The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4 km trail across an active volcanic landscape within the Tongariro National Park, near Whakapapa Village. The oldest National Park in New Zealand, it’s located in the centre of the North Island cand has been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Highlights of the hike include dramatic glacial valleys, blue crater lakes, steaming geothermal vents and ancient lava fields.
One of the country’s most popular ‘tramping’ trails and day hikes, it can be hiked in either direction and it’s advised that a shuttle is booked to reach the trailhead due to limited parking. Additionally parking restrictions apply from Labour weekend (1 October to 30 April) restricting parking to a 4-hour maximum. Find and book a shuttle from all local towns through the i-SITE website here. https://book.isite.nz/tongariro-crossing-shuttles
A beautiful but challenging route with steep sections and notorious for changeable weather, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing should not be underestimated. It’s advised to leave early to have enough time to enjoy and complete the trail in the daylight.
This breath-taking walk rewards hikers with views of the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. (Lord of the Ring’s fans will be delighted to know that Mount Ngauruhoe also goes by the name of Mount Doom.)
Winding its way through the Mangatepopo Valley, the trail takes on the saddle of Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, climbing the volcanic scree to reach the Emerald Lakes or Nga Rotopounamu meaning ‘greenstone-hued lakes’.
After taking in the Blue Lake or Te Wai-whakaata-o-te-Rangihiroa (Rangihiroa’s mirror), the path then flanks Mount Tongariro before descending to the road and the end of the trail.
It is best hiker from November to May, when the trail will take approximately 7 – 8 hours to complete, with toilets being located at around 1 – 2 hours along the track.
The crossing poses some hazards and caution must be observed; not only has the trail’s distance, terrain and inclement weather meant a high frequency of search and rescue efforts year-round, but with volcanic risk present, as well as geothermal activity along the trail, it is strongly advised that hikers stick to the designated tracks and do not stray for their own safety.
Be prepared year-round with plenty of food and drink, extra layers for changeable weather and sturdy footwear to manage scree slopes and steep climbs. It is also recommended to carry a head torch and a phone or communication device.
It should be noted that in the case of extreme weather such as high-speed winds, high levels of rainfall and snow due, there is an active hazardous weather advisory and ‘Not Recommended Today’ advisory will be applied to the route.
During the winter months, from June to October this trail is only recommended for experienced hikers, equipped with alpine and navigational skills to confidently take on snow and ice over avalanche terrain in extreme low temperature conditions. It is possible to arrange a guided tour if you wish to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing during winter.
Based on our data, the trail is graded as medium/hard
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This trail can be completed in approx. 7 – 8 hours. Caution is advised on trail times as this depends on multiple variables. For more info, click here