We finally conquered the Tongariro Alpine Crossing!
Heralded as one of the best things to do in New Zealand, the crossing is an icon. In fact, it's the most popular hike in the country!
Up to 4000 people tackle the trail each day during the summer months - we've heard stories of waiting in line just to wander slowly up the trail and batting to get 'that shot'. With the COVID-19 situation currently happening in the world and with the New Zealand borders currently closed, we estimate less than 60 people were on the trail. As you can imagine, we got some pretty stunning photos sans other humans!
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is in the heart of Tongariro National Park. The walk crosses incredible alpine meadows, traverses a few craters of varying colours, slides down a steep volcano, bursts into steam at varying points, meanders around sulpher-smelling-emerald-coloured lakes and all in all, makes for an absolutely unreal day.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is perhaps most well-known for being the filming location of Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As you make your way through the epic, sweeping landscape, you can see exactly why Mount Ngauruhoe (one of the mountains you walk past on the crossing) was chosen! You'll also get incredible views of nearby Mount Ruapehu.
I have to say - the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was not as difficult as I expected it to be. Travelers we had met around New Zealand shared tales of scrambling over rocks and losing their footing on treacherous slopes, but we found just two sections to be fear-inducing: the trek up to the red crater and the trek back down the other side. The rest was enjoyable, reasonably flat, steady and overall pleasant.
TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING HIKE DETAILS
When: October - May in good weather only, although if you have crampons and appropriate winter gear you may attempt this in the winter months
Where: Tongariro National Park
Length: 6-8 hours for the 19.4km one-way track (we took 7 hours with photos and lunch!)
Directions: this is a one-way crossing, so you'll need to park your car at the end and have the shuttle (we used the YHA shuttle) drop you off at the other end so you can hike back to your car. The hike is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand which means it's incredibly well-maintained and easy to follow.
Bathrooms: yes, at the car park and at a few points along the trail - but bring your own toilet paper!
Public Transit: you will need to take a shuttle from the end of the trail to the start and then hike back to your car. Book your Tongariro Alpine Crossing shuttle here.
WHAT TO BRING ON THE TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING
- sun protection (this hike is super exposed and has barely any tree cover!)
- warm water- & wind-proof layers (we each wore a shirt, a sweater and a rain coat)
- plenty of water (~2L per person)
- lunch and snacks
- comfortable hiking shoes
- toilet paper
- baseball cap to keep sun off
- toque, gloves and scarf
- camera to get those awesome shots!