The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the great walks of New Zealand and one of the most popular hikes to do on the North Island. Most hikers (or trampers as they say in New Zealand) will skip the North Island and go straight to the mountainous South Island however, the North Island is worth visiting for this hike alone. It is Spectacular! It is a must.
I would rate it medium on a scale of easy, medium, difficult. It is generally flat aside from two steep climbs but it is a very long hike which will leave your legs feeling wobbly at the end.
The trek is 19km one way. It took me about 6 hours to complete and I took my time. You can start on either the mangatepopo or ketetahi end of the trek but the mangatepopo end is the most preferred option because it is slightly easier and you will be impacted with the best views. The way it works is you catch a shuttle or drive to the parking lot on the mangatepopo end, hike the to the ketetahi end, and then take a shuttle back to mangatepopo to get your car or catch your bus back to town.
My shuttle picked me up from my hostel in Taupo at 6am. It took one hour from Taupo to the start of the trek. Some people will take the shuttle from Rotorua but it is a further drive (2 hours) meaning you will have to get up earlier. The hike gets closed if the weather is not good therefore, it is best to book the shuttle a day in advance. If you go on a bad day you will not see anything so if you have time please wait for a good day. It is worth it, I promise!
The closest town to the national park is Turangi but in my opinion it is worth the hour drive to stay in Taupo because it has a wide range of accommodation, restaurants, and things to do.
The beginning of the trek starts out flat and well formed.
The second part of the trek from Soda Springs to the South Crater is challenging. This section is known as the Devil’s Staircase because it is steep. Allow yourself 45 mins to 1 hour. On a clear day the view is well worth it.
South Crater to Red Crater starts out flat and then is followed by a 30 minute steep climb to the ridges of the Red Crater. Good news is this is the last steep climb uphill for the trek. But you are not off the hook, there are many steep climbs downhill that are just as difficult!
After you reach the Red Crater there is a steep decent to Blue Lake that involves extra care, especially if windy. You will have views of Emerald Lakes and steam vents above Blue Lake as you descent. Take a moment here to enjoy the scenery as it is really spectacular and one of the most scenic parts of the hike.
The next part of the hike is moderate as you walk by beautiful scenery to Ketetahi Shelter. This is a stopping point if you need to use the washroom.
The last part of the hike is long and to me felt never ending. It was challenging because at this point my legs were starting to feel very wobbly. The path is well kept but descends steeply for about 2 hours through tussock land. Eventually you will arrive in a lush green forest for the last 15 minutes of the trek before reaching the car park.
When I finished the trek I was very proud, happy, and satisfied. It was the perfect trek to fulfill my hiking craves.
- Bring a lot of water & pack a lunch (there is nowhere on the trek to purchase food or water so be prepared).
- Wear good shoes. You don’t necessarily need hiking boots (I used running shoes) however make sure your footwear will be sturdy enough to carry you through this hike.
- Wear layers. The weather can change quite a bit throughout the trek. I was lucky to not experience rain, however it is pretty common and it gets cold near the Red Crater.
- If you have a flexible travel schedule wait for a clear day. It would be a shame to not see these amazing views.
Things to to in Taupo before or after your Trek.
- Go Paddleboarding on the lake. I did this the day after my trek and it was the perfect way to relax.
- Hike to Huka Falls. If you haven’t had enough of trekking take the 7.3km round trip trek to Huka Falls.
- Visit the Spa Thermal Lake. This is a lake at the beginning of the trek to Huka Falls. Half the lake is cold and the other half is hot creating a natural free spa bath.
- Walk around the town. It is a really small but cute, laid back town.