The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most famous day hikes in New Zealand, perhaps even worldwide. We did it and can tell you about it here. In advance: Is it exhausting? Yes! Is it worth it? Definitely!
Spending the Night in the Tongariro Nationalpark
You should plan to spend the night before and the night after the hike in the Tongariro National Park. The night before the hike, we stayed at the Mangahuia Campground. There is drinking water available, but there are no flush toilets and no showers. The campsite is not far from Iwikau Village, where the shuttles to the Tongariro Crossing trailhead depart. We booked at Whakapapa Motorcamp for the night after the hike. They have everything you need. The campgroundfills up quickly and you shoul definitely book in advance!
Tongariro Crossing Shuttle
Tongariro Crossing Shuttle
One shuttle to the Trailhead goes right at the Whakapapa Motorcamp in Iwikau Village. The shuttle service costs 30 NZD per person. The shuttles depart every hour between 6 and 9 o’clock to and return hourly between 14:00 and 17:00 clock. You should contact the Tongariro Visitor Center in Iwikau Village for more details.
Tip: If you are traveling as a group with several cars, you can save money on the transfer by simply parking a car at the end of the hike and driving to to trailhead with another car.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most famous and perhaps the most beautiful day hike in New Zealand. It is 19.4 km long and leads past Mt. Ngauruhoe, better known as “Mt. Doom” from Lord of the Rings, to the Red Crater and the Emerald Lakes. If you want to, you can climb up to the Summit of Mt. Doom as well. However, this takes an extra 3 hours and is very dangerous due to the steep rise and the loose boulders. We decided not to go.
With the Tongariro Alpine Crossing you can experience part of Frodos and Sam’s journey to Mt. Doom. Of course, it is not as exhausting and dangerous. You do not have to wear the ring and beat around with gollum or the orcs. You only have to wear solid shoes and enough water. Since it is an alpine hike and the weather can change at any time, you should prepare yourself. Always following the motto “Prepare for all seasons”, it is best to adjust to all seasons. Sunglasses, sun hat, sun cream and also warm and rainproof clothing are a must!
After the first major climb you arrive at the South Crater. The South Crater is one of the larger craters of Mt. Tongariro. From here you have a great view of Mt. Ngauruhoe.
Afterwards, the ascent to the Red Crater and the highest point of the hike begins. This part of the trail is very steep. Since there are no steps, it is a little bit demanding for the first time. The path leads over lots of loose gravel and you have to watch out so you don’t trip or slip. The Red Crater is actually red and has impressive jagged rock walls, where you can still see reminders of mighty eruptions in the past.
After the Red Crater you can already see the Blue Lake and the Emerald Lakes. In clear skies the crater lakes are bright blue and turquoise. The Emerald Lakes have a bright yellow sulfur edge. It smells like rotten eggs everywhere.
At the Blue Lake the view is realy amazing. You can look back to the Red Crater and the “Mt. Doom”. As you pass the Blue Lake, the descent begins. On the way down you have an incredible view of Lake Taupo in good weather.
We spent seven hours on the hike. If you are really fit you can do it in 5 hours. Those who are less fit and have to take a break more often should plan eight to nine hours.
The Tongariro Crossing was one of the absolute highlights of our trip to Australia and New Zealand. If you still consider whether you should do the hike, my advise is: Do it! It is exhausting, but for a normal person, the hike shouldn’t be too hard. You won’t forget the impressions and memories for the rest of your life!