Hiking the Tongoriro Crossing

The Tongoriro Crossing

April 3, 2004

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Bus ride to the start of the Tongariro Crossing (Mt. Ngauruhoe in the distance)

The Crossing:

The Tongoriro Crossing is often called the "Finest One-Day Walk" in New Zealand. It starts and ends at different trailheads, so it is necessary to figure out how to get to the start of the trail and how to get away from the end point. We had pre-arranged a bus drop-off and pick-up with Howard's Lodge in National Park Village (we also were staying at the lodge). We left their car park on Carroll Street at 7:45am with a mini-bus full of day hikers from at least 5 or 6 different countries.

The ride to the Mangatepopo trailhead took only about 20 minutes. The driver warned us to not miss the pick-up at the other end of the trail (Ketetahi car park) at 5:00pm.

The track starts out very flat and heads east up the Mangatepopo Valley towards the imposing cone of Mt. Ngauruhoe. The first hour is mostly easy walking with a few short sections up or across some rugged volcanic rocky outcroppings.

After an hour or so, we reached the side trail to Soda Springs. There is also a toilet here, just prior to the steep and rocky slog to the saddle begins. We labored uphill for about an hour or so, stopping occasionally for a rest or to take photos. At some points along the incline there were steep and narrow sections that caused a few traffic jams among the many trampers on the trail that day.

Mt. Taranaki was plainly visible on the western horizon when we reached the Mangatepopo Saddle between Mt. Ngauruhoe (2287m) and Mt. Tongoriro (1967m). We decided not to make the side trips up either one of the volcanoes, they are each popular side-trips (Ngauruhoe:2 hours, Tongiriro: 90 minutes).

The trail crosses the broad, flat South Crater and up another steep slope to the highest point along the trail, the Red Crater (1886m). The views all around are amazing:

After marvelling for a moment, Eileen, Hels & I ran down the scree slope past all the hikers taking careful steps. Jake stayed on the top for a little while and took some photos before joining is for lunch right next to one of the Emerald Lakes.

Refreshed by a long rest and a great lunch, we crossed the Central Crater and over to the Blue Lake (Te Wai-Whakaata-o-te Rangihiroa). The trail starts the long downhill section of the day. At first, it was a welcomed relief, but the hours of downhill did become a bit hard on my knees.

We took a long and wonderful rest at the Ketetahi Hut. Apparently, there is water at the hut that you can fill up your water bottles with, but the German guy in line in front of us got a lot of sediment and crud in his bottle, so we ended up not filling our bottles. The view from the deck was wonderful, and soon after we arrived, there were 20 or 30 people resting in the sun and looking out to the east and to Lake Taupo.

To the north, steam was rising off of the thermal pools that are now off-limits to hikers. The Ketetahi Springs are on private land and access is not granted by the owners. After leaving the hut, the trail goes really close to the springs, but they remain just out of sight. A bit farther down the hill the trail crosses the warm stream.

The trail continued down for the next 90 minutes. I was amazed by the thousands and thousands of steps that had been built on the trail. As the trail flattened out once more, it ran through some beautiful bush and along a roaring stream until we reached the Ketetahi car park and the end of the Crossing.


Published Walking Times:

The Department of Conservation publishes a data sheet with approximate hiking times for the different sections of the track: Hiking at a slow but steady pace all day we took just under 8 hours to complete the crossing. We took an hour break for lunch at the Emerald Lakes and another one-hour break at the Ketetahi Hut. We started walking at 8:20am and reached the Ketetahi car park at just past 4:00pm. Luckily, a bus was just leaving and we hopped on immeadiately and headed back to Howard's Lodge. Eileen, Matt & Hels at the Ketetahi Hut



We rented the "Chalet" next to Howard's Lodge. My friend, Julian, recommended the chalet, and it was wonderful. There are are three bedrooms, a large lounge (with TV & sterio), a well-equipped kitchen, and amazing water pressure in the shower. The tarriff was $175 NZD per night.
Howard's Lodge
National Park Village


2004 matt@muellerworld.com