Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand
The Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand is one of the top 5 activities in the northern island. A great combination out of adventure and pure natural beauty is what to expect from this trip and how to describe the Tongariro Alpine Crossing the best way. Especially hiking lovers will get their money’s worth. The landscape is one of a kind and also a great spot for photography, since travellers will be strewn with amazing views everywhere they look.
But before I tell you about the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand, I want to take a minute to give you a little bit of general information about the area and the trail itself.
Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand – General information
The Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand is one of the country’s best hiking trails. Many travellers actually consider it to be THE best. Some even say it belongs to the top 10 day tracks in the whole world. How about that statement? 🙂
This trail goes all the way through the Tongariro mountain range, which belongs to the Tongariro National Park. Many spots you’ll see during the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand are settings from one of the most successful movies, which has ever been made – Lord of the Rings. An absolue dream for a geek like me 😉
The Tongariro mountain range has a size of about 795 km². In the proximity you’ll find other beautiful places like lake Rotoaira or Lake Taupo, which are also big highlights you should put on your list of things to do in New Zealand.
Going on the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand becomes even more special with the following fact. The Tongariro National Park is actually the oldest National Park in New Zealand and it’s a dual UNESCO World Heritage sight. The area is rich in both, valuable historical culture and highly scenic natural landscape.
Most of the terrain is vulcanic. The three vulcanos in the area are occasionally active and the landscape definitely reflects this. You’ll see solidified lava flows, a lot of loose tephra, and solidified volcanic lava bombs. In addition you will be able to see large amounts of minerals being brought to the surface. This is also one of the reasons why all the lakes you can see during the tracking are deeply coloured. Believe me, you will have rarely seen lakes with such wonderful coloring before.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg… 😉
Transportation & how to get there
To get to one of the starting points from the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand is quite easy. The main two options are either using your own vehicle or taking a shuttle bus. Since there is a parking restriction of 4 hours nowerdays, I would recommend you to take the shuttle bus. They drop you off at one side of the track and pick you up on the other, which is really convenient in my opinion. I guess, you don’t want to walk all the way back or try out hitch-hiking, right?
You can either reach the starting points of the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand from the south or the north. In the north, Taupo is the place where most people start their day trip from. It will take you about 1h to get to the northern end of the track. If you come from the south, Raetihi or Waiouru would probably be the villages, where you start the day. From there you need about 30 min – 1h to get to the southern end.
Gear and what to bring
The conditions can change drastically during the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand. Trust me, it can be really sunny in the beginning and 30 minutes later it might be freezing cold and rainy. This is why you should be well prepared for the tracking. Besides what I usually take with me on all my travels (read here), I can only highly recommend you to pack this for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
- Waterproofed backpack
- Food and drinks, especially during summer – For the summit tracks you should bring even more water
- Waterproof jacket and trousers
- Solid hiking shoes or good trainers
- Warm clothing layers
- Hat & gloves
- Sunscreen & sunglasses
- First Aid Kit
This might not be everything you would want to take or maybe you think this is way to much, but in my opinion you should be well off with all the mentioned gear. Just pick and choose what suits you best 🙂
Facilities on the Tongariro Crossing
This topic presents itself as quite a predicament, because during the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand you won’t find any facilities at all.
- Water: You need to bring your own water. Don’t drink from the streams. They contain to much minerals, which won’t do you good.
- Toilets: There are no toilets on the track except the one right before the Devil’s Staircase. Other than that, you’ll only find some at the start and the end of the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand. So you might be well advised to bring some toilet paper, just in case.
- Huts: There are some huts on the track for people, who want to stay overnight. You are free to use them. Just try to leave them clean 😉
- Rubbish: You won’t see any bins during the trekking. New Zealand is big on conservation and you can really see that. In my opinion it should remain like this, so make sure to take your rubbish with you.
Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand – Procedure and what to expect
To be able to master the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand you need to be well prepared, mentally and with the right gear. As said, the difficulty level changes with the weather conditions.
I did the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand on a very cloudy and rainy day, which made it pretty hard, because it was wet and cold.
On the other hand it can be like a really nice walk on a sunny day. So it really depends.
My recommendation: Try to do it on a sunny day.
Short tip: Make sure to check the weather forcast in order to bring the right clothes. Trust me, you don’t want to freeze up there. It can be a pain in the ass 😉
Most of time people start the 19.4km Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand early in the morning, because it takes quite a while to master it. You will be walking about 6 – 8 hours.
The track is not very difficult in general, but you need a little bit of endurance. In between there will be a couple parts, that quite steep. If it rains, it can also be slippery, which makes the trekking a little harder.
At the start of the trip as well as in the beginning, you will have a wonderful view onto the valleys, which surround the scenic Tongariro mountain range. These valleys shine in all kind of colours, depending on the season. In between you can see various very clear lakes, that fit perfectly into the overall look of the incomparable UNESCO World Heritage area. A couple of these valleys have also been used as settings for the Lord of the Rings movie series, just like the mountain ranges and the vulcanos.
It’s fair to say that overall look of the landscape of this area is one of the best ones in the northern island. That’s for sure.
Mt. Ngauruhoe / Mt Doom
Mt. Ngauruhoe, which is better known as “Mt Doom” from Lord of the Rings, is maybe my favourite from all the highlights of the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand. Mt Doom is something you have to see as a Lord of the Rings lover. Make sure to climb up!
You can literally recognize where Frodo and his friends have walked around. To get to the summit and back, you’ll roughly need about 3h.
Mt Doom and the whole mountain range itself are pretty rocky, because it’s vulcanic terrain. You won’t find many plants or anything similar during the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand. It’s very different to mountain ranges you can see in Southeast Asia for example, where you could also recognize some healthy vegetation most of the time. The look of the mountains is also very different to what most people are used to. For example, in comparison to the very raw and sharp looking Rocky Mountains, every mountain you’ll see in New Zealand seems very smooth and almost like someone painted it. Very cool!
Even if you don’t like LOTR, you should still climb to the top of Mt Doom, because the view is absolutely stunning on a good day. Just be careful, since loose stones can fall down from above sometimes. Also make sure not to slip. Other than that, just enjoy the walk.
From the top you can almost overlook the whole mountain range and you’ll get an incredible feeling of freedom. Very hard to eplain, but so amazing…
Devils Staircase / Red Crater
The Devils Staircase got its name from the steepness. It is the main way to climb the Red Crater, which is the highest point (1.886 m) you can get to during the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand. From all the climbs you can do in the Tongariro National Park, this is also the steepest one. It will be quite exhausting, but it is worth the walk. Just think of it as a workout 😉
From the top you have such an incredible view onto the whole surrounding scenery and the Blue Lake, a wonderful crystal clear piece of nature located nearby.
When you walk back down again you will pass the Central Crater, which almost seems like a big Plateau when you walk on it. Very pretty!
To get to the top of Mt Tongariro, you have to start at the Red Crater and follow the marked route. It will take you about 1,5h – 2h to get there and you will be rewarded with some of the most magnificant views New Zeland has to offer. Definitely one of the top highlights from the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand, which shouldn’t be left out.
This is one of the biggest highlights during the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand for most travellers. I make a “massive” statement and say, that you have already seen them on the internet somewhere 😉
The Emerald Lakes are basically three torquoise natural pools, almost somewhere in the middle of mountain chain. If you look at them from a higher perspective, you will absolutely be astonished. Trust me, you’ll love what you see, so don’t forget your camera!
The landscape of the lower parts during the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand is something I, personally, would consider as another highlight. As you might have read in this or that post, my praises for New Zealand’s incredible nature are almost exaggerated. But just almost… 😉
At the lower level of the Tongariro mountain chain you’ll have the opportunity to hike along various wonderful tracks.
For me, it felt like a fairy tale to walk around in such incredible nature. Magical forests with ancient trees and plants I have never heard of in my life, make these hikes a trekking adventure that even experienced hiking lovers will appreciate a lot.
On top of that you’ll obviously always have the beautiful Tongariro mountain chain right next to you. What else could you wish for?
Close to the Mangatepopo Valley you’ll see a short sidetrack, which leads to the cold water Soda Springs. These springs are the perfect start/ ending of the Tongariro Crossing in northern New Zealand.
All rocks at and below the springs are very coloured. They shine golden, which comes from iron oxide of the breakdown of volcanic ash in the bog. The water is slightly charged with dissolved gases. Now have a guess, where the Soda Springs got the name from… 😉
Want to knwo more about New Zealand? Read here
What could also interest you:
- Ultimate packing list – What’s in my Backpack?
- The best Travel Gear to explore the world
- What to pack for a short camping trip
- Best Travel Backpack – How to choose the right one?