Hiking the Tongariro Crossing

One of the most popular day hikes in the country, the Tongariro Crossing in the Tongariro National Park is 19.4km of volcanic terrain, active volcanoes, turquoise lakes and a side trip to the top of Mount Doom if the weather is nice enough. It’s an easy enough hike even if you’re not in the best shape, or if you’re completely hungover like most of us were that day. Wrap up warm, it can get cold up there!

I booked this day hike through Tongariro Expeditions, they pick you up from your hostel at 6:20am and drive you out to the start of the hike, on the way there they will kit you out in rented equipment if you need it and give you a sheet of A4 paper full of information and warnings about the hike ahead of you, including the optional side hikes.

You start from the Mangatepopo car park with an easy, almost flat hike up the valley to the Soda Springs, it should take around an hour, it’s all volcanic wasteland and steam vents.

You then make your way into the Devil’s Staircase, towards the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) and you can understand why Frodo struggled so damn much in the movie, it’s awful if you have little legs like mine. At the top of the Devil’s Staircase, you reach the entrance for the very easy and very flat South Crater.

It’s at this point you can start to ascend Mount Ngauruhoe if you have time and if the weather is clear enough because it is a sketchy hike at the best of times. Your information sheet is very strict about attempting this and warns of imminent danger if you are not capable.

Once you cross the South Crater you find yourself climbing up once more for another half hour to the top of the Red Crater. Your information sheet warns you, unsurprisingly, about the dangers of this narrow path with steep drops, one side pitching you straight into a volcano crater that you will not come back out of if you just happen to fall in… if you make it, time for a lunch break!

It’s pretty much downhill from there. You slip and slide your way down a relatively steep, shingle-covered track to the aptly named Emerald Lakes. From there, the Central Crater where you can see a huge, solid lava flow that covered most of this flat area, you skirt around it until you reach the Blue Lake.

One last small uphill rewards you with absolutely breathtaking views of the Rotopaunga Valley before you start an easy but long downhill trek through steam vents and forest, passed the Ketetahi Hut and on to the finish line.

It’s an absolutely fantastic day hike, anyone could do it if they wanted to, even if you leave climbing Mount Doom to Frodo. Remember to pack a lunch and plenty of water, sunscreen for sunny days and warm and waterproof clothes for the nastier weather. And that’s only in the summer… in the winter it’s a completely different adventure!

You can view the full album here.

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