The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is among the most popular day hikes in New Zealand due to its unique landforms and awe-inspiring scenery.
With steaming vents, hot springs, old lava flows, beautiful water-filled explosion craters its not a place you will easily forget. On a clear day you can see the volcanic peaks of Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehue which make for an awesome adventure.
We started the trek at 5:30am at the Mangatepopo Carpark (click here for map). You can start the hike at either end of the track but we would recommend doing it this way around. This leaves the downhill board walk for the end of your hike which was a great way to wind down.
The 19.4km trek can take anywhere between 5 hr 30mins to 7 hr 30 mins depending of your level of tramping experience.
The first section of the trail is graded easy as its mostly boardwalk and flat. Allow around 1 hr to get to Soda Springs where you will come across the first and last toilets on the track. Be sure to bring loo roll and make the most of them while you can.
From Soda Springs you will make your way to South Crater. This section of the trail is grated moderate to difficult as it is very steep and otherwise known as ‘The Devil’s Staircase’.
If its a gorgeous day, with plenty of time, you may decide to take on the volcanic peak of Ngauruhoe. More commonly known as, ‘Mount Doom’ from Lord of The Rings. It peaks at a staggering 2,291 meters so you should allow yourself a 2 hr return as the accent is a very steep scramble.
Its not signposted and therefore its up to you where to climb. Be aware of falling rocks and slipping on your way back down. Due to its rugged loose rock surface bear in mind that you do require a good level of fitness to take on the peak.
Now that the safety talks out the way – If you are able to give Mt Doom a shot, we would highly recommend going for it.
The views from the summit just blew us away and we would love everyone to have a similar experience. We sat up there for ages eating peanut butter sandwiches whilst watching LOTR fans throwing their ‘precious’ rings into the huge crater… it was surreal!
From South Crater allow yourself about an hour to get to Red Crater. This section of the trek has been graded moderate to difficult so enjoy the flat as you get to this part of the trail.
Just before you reach Red Crater you will see a path head off towards your left. Follow this trail if you wish to summit Mt Tongariro. The main track continues towards Red Crater and on a clear day you can expect to see spectacular views. The wind here can pick up at this point so walk with a bit of caution here.
From Red Crater to the Blue Lake it is only a 30 min decent however is grated a moderate walk due to the loose chunks of black scoria… We definitely lost our step a couple times here! If its a clear day you will see an old lava flow to your left and to your right the stunning Emerald Lakes.
Be sure to get your camera’s out here as its not often you will come across natural beauty as seen in these lakes.
Just a note – When you get to the Blue Lake, it is considered sacred water and therefore it is seen as disrespectful to eat and drink around its shores.
It should take roughly 1 hr to walk from Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut at a moderate pace. Once you reach the edge of the North Crater, with good weather you will have spectacular views. From here you will take a zig-zag track all the way down to Ketetahi Hut.
From Ketetahi Hut you are onto the last leg of your journey towards Ketetahi Carpark. This gradual downhill track will take roughly two hours to complete. The land surrounding the track is private but also filled with tussock so its best to stick to the track. A few minutes away from the Ketetahi Carpark there is a side trail which leads to a waterfall. Its worth a peak if you still have the energy at the end of this beautiful day hike.