I’ve walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing three times and if you haven’t done it, it’s just got to be done. While it’s ‘no walk in the park’ the 19.4 km walk is manageable with a moderate level of fitness. The great thing is you can walk at your own pace. Typically it takes about 6-8 hours. In the summer months it is absolutely fine to do the walk un-guided, but in the winter months it is much more challenging with snow and ice and a guide is imperative.
I’ve tried to describe the stages of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but before you read on here are a couple of maps to give the walk perspective.
The walk starts at the Mangatepopo car park. You need to get transport to the beginning of the track and back from the finish as the walk is not a loop. There are a number of shuttle bus companies. Some operate from the National Park Village, while other do pick up’s in the Taupo, Turangi and Ohakune.
Take a look at these two companies, Tongariro Crossing Shuttle and Tongariro Expeditions, but you’ll find more on-line. It’s important to book you pick-up time, but there is no need to determine your return trip as the shuttles run on a regular basis.
Starting in the Mangatepopo car park the walk up the valley is gentle before a steep ascent called ‘The Devil’s Staircase.’ It’s hard going, but there is a great view down the valley and up to Mount Ngauruhoe before passing the South Crater.
The terrain levels out before another short ascent along an exposed ridge, but the chain make the climb safe.
Then the Red Crater comes into view followed by the spectacular Emerald Lakes with the intense opaque blue and green colours, caused by minerals leaching from the rocks.
The descent from the Red Crater down to the Emerald Lakes requires care as it is steep with loose scoria, but the view remains captivating with the remains of a huge lava flow to the right. Steam vents surrounding the lakes puff out a strong sulphurous smell.
The track zig-zags down the side of the mountain though brilliant alpine flora, passing the site of the 2012 eruption which is still active and smoldering. DOC (Department of Conservation) have installed a warning system to get people off the mountains should the volcanic activity increase.
The alpine crossing is rated one of the top 10 one-day hikes in the world, it’s just got to be done!
For more information –Tongariro Crossing
What to take
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing should not be taken lightly and you must be properly equipped. As it is an alpine crossing the weather can change quickly, even in the summer so warm clothing is essential.
Must have items
Phone, a map, solid walking boots or shoes, a proper raincoat / wind breaker, layers of warm clothing, water (at least 1.5 litres per person) warm hat, sun hat, sunscreen, first aid kit with plasters and high energy food. Put it all in a decent, comfortable back pack.
Walking poles have becoming a very popular walking aid. They are good if you have had a knee, ankle or hip injury by taking the weight of joints when going downhill. The last two hours of the walk is downhill.
If you don’t have hiking boots, back pack, walking pokes or wet weather gear look on-line as a number of the shuttle bus companies hire gear