The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | May 1st, 2018
Whenever I travel, I always try to find a good hike or two so I can get out into nature, explore, and really see the land. Well let me tell you...New Zealand has some of the best hikes in the world. I was completely blown away by the unique landscapes and incredible natural formations this beautiful country has to offer. One hike in particular really made my jaw drop, and that hike was the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Located right in the middle of New Zealand's North Island, Tongariro National Park is about five hours south of Auckland and about four hours north of Wellington.
This hike is a one-way crossing, and the best way to hike it is by starting at Mangatepopo and ending at Ketetahi.
If you are in need of accommodations, the Chateau Tongariro Hotel is a good option. It's close to the trailhead and gets great reviews.
If you are driving in just for the day, you will need to park your car at either National Park Village or Whakapapa Village and take a shuttle to / from Mangatepopo, the Tongariro trailhead. Many local operators offer shuttle service. We booked with ROAM and they were fantastic! They offer multiple morning departure times (7am, 8am, & 9am) from Whakapapa Village and multiple pick-up times (2:30pm, 4pm, & 5:30pm) from Ketetahi. They also pride themselves on never leaving any hikers behind. So, if you run into an issue during the hike and don't make it back before the last pick-up time (5:30pm), call them, and they will come get you as soon as you make it to Ketetahi. Prices are $35 USD / adult and $25 USD / child round-trip.
The hike starts off on a relatively flat surface and turns into a gradual incline for the first 45 minutes - 1 hour. Just when you start to think 'Hey! This hike really isn't so bad after all' you will arrive at The Devil's Staircase. For the next 2 - 3 hours, you will climb, climb, and climb. Your legs will burn and your heart will be pumping. You'll pass by active volcanos, sweeping valley views, and one beautiful sight after the next.
Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with gorgeous green lakes, surrounding mountain peaks, and an overwhelming sense of achievement. It's a wonderful feeling to make it to Tongariro's summit!
While at the top, enjoy the summit for a bit. Eat some lunch, rehydrate, and take lots of photos. It's not so easy to get up there, so soak it in as much as possible.
Descending down the mountain is fairly easy but your muscles will probably be sore from the climb up, so take your time. It should take about 1.5 - 2 hours to descend and once you get to the forest, you're almost to the end of the hike.
You made it to the Ketetahi! Join the other hikers who are eating, hydrating, and excitedly talking about how epic this hike is. Keep an eye out for your shuttle bus, they arrive, fill up, and leave fairly quickly.
As you ride back to your car, give yourself a pat on the back. You did it! You accomplished one of the best day hikes in the world. It surely wasn't easy, but I bet it was worth it!
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a day hike only. Overnight camping is not allowed.
This hike is 19.4 km / 12 miles and takes an average of 6 - 8 hours to complete.
Be sure to wear sturdy shoes (preferably hiking boots), waterproof clothing, sunscreen, and warm layers.
The weather along the Tongariro is very unpredictable. Rain, wind, and snow can suddenly appear. Dress accordingly and be prepared!
Pack plenty of water and food. Trail mix and protein bars are very useful.
Check the volcanic activity before going.
Check the winds before going. Shuttle services will get cancelled on days with a wind speed of 50km / 30 mph or more.