If you only do one hike in NZ , you must make it the Tongariro Crossing ! Voted as one of the best day hikes in the world, the crossing takes you through some of the best scenery you’ll set your eyes on! You’ll be challenged with steep inclines and difficult downhills, but rewarded with the most vibrant lakes and incredible volcanic rocks. To give you a scale of is beauty, it’s used as the setting for lots of The Lord of The Rings! It’s worth saying though, that the Crossing is no mean feat! At just under 20km and typically completed within 7-9 hours, it will put you through your paces, so with that in mind, it’s best to be prepared! If you are thinking about doing the hike on your next visit to New Zealand but are not sure, then you absolutely must do it! You’ve come to the right place too – Read on to learn about the route you’ll take, tips and advice…
What To Wear for the Tongariro Crossing
All alpine environments, like the Tongariro, are subject to unpredictable weather and the temperature can change rapidly throughout the hike. For us, in February, the temperature fluctuated and I was very pleased to have layers to take off, and put on, when I needed. Due to the nature of the changing conditions it’s important to be prepared for all weathers – I recommend…
- Activewear shorts
- Vest top
- Long sleeved top
- Hiking Socks (These red ones are so cosy – I wear them all the time!)
- Hiking Boots
- Scarf (I used my Sarong!)
- Packaway Waterproof jacket – This Craghoppers one is super light and easy to pack away
What To Take for the Tongariro Crossing
Before You Start…
It’s really important to check the weather before starting the hike. Due to the adverse weather, it is not always safe to take the hike – We had to push our hike back four days due to bad winds and rain at the Red Crater – it’s easy to check the weather online here. It’s also advised to hike with a guide in the winter months.
The Huge Tip That Would have Saved Us Hours…
The Tongariro crossing is not a loop hike, meaning you start at one place – (Mangatepopo Valley) and finish in another – (Ketetahi Road). So if you have a Campervan or car then you obviously need to get back to it at the end! The best way to access the Tongarori Crossing is by driving to the END of the walk and parking there, before getting the shuttle bus to the start of the hike.
Unfortunately we didn’t do this…. we parked at the start of the hike, and booked a shuttle bus for when we finished to take us back to the camper – BIG MISTAKE – We booked a shuttle bus for a time far later than the time we finished and had to wait around for 2 hours to get our shuttle back to the camper!
Where to Stay…
The Tongariro Crossing is in Tongariro National park so it is possible tho stay there and nearby Whakakpapa Village – You can look for local accommodation accommodation here. Taupo is also a great option for accommodation too – We stayed in Taupo (in my favourite FREE campsite – Reid’s farm) the night before and it was around an hour drive the next morning to reach the Tongariro Crossing.
So let me take you through our Tongariro experience! (It’s a beauty!)…
PART 1: MANGATEPOPO CAR PARK TO SODA SPRINGS
(EASY : 1 – 1.5 HOURS)
The Crossing has a nice easy start – it’s pretty flat and on a purpose made walkway – making it super easy to walk across. This is great time to enjoy the scenery and take in the views! (Tip : The toilets at Soda Springs are the last for hours…)
PART 2: SODA SPRINGS TO SOUTH CRATER
(DIFFICULT : 40 mins to 1 hour)
After a gentle start it’s time for The Devil’s Staircase – a steep climb to 1600 metres above sea level, with the reward of stunning views! During this part you hike over ancient lava flow so the path is quite bumpy! At this point, if you have time, you can choose to take the additional hike to the Mount Ngauruhoe summit (we didn’t…so we headed on the South crater…!)
PART 3: SOUTH CRATER TO RED CRATER
(MODERATE – DIFFICULT – 1 hour)
After passing South Crater it’s time for another climb – shorter this time – to The Red Crater – where you will be in total awe of the INCREDIBLE colour of the rocks! You might decide to hike to the Tongarito summit, (We didn’t… and continued along the main track enjoying the awesome views over the valley.)
PART 4: RED CRATER TO BLUE LAKE
(MODERATE : 30 mins)
The incredible Emerald lakes are just stunningly beautiful – we stopped here for lunch and to enjoy view – the colour was mind blowing! Descending from Red Crater for me was one of the trickiest parts – it took me a while to get used to the loose scree causing me to slide, so be prepared to take your time here… and land on your bum a few times! The track follows the edge of crater then up to Blue Lake.
PART 5: BLUE LAKE TO KETETAHI HUT
(MODERATE: 1 HOUR)
There’s a short climb here to the edge of North Crater, time to enjoy some spectacular views before starting the descent down to the Ketetaehai hut… the descent makes you feel like it’s nearly finished but theres actually a lot of walking still to do – it’s all downhill though and the views are amazing! Oh here is where you can use the toilet again!
PART 6: KETETAHI HUT TO THE FINISH LINE! (KETETAHI CAR PARK)
(MODERATE – 2 HOURS)
The last section completes the descent – the track takes you alongside a stream, into a forest area and to a waterfall…the last pretty view before the end!!
I hope this has been useful, I would love to hear if you are planning on doing this hike!
Have you done the Tongariro Crossing already?
You might also like to check out my posts on these other great days in New Zealand
Thanks for reading,
The Healthy Backpacker x
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