The Tongariro Alpine crossing - magnificent
The Red Crater and Mt Ngaruahoe
The Emerald Lakes
The Blue Lake
The descent through tussock towards the Ketetahi carpark

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Described as 'one of the best one-day hikes in the world - check out our map of the Tongariro crossing

Map of the Tongariro Crossing

Where do I start and finsh the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

There are two directions that the Tongariro Crossing can be traversed. The most popular of these is the 'south-to-north' direction, starting at the Mangatepopo (carpark) end and finishing at the Ketetahi (carpark) end. Hiking the Tongariro Crossing in this direction is certainly easier - as the elevation drops from approximately 1,100 metres AMSL to 750 metres over the walk.

Getting there from Riverside Apartment

Drive through Taupo town along the main road and continue south - the road will lead into State Highway 1. Follow this road along the eastern shores of Lake Taupo to the town of Turangi. Continue south-bound on State Highway 1 for another 10km to then turn right into Lake Rotoaira Road (State Highway 46). (Note that after about 10km you will pass the turn-off for the Ketetahi carpark end of the crossing - where many hikers are picked up after completing the trek). Continue along Lake Rotoaira Road until the junction with State Highway 47. Turn left into SH47 (towards 'National Park') and after approximately 14km you will see the Tongariro Alpine Crossing signposts for Mangatepopo Road (on your left). This is a dirt road - please take care when driving up as buses and tourist shuttle vehicles will often be going in the other direction. Continue up this road until you reach the carpark and the start point for the crossing.

Shuttle options

There are several shuttle-services that can take you on a one-way trip from one carpark to the other if you are driving, or buses that operate a complete dropoff and pickup service.

About the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The distance from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi (and vice versa) is 19.4km. While the distance and terrain are only moderately demanding, it is prudent to remind hikers that this is an alpine crossing and even in summer the weather conditions can be unpredictable and changeable. It is highly recommended that the equipment and preparation guidelines recommended by the Department of Conservation (DOC) be followed.

The hike will take around 6-8 hours depending on your level of fitness and how many stops you take. There are a few diversions that may be followed which will increase the amount of time that you should allow. To run the crossing (again depending on your level of fitness and the number of walkers on the track) will take 3 to 3.5 hours. If you are planning on running the Tongariro Crossing we recommend that you get to the start point around sun-rise as hordes of tourists will descend upon the track around 7am in the summer months to begin the walk.

The hike itself can be broken up into five broad sections.

1. Mangatepopo Car Park to Soda Springs

A gentle gradient starts our trek as we wind our way up the Mangatepopo Valley. Branches from the track lead to Whakapapa on the right and the Mangatepopo Hut on the left. Dramatic views of Mt Ngaruahoe to our right give a glimpse of what lies ahead as the path rises to approximately 1,300 metres AMSL towards Soda Springs. The track is easily run or hiked and is board-walked for significant sections over swampy areas and an old lava flow. The last toilet facilities until the Ketetahi Hut are located at Soda Springs.

Approx time 1:15

2. Soda Springs to South Crater

The 'Devil's Staircase' provides a challenging 200 metre uphill climb, but rewards with stunning views back down the Mangatepopo Valley and on a clear day all the way across to the volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki. After the climb it is decision point - veer left to take the track towards South Crater or take on 'Mt Doom' from the Lord of the Rings movies - and climb the vertiginous summit of Mt Ngaruahoe.

Approx time 0:50

3. South Crater to Red Crater

The wide open expanse of South Crater is ringed by ruggedly beautiful terrain. Engage the panorama function of your camera for some surreal 360 degree images. Enjoy the easy, flat terrain of this section of the crossing because you are about to start the last major climb of the day, about 250 metres of vertical ascent up an exposed ridgeline covered in loose soil and scoria. An optional diversion towards Mt Tongariro is an option - otherwise follow the well-beaten path towards Red Crater.

Approx time 1:00

4. Red Crater to Blue Lake

Probably the most memorable part of the entire crossing with scenery that will remain with you a lifetime. Remarkable views across the Oturere Vallery, Rangipo desert and Kaimanawas are a precursor to the phenomenal Red Crater, a cavernous volcanic hole awash with the raw colour of minerals and rock. A steep descent on loose scoria can prove a little dangerous so take care with your footing on this section of the hike as you head downhill - but not before taking in some of the most spectacular views of the entire walk - overlooking Blue Lake and the Emeral lakes below.

Geothermal activity forcing its way to the earth's surface as steam vents provides a surreal feeling to this unique place; the acidic waters of the lakes irridescent in blue and green as the minerals leached from the surrounding rock colour the water.

Walk across Central Crater then it's a gentle climb to overlook the Blue Lake from closer proximity. This is the last real uphill excursion.

Approx time 0:30

5. Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut and Carpark

A short climb to the top of the North Crater gives way to a zig-zag path through arid terrain and then tussock and after passing the Ketetahi hut (and toilets if needed!) you are finally into cooling native bush. Steep in parts and predominantly downhill, the flora changes from arid-alpine with a few mountain daisies to tussock and scrub into native bush. The Mangatetipua Stream is crossed and a 'lahar' area is to be transited with minimum delay. Nothing like 4 million tons of silt, rock and dirt travelling downhill like a freight train to ruin your day. The welcome site of the Ketetahi carpark marks the end of a great day out.

Approx time 3:00

If you have any feedback on this webpage or would like to ask us a question, please don't hesitate to contact us at Riverside Apartment.