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The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered one of the best day hikes in New Zealand and one of the top 10 in the world. The hike offers spectacular views and picturesque lakes set amongst a volcanic landscape. It’s easy to see why this hike is extremely popular among hikers and tourists, but it's not a walk in the park. Being prepared before deciding to tackle the crossing is very important. So, here are some things to know before you go.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing - Things To Know





The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is located within the Tongariro National Park. The National Park, situated in the centre of the North Island, is the oldest in New Zealand and a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mount Tongariro is an active volcano, with the last eruption taking place in 2012.

The track is 19.4 km (12.05 mi) one way, climbing nearly 800 m (2624 ft) in altitude and then descending over 1,000 m (3,280 ft) in altitude on the other side.

It usually takes around 6-8 hours to complete.

The hike is within an alpine environment. This means the weather can be extreme and unpredictable. Even in summer, the temperatures can drop quite low, and you may experience all types of weather conditions (hot, cold, rain, wind, sun, etc.) within the 6-8 hour period. Be sure to check the weather before starting the hike, and do not continue if it feels unsafe.

The track is well-maintained, but not all sections are boardwalk or stairs. You will also hike through scree (loose gravel and dirt), uneven and rocky surfaces, and mud.


You will begin the hike in the Mangatepopo Valley. Enjoy this section, as it is the easiest and flattest part of the hike. From the valley, you will begin the ascent to the South Crater, which includes a lot of stairs. From the south crater, you will continue to climb to the highest point of the crossing, the Red Crater. This is where the weather is likely to be at its worst.

On the day we hiked, we were unable to see the Red Crater. We visited in summer and had warm weather and sunny blue skies at the start and end of the trail. However, as we began the ascent, it quickly became very cold, wet and windy, with low visibility. This only cleared as we descended from the crater. We wanted to add this side note to show how important it is to be prepared. We passed a lot of tourists wearing casual sneakers, t-shirts and shorts, having to return to the start as they underestimated the environment.

After passing the Red Crater, you will begin the descent to the stunning Emerald Lakes. This section of the path is mostly scree, and there is a good chance you may slip while distracted by the spectacular view.

Hikes with beautiful views - Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The path then continues over the Central Crater to the beautiful Blue Lake. This is a great stop for lunch, to warm up in the sun and switch to some dry socks if you need. The trail then winds around to the North Crater before making the final descent, down tussock slopes, across streams and through lush green forest, before reaching the end at Ketetahi Road.


The track begins at the Mangatepopo Car Park and ends at the Ketetahi Car Park. As these are on opposite sides of the mountain, you will need to arrange transport, either back to your car or to and from your accommodation.

Parking at Mangatepopo is limited to 4 hours, so this is not an option if you are planning to complete the full hike.

The best option is to park in the Ketetahi Car Park at the end of the trail and utilise the shuttle service to transport you to the start of the track. You will need to book a spot in the car park, which will also include your seat on the shuttle. At the end of the hike, you just walk a little further, across the road, to your car.

We booked through the Tongariro Crossing website, and it cost us $45 per person for the car park and the one-way shuttle.

If you don’t have a car, there are also shuttle services that offer return trips to and from the main towns or your accommodation in Taupō, Tūrangi, Tongariro National Park, Ohakune and Whakapapa. You will need to book a time slot for both the drop-off and pick-up. If you miss your pick-up, you can jump on the next service, but be sure to check how often they run and when the last service is (we saw a lot of people running the last section of the track to make their pick-up time).


Preparing for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

As we’ve mentioned, you must be prepared for this hike rather than caught off guard on the day. These are items you're recommended to take, and some extras we threw in too.


  • Appropriate exercise/hiking clothes.

  • Waterproof and windproof layers.

  • Warm layers – pack thermals or fleece if not wearing them.

  • Hiking boots and comfortable socks.

  • Hat and sunglasses.

  • Gloves, beanie or bandana/head scarf.

  • Spare pair of socks – it’s so nice to change into a dry pair if you need.


Preparing for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Water – at least 2 litres.

  • Food – we took sandwiches, nut bars, a packet of nuts, apples and a chocolate treat.

  • Sunscreen – there is no shade on this hike, so be sure to apply before and at regular intervals.

  • Toilet paper or tissues – there are a few toilets along the hike, but they don’t supply toilet paper.

  • Hand sanitiser.

  • Basic first aid kit.

  • Torch.

  • Rubbish bag – there are no bins, so be sure to take everything with you.

  • Waterproof bag covering.

  • Walking poles – we did not take poles, but many people were using them.


We stayed in Tūrangi at the Turangi Leisure Lodge. This accommodation was the perfect place to stay when hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is located in town, a short walk from the shops and only a 30-minute drive from the crossing car park and shuttle service. The rooms are huge, with full kitchens, big bathrooms, separate bedrooms and an open-plan lounge and dining area. They have a pool, spas, communal lounge areas, games, BBQs and a laundry. The service was wonderful, and the staff were welcoming and helpful.


Check out our 2-Week Road Trip Itinerary for more things to do on New Zealand’s North Island.

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