One of the best day hikes in New Zealand, even officially mentioned in the brochure of the Department of Conservation, is the Tongariro Crossing. A 19.4 km hike across volcanic landscape. The area was used for Mount Doom so all Lord of the Ring fans would especially love this hike. After completing the crossing, here are our recommendations to enjoy it to the maximum.
Where to stay on a budget
There are several accommodation options, however since it is such a popular area the prices are quite high. Since we love camping we were very excited to have found the Mangahuia campsite, located twenty minutes from the end of the Tongariro Crossing. From here you get the shuttle to the start of the trail.
After completing the hike we didn’t stay another day around here but went further north. About an hour away from the end of the trail you pass Lake Taupo and here you can stay at the free Reids Farm campsite. If you come from the South and head North you should definitely consider this option.
What to pack
If you research this hike you probably will hear that it’s an Alpine region and the weather can change very rapidly. Listen to that advice! We started hiking with clouds, before ascending to the South Crater in the sunshine. When we arrived at the Red Crater and the Emerald Pools we could barely see anything because of intense fog. The way down started with heavy rain before we got beautiful sunshine for the last two hours. Here is what we would pack if we did the hike again:
3l of water
We had all but the gloves and we regretted it a lot!
Transportation from the carpark to the starting point
There are several companies offering the transportation service. The start is at Mangatepopo so you would start your hike from there and the shuttle picks you up at the end, at Ketetahi carpark. However, this means you have to be aware of your timing. We preferred the other option, with Mountain Shuttle where they take you to the starting point so you just have to drive back to your car. At 30NZD pp, it was also the cheapest option we found. However, from Ketetahi carpark to the guarded Mountain Shuttle carpark, it’s another 10-15 mins walk. (After having just walked 19.4kms).
The Tongariro Crossing
The start of the track is fairly easy. It’s an hour walk through a flat landscape with one mountain to your right and one in front of you. Afterwards, you will start a steep climb for about one hour to the South Crater, before beginning the toughest part of the hike. It starts with a flat walk between the two mountains and then a steep climb to the Red Crater. We couldn’t see a lot here, hopefully, you will have a better view. Following is a 10 to 20-minute steep descent to the Emerald Lakes. The next two hours is a fairly easy descent. The last hour you go down on steeper steps so that can be challenging for your knees. The end of the trail is an easy walk through a forest alongside a river.