New Zealand is a paradise when it comes to hiking. Kiwis often refer to this activity as ‘tramping’, a popular outdoor activity elsewhere known as backpacking, hill walking or hiking. The country has a wide range of hiking trails that are listed among the most beautiful trails in the world. From the ultra-long-distance Te Araroa to the multi-day adventures that cross some of the most scenic national parks. While Te Araroa is considered as epic, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a more realistic day hike that is not to be missed when traveling in New Zealand.
Land of Mordor
Nicknamed as the ‘finest one-day hike in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is surely to leave a deep impression. The volcanic landscapes and dramatic natural scenery is more than enough reason to put this hike on your bucket list. For Lord of the Rings fans, the Tongariro National Park is the land of Mordor. In moody weather conditions, the jagged volcanic peaks and rocks evoke a sense of darkness as witnessed in the trilogy. On clear days, you can see the impressive peak of Mount Ngauruhoe, otherwise known as Mount Doom. An optional scramble up this notorious peak is possible when adding one or two hours.
About the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19,4 kilometer day hike that takes about 5 to 8 hours to complete. It is located in the oldest national park in New Zeland, the Tongariro National Park and is a journey across unique landforms, impressive volcanic peaks emerald-coloured lakes and steam vents. It is considered as a world-renowned trek that is listed on many hiking enthusiasts list.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand and one of the top attractions of the country. The main things to see in the park are the active volcanoes such as Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. The volcanic activity creates the diverse nature landscape with forests, mountains, natural hot springs, mud pools and craters. Lord of the Rings fans will feel at home here as the park was the setting for Mordor in the trilogy, with Mount Ngauruhoe as Mt Doom.
Facts about the trail
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing has a total length of 19,4 kilometers and takes about 5-8 hours to complete. The trail is not the most difficult, though can be a bit strenuous for inexperienced hikers. The trail has a total elevation change of 1125 meters or 765 meters if you hike in the other direction. It starts at the Mangatepopo Car Park at the southwest end of the trail and finishes at Ketetahi Car Park at the northeast end of the track.
Planning your trip
Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be hiked in either direction, but it is recommended that you start from the Mangatepopo Car Park at the southwest end of the track and finish at the Ketetahi Car Park at the northeast end of the track, since this direction gains less elevation (765m). The department of Conservation recommends that visitors that intend to hike the complete trail access the track via a shuttle from Whakapapa, National Park Village, Turangi, Taupo or Ohakune. Hikers that want to do a short hike have access to the parking at Mangatepopo road end where there is a 4 hour parking restriction.
The National Park can be subject to unpredictable weather, and conditions can change quickly. It is important that all walkers carry the essentials for their journey.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a day hike, though it is often done as a two day journey to allow more time to enjoy the scenery. If you wish to spend the night in one of the mountain huts or campsites, be sure to arrange the Great Walks Pass well in advance. These can be purchased at the visitors centres of Whakapapa, Turangi or Taupo.
Permits and fees
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a trail that offers epic sceneries and requires no permits. No fees are applicable either.
All waterways including the lakes on Tongariro and the surrounding peaks Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are sacred to the local Kiwi’s. Visitors to the area are asked to respect this by not touching or entering any of the waterways including the alpine lakes.
How to get there
The best way to reach the start of the track is by using a shuttle service.
Tongariro Crossing Shuttles offers all day shuttles to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to Whakapapa Village. Return shuttles cost $40 pp. Return time doesn’t need to be booked. The shuttles runs along all local villages.
What to bring
Hiking in the unique environment of the Tongariro National Park requires some essential gear. Here are a few essentials you should always bring:
- Food and water, especially in the summer months. If you are planning on completing any of the summit tracks, ensure you have additional water supplies.
- Waterproof and wind-proof raincoat and trousers
- Strong, sturdy hiking boots
- Warm clothing layers
- Hat and gloves
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- First Aid Kit
Leave no Trace
When hiking in the outdoors, there are a few guidelines that should always be remembered. The Leave no Trace principles are some rules anyone in the outdoors should follow to make sure no harm is done to the environment. These include:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What you Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors