Tongariro Alpine Crossing: everything you need to know 

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Is the hike any good?

This is simple – it is pretty bloody awesome. The tramp has a reputation as New Zealand’s best day hike and it’s easy to see why. The volcanic landscape (complete with three active volcanoes) is dramatic, thrilling and almost other-worldly. And where else in the world can you follow in Frodo’s footsteps up Mt Doom? I loved it. Read more about my epic (and life-threatening!) adventure on the crossing here.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: How to get there?

Take an international flight to either Auckland or Wellington. Tongariro National Park, located in central North Island, is roughly equidistant between the two airports – a four to five hour drive. If you have your own set of wheels head for the nearby towns of Ohakune, Turangi or National Park Village, or better still base yourself in the small village of Whakapapa, which is located within the park, serves as the main gateway for hikers and is home to the national park visitor centre. No car? No worries. Bus services – including Naked Bus – run regularly to and from Whakapapa or short domestic flights are available to adventure town Taupo, which is about a one and a half hour drive from Whakapapa. Once in the Tongariro area a myriad of shuttle operators can take you to the start of hiking tracks or get you home after a long day tramping.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: When to go?

The summer months of December to February are your best bet for good hiking weather – it’s the warmest time of year in New Zealand and conditions will be most settled. The downside? Larger crowds on popular tracks such as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing are almost guaranteed. Alternatively the shoulder season of October to November and March to April can still offer fine weather as well as lower numbers of hikers.

Tongariro Crossing

Gazing at Mt Ngauruhoe from Mt Tongariro

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Where to stay?

Limited accommodation is available in Whakapapa. Whakapa Holiday Park is a good choice for those on a budget or to splash out stay at the famous Chateau Tongariro Hotel. For those planning on completing overnight or multi-day walks, such as the Tongariro Northern Circuit, eight tramping huts are available in the national park. Options are more plentiful in the surrounding towns such as Turangi and Ohakune – choose from campsites, backpacker hostels and hotels.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: What to take?

Like any adventure in the great outdoors, be prepared for whatever Mother Nature could throw at you – the weather can change rapidly. Warm and waterproof clothing, sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen, map, compass, food and water are all essential for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and all other hikes in the park. Ice axe, crampons, avalanche goggles, snow gaiters and snow goggles are required during winter and often all-year round on Ruapehu.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Is Tongariro National Park safe?

Tongariro National Park is an active volcanic area. Eruptions could happen at any time without warning. If an eruption occurs the risks include flying rocks, fast-moving burning clouds, lahars, falling ash and volcanic gases. The advice from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation is simple: visitor safety cannot be guaranteed and you enter at your own risk. But several systems are in place to monitor potential volcanic risk and provide warning of volcanic hazards. About 70,000 walkers hike the alpine crossing every year with very few sustaining injuries.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: What do I need to know about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is pretty simple to arrange. You don’t need to book or pay a fee, but transport must be arranged in advance because the trek begins and ends at different points. You can walk in either direction but most people hike from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi. There is less climbing this way and shuttle bus companies operate to this schedule, offering early morning drop-offs at Mangatepopo and afternoon pick-ups from Ketetahi.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: What do I need to know about climbing Ruapehu?

The Ruapehu crater climb begins from Iwikau Village, a short drive from Whakapapa. Take the ski chairlift as far as possible and start your five-hour, 7km climb from Knoll Ridge. It is an unmarked route requiring competent navigation skills and effective mountaineering decision-making.

Tongariro Crossing

A hiker with the snow-capped Mt Ruapehu in the background

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: What other hiking options are there in Tongariro National Park?

You will be spoilt for choice. There are numerous tracks in the national park ranging from short walks of just 30 minutes to major multi-day hikes. The 1.2km ridge track and 6km Taranaki Falls walk are popular options starting in Whakapapa. But to really get to grips with the area take on the four-day Tongariro Northern Circuit – one of New Zealand’s much-loved nine ‘great walks’. For your effort you’ll be “dazzled by dramatic volcanic landscapes and New Zealand’s rich geological and ancestral past”, according to the Department of Conservation. For a more remote experience the four to six-day Round the Mountain track, which circles Ruapehu, is the perfect choice.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Where can I find out more?

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