Hiking Tongariro Crossing – NZ

Hiking guide for Tongariro

The Tongariro Crossing located on New-Zealand’s North Island is one the most iconic and popular hikes of the country. It goes through a typical New Zealand Volcanic landscape and is a gem for mesmerising pictures. It still requires some preparation and skills to make sure you can hike the 19.4km and 1196m of elevation changes joining Mangatepopo to Ketetahi road. 

Full Disclaimer

Being a pretty advanced hiker, what you are about to read might not be applicable to you.
Please get to know who I am before adventuring yourself in this article.
We do not all react the same way to the local environment and the weather could turn out to be very different.
Make sure you understand your body and mental fitness before engaging yourself in long distance hikes. 

Quick Summary:
– Hike type: 1 out of 2 stars Point to Point
– Packing: 1.5 out of 3 stars (1.5 / 3) Big day pack (~25L) with extra gear
– Hike length: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5) – 19.4km / 12 miles. Doable in less than 5h
– Hike elevation: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) – 800m / 2,625ft – 4% overall steepness
– Accessibility: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) – Use of shuttle recommended
– Overall difficulty: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5) – Not that long and not that hard


Pack some cold weather clothes! Just because it’s warm in Taupo doesn’t mean you can hike the Tongariro with flip-flops. The weather changes all the time. You can start under a beautiful sunshine and suddenly get hit by a misty freezing wind.
The bare minimum to pack would be a sweater, a rain/wind jacket and a beanie, on top of what you will be wearing.
Plan a few snack bars and at least a sandwich for lunch, in addition to 2L of water.
Thus the need for a large day pack (25L).

Doubting about what you should wear? Read this article about Appropriate Hiking Gear.

Morning sunrise on Taupo
The benefits of getting up early to do the Tongariro Crossing

Getting There

GPS Coordinates: -39.073901, 175.663753
Getting to the start of the Tongariro crossing is actually the hard part.
Technically you can get there by car, but the parking is limited to 2 hours only and the hike is a way-one trail, meaning you won’t end up back on the same parking lot.
This means you either have someone dropping you off at the start and getting you back once you’re done, or you go through a paid shuttle to do the exact same thing.
There’s plenty of companies doing that, you won’t have a hard time finding one. Some offer multiple shuttles for the way back, which prevents you from being left behind if you walk too slow or from wasting hours doing nothing if you walk too fast.
Bookings fill out pretty quickly during high season.

The Tongariro Crossing Hike

The hike is usually done from West to North-East – from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi road. But do whatever you want.
The path is clearly marked from start to finish and you should stay on it.

View of the volcanic plains on the tongariro crossing
View of the volcanic plains on the tongariro crossing

The first 4km are rather flat, with only 250m of elevation, walking on plains surrounded by volcanic stones from a rather old eruption.

After 4km you will reach the Soda Springs, and that’s when the difficulty start.
The next 2km will be a rather steep climb, but nothing alarming. Go through the pass and you will be rewarded by 1km of flat walk. It is however very exposed to the weather and could be windy and foggy.
After that flat area comes the last difficulty of the day (already? yes). You need to reach the top of the red crater and the way up is not only steep, but slippery and exposed to the wind.
Do not stop there however, as the weather should clear up as soon as you reach the summit (a natural wind breaker).

Congratulations! The rest of the hike will seem like a walk in park.
You can start going down on what should now be sand and you will reach today’s objective: the Emerald lakes.
Once you’re done taking all your photos and cursing all the tourists, start walking North towards the Blue lake.
From there, following one last tiny climb up, it is a 10km and 1000m walk down, zigzagging through the high-grass and overlooking the beautiful New-Zealand landscape. Nothing intense, just very long. 

The last 2-3km will be done in the shades of the trees until you reach the Ketetahi parking lot. And that’s it (That’s it?? Yes, that’s it. See, nothing hard). 

The landscape on the way down

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