Is the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand with its eight hours of walking really worthwhile?
We give a resounding yes!
Considered one of the best one-day treks in the world, the Tongariro Crossing lives up to its reputation. The Tongariro hike is an outstanding 8-hour trek across dramatic volcanic scenery located on New Zealand’s North Island. The journey will take you through 3 active volcanoes: Ruapehu, 2797 m, Ngauruhoe, 2291 m and Tongariro, 1967 m.
As we started our hike, we could quickly see why Peter Jackson picked this place to shoot the Lord of the Rings movies. Covering a distance of 19.4 km, the Tongariro Crossing is a land of extreme contrasts: rumbling volcanoes, vibrant turquoise lakes, black dusty slopes, fuming craters, refreshing mountain springs, smelly steam vents, snowy summits, … Walking across this lunar landscape felt like being on another planet.
And with so many impressive stops to be enjoyed along the way, it would be a shame not to illustrate this post with lots and lots of photos!
The walk starts out easy enough across the flat plains of the Mangatepopo Valley. We got there early in the morning so the volcanoes had a menacing look in the clouds.
As the sky clears out, you’ll get closer to the beginning of the climb to South Crater. By then you’ll be making your way through lava rocks.
While walking up, you’ll enjoy an amazing panoramic view down the valley and out across the surrounding countryside.
About an hour of climbing later, you’ll reach the summit and its magnificent view! As we went there in November, there were still some ice blocks and snow here and there.
There is a plain at the summit that will take you through Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom) on your right and Tongariro on your left.
You’ll then climb a last small bit to arrive at the Red Crater (1886m), which is the highest point of the hike.
From there on, you’ll start a long way back down.
The first thing you’ll come across are the vivid Emerald Lakes colored by minerals leaching from the rocks. They look amazing but have a terrible sulphurous smell.
Following the edge of Central Crater you will then climb up to Blue Lake (a cold acidic lake) which is sacred to the Maori.
A good sturdy pair of hiking shoes will definitely make your journey a lot more comfortable (unlike Simon’s old sneakers that got quickly full of volcanic debris).
On your way down, the landscape will start to change drastically and you’ll have a superb view over Lake Rotoaira and Lake Taupo.
You’ll then follow the stream flowing down from Keteahi Springs and descend across Mangatetipua Stream before reaching the car park.