lakes, all with stunning views.”
The Tongariro crossing passes over the volcanic terrain of the multi-cratered active volcano, Mount Tongariro, passing the eastern base of Mount Ngauruhoe (in other words, Mount Doom). This challenging trip is an incredibly popular hiking track but it can be dangerous if you're not fully prepared to enter an alpine environment. Plan your trip on the Mountain Safety Council Website.
Allow 7-8 hours.
Distance 19.4 km.
Extreme weather, terrain and distance have resulted in this track having the highest number of search and rescues in New Zealand, so there’s a few things you need to know before you go:
The best time is from October through to April, the days are longer, and the chances of encountering snow are much lower.
You’ll need warm and waterproof clothing, even on a nice day, a good pair of ridged hiking boots and make sure you carry enough water for the whole day as there isn’t any available along the track.
The track begins at 1120 m, climbs the Mangatepopo Valley to the saddle between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, through South Crater before climbing again to Red Crater, the highest point on the crossing at 1886 m and very challenging terrain.
You will then descend on a volcanic rock scree track to the vivid Emerald Lakes, known as Ngarotopounamu (greenstone-hued lakes) but take on the lose volcanic rock. After passing Blue Lake, also known as Te Wai-whakaata-o-te-Rangihiroa (Rangihiroa’s mirror), the track sidles around the northern slope of Tongariro, then descends in a zigzag track past Ketetahi Shelter and down to the road end at 760 m.
Be prepared for a long and challenging day out.
Hikers often underestimate how long it takes to complete the hike, so starting by 8am will ensure you have plenty of daylight but pack a headtorch just in case.
There is a 4 hour parking restriction in place at Mangatepopo road end to allow for those doing shorter walks. However, for those hiking the entire Tongariro Alpine Crossing, licensed operators who are approved by the Department of Conservation, will not only provide timely shuttle transport but also provide expert safety knowledge on the walk and the weather plus free parking at their depot. They will also provide back-up should you suffer a mishap during the day.
Make sure you check the official Tongariro National park forecast at MetService.com before you go. You’re crossing volcanic apline terrain and there’s a good chance you’ll experience heavy rain, strong winds, snow and freezing temperatures even in the height of summer.
As with all walks in New Zealand make sure you leave your intentions with a trusted contact and let them know when you’ve finished. You can find out more about planning your trip at the Mountain Safety Council Website.
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Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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