This mind-blowingly beautiful trek is located in New Zealand’s oldest national park – Tongariro National Park which is also a dual world heritage site. The 19.4km walk is said to be NZ’s best one day treks and in some cases one of the world’s top ten walks. Given the length and steep climbs involved I wasn’t overly keen to do the trek however it was something that Sanjay had always wanted to do and I’d heard it’s pretty amazing, so why not?!
We decided to do the trek during a long weekend so we weren’t going to be constantly driving and would have adequate time to rest after the trek. We drove to Ohakune – The southern gateway to Tongariro National Park and the carrot capital of NZ! After checking into our apartment we confirmed our shuttle to and from the park for the next day. Shuttles are very easy to arrange, most accommodation providers have specific shuttle companies that they work with and rates are quite reasonable (sometimes included in your accommodation, as ours was). We then went to the supermarket and stocked up on bottles of water and high energy foods. Unless you’re a regular long distance trekker, make sure you get more than what you think is necessary, as you’ll need it!!!
We were on the shuttle at 6am the next morning, the ride to the crossing takes approximately 45minutes (there is a car park at the track however parks are very limited) and the last thing Sanjay and I were going to want to do after this walk would be to drive ourselves back!
The Crossing track spans the length of Mt Tongariro and on average will take between 7-9 hours to complete. This is a moderate to difficult trek, so you’ll need to ensure you are properly prepared to walk the crossing. It’s not recommended to set out during times of poor visibility, heavy rain, wind or snow. We went in summer so wouldn’t have the added hazards of ice and snow.
The first part of the crossing is Mangatepopo Car Park to Soda Springs – This section is fairly flat and will take between 1-1.5hrs to complete. There are toilets facilities at Soda Springs, it may pay to use them as there wont be anymore along the track for quite a while!
Soda Springs to South Crater – This section is moderate to difficult and can take up to an hour. This part of the track is steep and is known as the devils staircase, you’ll be climbing from 1400 to 1600m above sea level. If you’re out on a clear day you’ll notice the lovely view down the valley into the countryside.
South Crater to Red Crater – Allow up to an hour to complete this moderate to difficult section, it involves climbing up an exposed ridge, I found this part quite scary, probably because I didn’t have enough grip on my shoes and kept sliding backwards! (Invest in a good pair of hiking boots!) Once you’re at the top follow the track to the Red Crater , from here you’ll have amazing views of the Oturere Valley, Rangipo Desert, Kaimanawa Ranges and down towards the stunning Emerald Lakes.
Red Crater to Blue Lake – This section will take around 30-45mins. Once we’d made it up the exposed ridge to the Red Crater I was ecstatic, the climb was difficult and really tiring, especially in the hot sun but the views were definitely worth it. I thought the hard part was over but getting down the other side of the Red Crater was almost just as bad! Be extremely careful on the descent as it’s just loose scoria, that moves quick and easily and will take you along with it…I saw a lot of people fall over! Tip – Walk sideways, you’ll have better balance and there’s less chance of falling over!
Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut – This section will take about an hour and you’ll find it easy compared to the last two sections! On a clear day, you’ll have spectacular views of Mount Pihanga, Lake Rotoaira and Lake Taupo. There are bathroom facilities at Ketetehai Hut and everybody uses them, so be prepared for a wait!
Ketetahi Hut to Ketetahi Car Park – This is the last section of the crossing, it takes around 2 hours. The last hour really took it out of me, I think we picked the hottest day of summer to do the walk and I was pretty exhausted by the end of it. The bus was waiting for us when we reached the car park, we were so happy we didn’t have to drive ourselves back! We spent one more night in Ohakune before driving home the next day.
Even though it was hard, I’m so glad to say I’ve done the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! It is truly EPIC, words cannot explain just how stunning it is. If you get the opportunity… DO IT… You won’t be disappointed!
Happy Travels, Priti x