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The Tongariro Alpine Crossing: An Extensive Guide to Conquering One of New Zealand’s Greatest Day Hikes

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing: An Extensive Guide to Conquering One of New Zealand’s Greatest Day Hikes

I love hiking. It makes me super duper happy. The outdoors in general are just the bees knees. One of my all time favourite hikes is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This post came about because I’ve been asked hundreds of questions on how to do it. I poured all of my knowledge into this guide in the hopes of helping others with their Tongariro Crossing Experience.

‘The Tongariro Crossing’. Whether you’ve heard of it from someone else, read about it or seen the AWESOME pictures, you’ve probably landed here because you’re thinking ‘hey, I want to do the Tongariro Crossing but WHERE DO I START?’…. Well, look no further. I’ll be covering everything from transport, accommodation, snacking options to what months are best for hiking the crossing. Buckle up, because this guide is looooong.

This is the best Tongariro Crossing guide you will ever come across (well, it’s fool-proof anyway), written by yours truly, hiking fanatic and four-and-a-half-time Tongariro Crossing Survivor. We’ll save that half-time story for another day….

‘Emerald Lakes’ on the Tongariro Crossing in Mid April (from my ig: @weitingashley)

WHAT THE HECK IS THE TONGARIRO CROSSING?

OK, for those of you that’ve been living under a rock, The Tongariro Crossing is a 19.4km hike through a picturesque volcanic landscape. The hike is around 5-7 hours and can take up to 8 hours. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Some of the walk takes you up to high altitude and there is some serious incline during the devil’s staircase, which is, quite literally hell. Don’t let that put you off though. It all pays off with the unreal scenery you’ll experience along the hike.

Along your hike, you are going to see some awesome highlights: Mangetopopo Valley, Soda Springs, Mount Doom (Mount Ngaruhoe – an optional side walk that will add a couple of hours to your hike), Red Crater, Emerald Lakes, Blue Lakes, Te Maari Craters and Ketetahi Springs. My favourite being the ‘Red Crater’ and the ‘Emerald Lakes’. They take my breath away every. single. time.

The ‘Red Crater’ scattered in snow in Mid April (from my ig: @weitingashley)

SO, WHERE IS THE TONGARIRO CROSSING?

The Tongariro Crossing, part of the North Circuit walk is situated in the Tongariro National Park – Makes sense right? The Tongariro National Park is in the Central North Island region, about a 4/5 hour drive down from Auckland.

Drive down. The other alternatives suck. Trust me. If you don’t have a car, rent one!

WHEN CAN I DO IT?

The best time to do the crossing is in…. SUMMER! You guessed it! December to February is your best bet at nice weather. You are welcome to do the crossing at any time of the year but BE PREPARED. Snow can show up in spring and snowy conditions means you’ll need some serious gear (think crampons and ice axes). Know before you go! If you’re unsure, call up the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre. Keep these contact details handy and give the DOC centre a call for up to date weather conditions:

Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre
Phone: +64 7 892 3729
Address: Whakapapa Village
State Highway 48
Mount Ruapehu

Always tell someone before you go off on a hike. Safety first. If you need a beacon, you can hire locator beacons from the visitor centre.

Tongariro Crossing in the January, NZ Summer (from my ig: @weitingashley)

WHERE SHOULD I STAY?

Good question. I’ll touch on:

1) Tongariro National Park
2) Ohakune
3) Turangi
4) Taupo

In my opinion, the two best options would be staying in the 1) Tongariro National Park or 2) Ohakune Town. Having done both, as well as staying in 3) Turangi, I would recommend Ohakune Town. My reasoning for this is because you will be close to the shops – a strategic move, I’d say because you are going to be HUNGRY (or hangry)!!! Bonus: Ohakune is an awesome place to watch the sun rise and set over the beautiful Mount Ruapehu while strolling around the town. It’s up to you whether you want to stay in a motel, hotel or backpackers.

If accommodation is booked out in Tongariro National Park and Ohakune, then consider Turangi, a town situated near Taupo but closer to Tongariro National Park than Taupo. From both Ohakune and Turangi, the drive is about 30-40 minutes to Tongariro National Park where the tongariro crossing hike takes place.

Taken from Ohakune Information website (original source: www.ohakune.info)

There last alternative option is 4) Taupo which is about an hour and a half away from Ohakune by car and 3 hours and 45 minutes from Auckland. For those of you who can’t sit still and want the luxury of having other activities to do in the rain, this is you. The weather in New Zealand is temperamental. If it rains all weekend or during your stay, it means you can do some bad-ass water activities in Taupo.

But like I said, I would recommend option number two. Ohakune Town is the way to go. For those anti-town folk, don’t worry! The ‘town’ is very quiet and serene. It’s the type of serene that gives you all kinds of fuzzies. It’s peaceful, surrounded by nature and just the perfect place to recharge.

I book most of my accommodation through Airbnb unless there are cheaper accommodation out there. There are plenty of Airbnb place’s to choose from. If there are more than two people, I usually book an entire house because it means I can freely walk around wearing any embarrassing attire I choose to rock. Use my code ‘WSHYU1’ for $30 off your first booking or follow this link here to sign up for an Airbnb account.

WHAT DO I BRING FOR THE CROSSING?

  • Food and plenty of water.
  • Waterproof and wind-proof jacket.
  • Good shoes or hiking boots (you will be trekking over uneven volcanic terrain). If you don’t own a pair of hiking boots, you can hire a pair out from the Ohakune Ski Shop for $20!!!!! There are puddles when snow melts and you don’t want to be walking for hours with wet feet so be smart about your foot wear.
  • Warm clothing layers: woollen or polypropylene thermals and fleece. Even in the summer, chuck these in your bag to be on the safe side.
  • Beanie and gloves in the cooler weather.
  • Mini hand sanitizer.
  • Toilet paper/tissue/baby wipes.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • First Aid Kit.
  • Map. The hike is well sign-posted but you can pick a map up from the DOC centre.
  • Extra tape/plasters/wool. My fellow hiker fanatic and friend suggested these, quote,  ‘tape is soo good to prevent blisters and winding wool between toes stops them rubbing’.
Drone Shot of our Mid April Tongariro hike taken by @tommytwig

WILL I GET PECKISH? WHAT SNACKS DO YOU RECOMMEND?

See, I’m a bit of a hungry hippo. I am snack queen. Below is a list of my favourite hiking snacks for happy snacking and a happy belly:

  • NUT BUTTER! Barney Butter do the yummiest cocoa chocolate almond butter satchets.
  • Pretzels. Salty, crunchy goodness. Perfect paired with your nut butter.
  • Scroggin’. A mix of nuts, seeds, chocolate, dried fruit and other things that tickle your fancy. You can never have enough scroggin’ apart from that one time I did the crossing with 6 others and we all bought 2 kilos of scroggin’ each. It was a scroggin’ party a.k.a scroggin’ overload.
  • Fruit. It hits the sweet spot and it’s hydrating too. I love my jazz apples and tangy fruit like oranges (hello, vitamin C).
  • Crackers/bread/Kruskits. A good one is Kruskits with peanut butter and cinnamon. If you’re like me, you love your combos so I bring a banana. Kruskit + nut butter + banana = PARTY IN YOUR MOUTH!!!!!!!!!
  • Bars. I like protein bars and granola bars. Some like nut bars. Some like fruit bars. Bars are handy quick energy. My fave granola bars are these ones here by Two Moms in the Raw. I also get my protein bars from the same site, iherb. You can use my code PHL791 for 5% off your entire cart!
  • Chocolate. Go for dark. Nutrient dense energy and deliciousness, all in one.
  • Biltong. If you live in Auckland, go to Fred’s Fine Foods on Oteha Valley Road. Their biltong chilli sticks are the business. My other choice of biltong is Canterbury Biltong (Barbeque is my fave), available at most supermarkets and petrol stations in New Zealand.
  • Popcorn. Enjoy the show and pack a bag of popcorn.
  • Boiled eggs. Easy. Eggcellent.
  • Vitamin C Pops. I am forever raving about these organic pops by the pros at YumEarth. I am especially obsessed with the very very cherry, wet-face watermelon and perfectly peach flavour lollipops. You get over 50+ pops for$7.78. I say “bargain!”, you say, “yay!”.
  • Tuna & beans. Not just tuna. It’s tuna AND beans. These have gotten me through emergency situations such as when I’m out of snacks at work, struggling on a 4 day hike in the storm, still hungry after lunch etc. The brand of my choice is John West.

    John West did good when he came up with these tuna & beans

WHAT IS THE TRANSPORT SITCH?

This one is important. Don’t skim read. You want to have a smooth flowing trip so think about this ahead of time.

There are two car parks. You’ve got the Mangatepopo Car Park (7 kilometres off of SH47) and then there’s the Ketetahi Car Park at the end of the walk.

You can catch a return shuttle (http://bookings.bookit.co.nz/pub/supplier.aspx?b=ROAMAO/) or you can drive to the start and catch a shuttle back to your car.

Some people drive to the start of the walk, park at Mangatepopo Car Park in the morning and then eventually reach the end of the walk at Ketetahi Car Park by the afternoon or early evening then they will catch a shuttle bus which will take them from Ketetahi Car Park back to the start of the walk, Mangatepopo Car Park.

Here’s what a recommend.. either:

    1. Park your car at the end of the walk (Ketetahi Carpark) early in the morning and have a shuttle take you to the start of the hike. This means you can walk at your own pace and not have to worry about shuttle timetables because your car will be waiting for you when you’ve finished.
    2. If there are 5 or more of you doing the crossing, consider driving two cars (if there are more than 5 you will have to do multiple trips back and forth but you will still save the $30pp fee). This means you won’t have to pay shuttle fees and you can park on car at the end, one at the start.

For the 1) shuttle option, I’ve booked with www.tongarirocrossing.com before and it cost $30pp. You can book via email or phone at mountainman989@hotmail.com or  0800117686.

For the 2) car option. You will have one of the cars parked at the end then the other car will fetch you; drive to the beginning of the walk and when you reach the end of the walk, car B can take you back to car A. Personally, I like this option because it’s cheaper and well, you don’t have to follow any timetables so you can start the hike fashionably late.

After the hike – head straight to Osteria in Ohakune town and order yourself as many pizza’s as you like. You’re welcome.

 

HAPPY HIKING!

 

Any questions, just comment below.

Visit my instagram @weitingashley to see more adventures.

Check out this link for Tongariro Crossing drone footage!