Tongariro Crossing is situated on the North island and is one of the most popular day walks in New Zealand. The walk goes through the volcano Mount Tongariro, also passing Mount Ngauruhoe. This hike one of our personal highlights on the North Island, and we’d happily share some info and tips about it.
How long does walking a Tongariro Crossing take?
Generally, they say it takes around 6-8 hours to do the crossing. The timing depends mostly on how fit you are and on how much time you are taking to enjoy the views, having snacks, stops, water breaks and so on. We were lucky with the weather and our spirits were high, and we finished in a little under 6 hours. Our speed on the way down was quite good, but we also took our time. We snapped some photos, stopped for water breaks and enjoyed our lunch on the top of the volcano. We are not athletes, but we are not exactly new to exercise either. Therefore, we do recommend to rather allow for more time to make sure you enjoy your Tongariro Crossing, instead of rushing through.
How do I get from one side to another to get to my car?
Most common way would be the shuttle bus. There are few options, and you can book it in advance to make sure you have space (in our shuttle bus there was only one more seat available, we didn’t pre-book). You can also reserve a shuttle all the way from your hotel to the car parks and back from another car park. Some people also just walk half way of Tongariro Crossing and then walk same way back. I, however, would suggest to take a full walk, because two sides are very different and unique in their own way.
Which direction to choose?
There are two car parks where you can start your walk: Ketetahi and Mangatepopo. When choosing which way to go, we suggest to take few things into consideration.
Parking and transportation
During our walk in February 2018, you could only park in Mangatepopo for 4 hours. It meant that you couldn’t start there, take a shuttle to Ketetahi and walk back to Mangatepopo on time. The other way was possible, and even though Ketetahi parking is normally full quite early in the morning, you could still park on the road before the turn (there are super nice guys working who will help you and let you know all the information needed). However, please do check the official information in case something changes – you can find it HERE.
Difficulty of the route
The normal way would be to go from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi, on of the reasons being that Ketetahi Hut’s altitude is lower that Mangatepopo’s. Therefore, the altitude difference you end up climbing from Mangatepopo is lower. However, it seems to me that the pathway from Ketetahi is a bit easier, since it’s mostly smooth track in contrast to more “hardcore” climbing from Mangatepopo side.
We have only done the walk once, and it was from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi. But honestly, this is the way I would recommend doing the Tongariro Crossing. Not just because of the altitude, but because of the experience you get. You get all this volcanic craziness and different types of terrain on the way up: some human made paths, some stairs, some rock climbing. And then on the way down you see, beautiful, but a bit more boring scenery (boring because it’s all the same). In the end you reach final ~3km, where you walk through the stunning forest.
What time of the day should I choose for Tongariro Crossing?
Most people would go early in the morning. There are many reasons for that: times for shuttle busses, spaces for parking, not knowing how long the hike would take, wanting to have most of their evening free etc.
We came slightly before 10 and weren’t sure if we get to do the crossing: we didn’t book shuttle bus. But apparently it wasn’t necessary, and we still got to catch the bus to bring us to Mangatepopo. What could’ve turned out to be a missed experience due to our lack of preparation, came out to be a great thing. Maybe, because we got to avoid the crowd. Yes, there are many people doing Tongariro Crossing every day, and biggest part of them is starting between 6 and 8 am. Why? To avoid the crowd (how ironic). But don’t be too late, because you might not be able to get to the other side with a shuttle. Besides, you don’t want to end up walking when it’s dark.
I’m not an extremely fit person, can I still do Tongariro Crossing?
You may ask – what if I’m not an athletic person? Well, it’s totally fine. I mean, it’s recommended that you have previous experience with some kind of physical activity, but that’s just common sense. If you were lying on the couch eating pizza, muffins and potato chips during the last 10 years, you might not want to start being active with the 19.4km hike. Yes, it does get a bit more difficult on the way up, but good news – it’s absolutely doable. You can meet all kind of people at Tongariro Crossing – fit and chubby, old and young, moms and dads hiking with kids in their backpacks or with the whole family.
Few more tips
Wear hiking shoes
We have seen people ending up on their butts on the top of the volcano because they were wearing sneakers. You don’t have to wear tall boots, but it’s good to have something sturdy.
The weather in Tongariro Crossing changes very quickly. Imagine how unpleasant it can be to get all wet when you still have 10km to walk.
Bring snacks/lunch and plenty of water
Water is essential, but snacks are also recommended. And why not have lunch with such a beautiful view? Please make sure though that you take your trash with you and don’t leave anything behind.
Do pre-book the shuttle bus
We didn’t, and we got lucky. You might be not as lucky as us, in particularly during busy season.
Check the weather forecast
Even though they’re not always accurate for Tongariro Crossing, it’s good to know if the chance of rain is 99%.
Unless you are one of these people who look good no matter what you do, I recommend to wear your hair closed (or do it later on the track). The wind on the top is strong. you risk not being able to comb your hair for long time afterwards.
Hope you will love Tongariro Crossing as much as we did! For a short but beautiful hike on the South Island, we recommend to check out Lake Marian.
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