Hiking the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand

Posted In: blog | New Zealand

While travelling in New Zealand, we saw stunning landscapes, lakes, forests and countrysides we hadn’t seen anywhere else before. We loved every moment that we spent in this country of wonders and welcoming  people. We could keep travelling in New Zealand for months and it still wouldn’t be enough.

Hiking the Tongariro Crossing

in Tongariro National Park was one of the top experiences that we had in this fascinating country together with visiting these 5 stunning must see places in New Zealand’s South Island.

Tongariro National Park is located on North Island, 50 km south of lake Taupo.

There are various trails across Tongariro NP; we decided to take a one day trek that measures 19.4 km.

This walk is one of the best and most interesting in New Zealand and also in the world. 

With its unique landforms, the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe and Tongariro green Emerald lakes and parts that resemble a moonscape, walking in Tongariro National Park felt like being on a completely different planet.

hiking the Tongariro Crossing

Red Crater

We were based in Turangi, a town situated 25 km from the beginning of the trek. We had been waiting for the good sunny weather for three days. Hiking in Tongariro National Park wouldn’t have been enjoyable in cloudy weather, and mainly it could have been dangerous.

 The morning was sunny when we hitch-hiked to the starting point, Mangatepopo Carpark. Visitors of the national park usually start trekking at around 6.30-7 a.m.,  so there are hundreds of people trekking at the same time. We started at 10 a.m. and during all the walk we met about twenty visitors. 

All the landscape we saw while hiking the Tongariro Crossing was just absolutely spectacular. Even though we had climbed volcanos in Mexico, Ecuador and Indonesia, it was still so extraordinary to walk in this dramatic moonscape.

We saw different colours of lava and near the head of the Mangatepopo Valley we took a short sidetrack leading to the cold water Soda Springs.

The most stunning part of the whole day was to see a huge active Red Crater that forms the highest point of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, green Emerald lakes with sulphur steam coming out of them, and a freshwater Blue lake that is also acidic. This lake is sacred for Maori people.  

hiking the Tongariro Crossing

Emerald Lakes

 It is also possible to climb Mount Ngaurohue which we didn’t do.

When descending in the second part of the walk, we had excellent views of steaming vents and admired beautiful fields of purple flowers. We finished the trek in a lush green native forest, close to Ketetahi Carpark.

hiking the Tongariro Crossing

Steaming vents

This challenging walk took us 9 hours.  Luckily, we met two guys Anuj and Abhinav from New Delhi, India before the end of the trek and we got a ride back with them to Turangi.  They came to New Zealand to support their cricket team and to travel. Chatting with them was a nice ending of the excellent day.

You can watch our video from Tongariro Crossing here:

Tips for hiking the Tongariro Crossing:

  • Walk in good shoes which ideally also protect your ankle. When we reached the Esmerald lakes, we met a guy who had broken his toe.. he was wearing thin tennis shoes. Then he had to walk 10km to the end of the crossing with the broken toe.
  • Take a big hat against the strong sun.Take warm clothes (a sweater and a winter jacket) with you. It might be cold on the top.
  • Take a rain coat in case the weather changes.
  • Take plenty of water and snacks for all day. You cannot buy anything during the crossing.
  • Be aware of walking in the high altitude – the Tongariro Crossing starts at 1120 m and the highest point at the top of Red Creater is 1886 m.
  • Start hiking the Tongariro Crossing later, between 8 and 9 a.m.. Tour agencies drop off all visitors at around 7 a.m. so by the time you get to the car park, all the morning visitors are much ahead and you’ll be able to enjoy the trip more. 
  • Begin hiking the Tongariro Crossing when the weather is really very good, sunny or mostly sunny. If the weather later changes suddenly and there is a strong wind, rain or fog you should go back immediately. Hiking the Tongariro Crossing in bad weather might be very dangerous.
  • If you want to hitch-hike, start soon to be at the beginning of the crossing at least  at 9 a.m. Visitors going to do the trek can give you a lift.
  • You can also get a ride on the way back with people who just finished the crossing too.
  • There is one toilet just at Mangatepopo Carpark and then another one in the first half of the trek.
  • You can’t swim in any lakes and the water in Soda Springs isn’t drinkable
  • Turangi and lake Taupo are the places to use as a base before the hike. To save time and money, you can book your accommodation here.
  • There are always plenty of house sitting opportunities in New Zealand on Trusted Housesitters website. If you would like to house sit for while you are in New Zealand, you can sign up here to become a house and pet sitter.



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Have you done Tongariro Crossing? What was your experience hiking the Tongariro Crossing?   What’s the best hike you have ever done?  

  • Nick Smith
    May 18, 2015

    I totally agree ladies, this has to be one of the best walks in New Zealand, I have done it many times, summer & winter I even left Mangatepopo car park at midnight once. It was August so winter time in NZ lots of snow. But we had a full moon for light. arriving at Ketetahu car park at 6.30am.

    • Simply Nomadic Life
      Nick Smith
      May 19, 2015

      Hi Nick, thank you for your comment. Trekking in winter under the moonlight in such unique landscape must have been fantastic! Next time we’re in NZ, we’d love to experience it too. We climbed a volcano in Ijen National Park, Indonesia in the night too. A post about Ijen crater is coming soon. Happy tramping Nick. Veru & Petra

  • Johanna B
    May 19, 2015

    A motivating blog on what seems to be a great trek to the high place of NZ. Spectacular photos and video clip.

    • Simply Nomadic Life
      Johanna B
      May 19, 2015

      Hello Jo, thank you for taking the time to make a comment. We’re glad you like our photos and the video. The landscape of Tongariro NP was really amazing. New Zealand is one of our favourite countries. More posts about other wonderful places we visited there are coming soon. We’ll be happy if you read them too. Petra & Veru

  • samiya selim
    June 7, 2015

    We plan to do this very soon as part of our one year travels around New Zealand! Looks amazing, everywhere we have been in New Zealand so far (2 months into our 12 month trip) has been stunning 🙂 Look forward to hiking this trek ourselves!

    • Simply Nomadic Life
      samiya selim
      June 7, 2015

      Hi guys! Thank you for your comment. We loved New Zealand. Tongariro Crossing was fantastic. But it’s really crowded early in the morning, so it’s good to start trekking later (after 9am). Don’t miss Lake Pukaki and Tekapo on South Island. Safe travels and enjoy New Zealand!

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