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Tongariro National Park – Ruapehu District New Zealand

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is one of a few sites in the world with dual World Heritage Status in recognition of both its natural and cultural values. The Park is the home of the mountains of Tongariro (1968 metres), Ruapehu (2,797 metres) and Ngauruhoe (2,290). Mt Ruapehu is the highes point in the North Island with the largest ski field in New Zealand called Whakapapa, sometimes visitors will incorrectly mistake Mt Ruapehu for Mt Tongariro.

The peaks of this area were until recently regarded by the local Maoris, as strictly tapu (sacred, forbidden). Tongariro features in numerous differing legends of Maori folk-lore. In one of these legends, Tongariro was climbed by the great navigator Ngatoroirangi, tohunga (priest) of the Arawa migration in the 14th century. In Maori tradition all the three peaks, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, are part of the one mountain complex of Tongariro. The name meaning lit:tonga: south wind: riro: borne away – recalls the plea of the priest Ngatoroirangi as he lay perishing on the summit awaiting fire from the gods in “Hawaiki” “Ka riro au I te tonga”
(I am borne away in the bitter south wind)

The Tongariro National Park was New Zealand’s first national park, formally constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1894, incorporating the three mountain tops. Today the Park comprises of mountain beech forest, tussock country, wetlands and near-dessert, surrounding the three volcanic mountains of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, encompassing some 79,598ha

tongariro national park

The most popular track in Tongariro National Park is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, most of the track is also part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit, a two to four day trek, which is one of the Great Walks in New Zealand. The round the mountain track which takes you around Mt Ruapehu our largest mountain in the north island will take you 4-6 days.

You can appreciate why Peter Jackson shot The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in and around the Tongariro National Park, with Mt Doom (Mt Ngauruhoe) on the list of must do for fans visiting New Zealand, tours of all the filming locations in the National Park can be arranged.

The main activites in the park includes skiing and snowboarding , Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter and in summer Whanganui River Trip, walking, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, rafting, hunting, fishing and scenic flights.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Tongariro National Park

The Tongariro Crossing Trek will take you from alpine meadow to mountain summit with stunning volcanic features along the way. You will walk across a lunar landscape of craters, scattered pumice, active volcanoes, mountain springs, lava flows, emerald lakes, piles of scoria and statue-like mounds of volcanic rock – all testament to the forces that were unleashed to create this volcanic desert.

Adventue Lodge has their own shuttle and run daily, weather permitting. We understand that you want to be on the mountain at the best possible time to get your views, so we can leave at 6.00am in the morning or at 11.00am depending on the weather conditions for that day.

It will take about 7-8 hours to allow time for photos and any side tracks, lunch and breaks. There are toilets at Mangatepopo and Ketetahi huts, and at the start and end of the track. You will be entering Department of Conservation land all rubbish must be taken out of the Park.

Mangatepopo to Soda Spring

climb_to_south_craterGrade: Easy – allow one – one and a half hours

Adventure Lodge will drop you off at the Mangatepopo car park and the first section you cover is fairly flat, the track is well formed and board walked in damper parts, poles mark the way. About 15 minutes from the car park the track branches off to the right to Whakapapa. Five minutes after this junction a side track leads left to the Mangatepopo Hut, and toilet facilities. The main track continues up the valley following the Mangatepopo stream and around the edge of old lava flows. You will notice the change in plants as you climb in altitude; the last toilet stop is at Soda Springs until you get to the Ketetahi Hut.

Soda springs to South Crater

web_size_mt__ngaruhoe_r1_c1Grade: Moderate – Difficult allow 40 minutes to an hour

This section is steep – climbing from 1400 up to 1600 metres above sea level (known as the devils staircase) take your time and on a clear day the view down the valley and out across the surrounding countryside is well worth it! You may even see Mt Taranaki, another volcano on the western horizon. Take care as you are walking over layers of ancient and modern lava flows and other volcanic debits so the track surface is not smooth. The track veers slightly to the left 5 minutes before reaching South Crater. To continue on the Crossing follow the marked route.

If Mt Ngauruhoe is clear and you have a beautiful day with plenty of time, you can make the decision to climb to the summit. Head for the old lava flow as it is very difficult if you try to climb up the scree.

South Crater to Red Crater

tongariro_red_crater_web_r1_c1Grade: Moderate – Difficult allow 1 hourtongariro red crater web

It is great to be on the flat, but once you have crossed South Crater there is another short climb on an exposed ridge. The track follows the ridge to Red Crater. If you have plenty of time you can make the decision to summit Tongariro, just before reaching the crater, the route heads off to the left. The main track continues around Red Crater. You have spectacular views over the Oturere Valley, Rangipo Desert, Kaimanawa Ranges and down to the emerald lakes, but it can be a little scary on a windy day.

Red Crater to Blue Lake

to_blue_lakeGrade: Moderate 30 minutes

To the left you will see an old lava flow from Red Crater spreading out across the floor of central crater. When descenting to the emerald lakes from Red Crater please take care as the loose scoria can move under foot. To the right are the Emerald Lakes, a great place to stop for your lunch. The colour is caused by the minerals leaching from the surrounding rock. The steam vents above the lake are responsible for the sulphurous smell. You will notice the Track to Otureree Hut, part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit branches off just past the lowest lake. The Tongariro Crossing track follows around the edge of Central Crater then climbs up to Blue Lake (A cold acidic lake) The lake is tapu (sacred) and it is disrespectful to eat or drink around its shores.

Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut

down_to_the_hutGrade Moderate – One hour

A short easy climb to the edge of North Crater, this was once filled with molten lava and then cooled and solidified to give an level surface more than 1000m wide.
You have a sensational change in your outlook, in good weather there are spectacular views out over Mt Pihanga and Lake Rotoaira to Lake Taupo. You then zigzag your way down to the Ketetahi Hut, the ground can be quite boggy and the pumice base is easily eroded – please stay on the main track.

Ketetahi Hut to Ketetahi Car Park

down_to_the_carparkGrade: Moderate – two hours

The track crosses the stream that flows down from Ketetahi Springs, the rocks are stained by minerals in the water. Visitors are asked not to leave the track, as the springs are on private land.
You will need to follow the poled route down through the open tussock land to the clearing with some seats. At this point the track drops steeply to the Mangatetipua Stream.

A short side track leads down to a waterfall a few minutes before reaching the car park for your ride back to Adventure Lodge for a cold drink, and a hot spa.

You will need…

As the weather conditions can change rapidly in the region you need to be prepared with:doc approved small

  • Tramping Boots (or good strong footwear)
  • Day pack
  • Wool jumper or fleece
  • Waterproof coat
  • Hat and gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Sun block
  • Food & water

A once in a lifetime experience – remember your camera.



Download the Tongariro Map

Tongariro Alpine Crossing Fact Sheet
French Tongariro Alpine Crossing Fact Sheet
German Tongariro Alpine Crossing Fact Sheet

More information

Keep Safe in our Mountains

Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Tongariro Track Transport

Web_Ruapehu_with_vans._2JPGThe Tongariro Crossing is a one way track; you will need to arrange return transport. You will be away for most of the day, as this is a remote area theft from and vandalism to cars left at the road ends is an increasing problem. We recommend you leave your vehicle here at the lodge, we are sure you do not want to waste your holiday time in a New Zealand police station.

The return Tongariro Shuttle is $30.00 per person from National Park Village

6.30am, 7.30am 8.30am

Times may vary due to weather conditions.

Arrange a pick up time to summit Mt Ngauruhoe (Before you leave) We do have some cell phone coverage on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, depending on what service you are with. Groups by arrangement

Packed Lunch for $15.00

lunch1 x Sandwich,
2 x pieces of Fruit,
1 healthy nut Bar,
1 muesli Bar,
1 packet nuts/raisins,
1 Chocolate Bar, 1.5 litres of Water

You will need…


As the weather conditions can change rapidly in the region you need to be prepared with:

Tramping Boots, (or good strong footwear), Day pack, wool jumper or fleece, waterproof coat, hat and gloves, first aid kit, sun block, food and water,

A once in a lifetime experience – remember your camera

Hire Clothing

We can arrange Hiking Boots, Rain Jackets, Pants, Hiking Poles and Backpacks. Plus Crampons and Ice axes (when required).

Jacket $15.00 – Overtrous $10.00 –

Hiking Boots $15.00 -Hiking Poles $10.00


Tongariro Alpine Guide – Tongariro National Park

Tongariro Crossing Alpine Guides – private and group tours all year.

Winter_Alpine_Crossing_5You can do the Tongariro Crossing in winter, for your safety a guided trip is recommended. New Zealand is surrounded by water and the weather can change quite quickly. Alpine conditions can be extreme, particularly on the “Red Crater” ridge. We can have snow, ice, and often strong winds, sometimes in summer.

For a truly magical experience on a beautiful day you cannot beat the vista from Red Crater.

A guide with a ton of enthusiasm will accompany you over the crossing teaching you to use crampons, they will supply you with all the gear you need, including pants/jackets/over trousers. $155.00 per person including transport, equipment and guide.

You can have a guided tour all year round.

Stay and Play at Adventure Lodge & Motel

Tongariro Northern Circuit – Tongariro National Park

Winding its way over Mt Tongariro and around Mt Ngauruhoe is the Tongariro Northern Circuit in Tongariro National Park, one of the Great Walks of New Zealand. This trek passes through unique and stunning landforms, which include volcanic craters and glacial valleys. A range of trips can be planned around the Tongariro Northern Circuit. Day trips, overnight trips or a three to four day tramp around the complete circuit. Adventure Lodge has free storage for bags while on the Tongariro Northern Circuit.

You need to book the hut passes. See Tongariro Crossing for a full day or walks for 1/2 days

Tongariro Northern PDF

Tongariro Northern Circuit PDF

Accommodation before and after the Northern Circuit

For more information on the Northern Circuit go to the Department of Conservation website

Climbing to the Mountain Summits in Tongariro National Park

You can climb the summits of all three mountains in two days, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe and on the second day climb to the summit of Mt Ruapehu. We can arrange a guide to accompany you on your quest to three summits in two days.

Mt Tongariro – Summit 1967m

summit_of_Mountains_WebYou can do climb to the Mt Tongariro summit as part of the Northern Circuit or the Tongariro Alpine Crossing it will take you 1-2 hours return form near the top of Red Crater.

Follow a poled route to the summit of Tongariro. The route is along an undulating rocky ridge, gaining less than 100 m in altitude you will get some fantastic views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe.

Mt Ngauruhoe – summit 2287m

Mt_NgauruhoeYou can climb to the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe a poled route leads from Mangatepopo road end (this can also be done part of the Tongariro Crossing).

At the saddle between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro the route is not marked but climb up the old lava flow. (Be aware of the falling rocks dislodged by other climbers) Avoid entering the inner crater area, where volcanic fumaroles may emit overpowering gases.

Descend via the red scoria, then on the loose scree to either side of the ridge.

The climb should not be undertaken in winter without mountaineering experience and equipment or an experienced guide. Icy slopes can make this climb extremely hazardous.

Mt Ngauruhoe was digitally transformed to create the fiery Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings Films. see Lord of the Rings locations Ruapehu.

In Maori legend, the high priest, Ngatoroirangi was caught in a blizzard while climbing Mount Ngauruhoe. He prayed to his sisters in Hawaiki to send him fire to save him from freezing. The flames they sent south emerged first at White Island, then Rotorua and Taupo before finally bursting at Ngatoroirangi’s feet. Thus Ngatoroirangi is credited with bringing volcanic activity to Aotearoa New Zealand not as a curse upon the land, but as a blessing.

For a guided sunrise or sunset adventure contact us.

Mt Ruapehu – summit 2672m

Crater_Lake_Mt_Ruapehu_WebThis is a 5 hour 7km climb via the same route, you take the whakapapa ski chairlift and you start this climb from at the knoll ridge. If you do not take the chairlift it is a 7 hour 10km climb.

The Crater Lake is below the summit of Ruapehu and the lake disappeared during the eruptions of Mt Ruapehu in 1995/96 and after an eruption in 2007.

The alpine environment is renowned for extremely changeable weather. This climb is not recommended in winter without mountaineering experience and equipment.

This is not a marked route and it is recommended you go with a guided group to the crater lake.

Summit Routes

Check for Avalanche Forecasts

Check for the Tongariro National Park weather

Tongariro Walking Tracks – Tongariro National Park

We have some wonderful walks in the Tongariro Park Area from 20 minutes to 8 hours of the famous Tongariro Crossing.

Ohinetonga Track

This is a 2-3 hour loop walk and is situated between Owhango and the Whakapapa River you can spend a lovely afternoon here the track winds through the forest, with excellent examples of native trees, to the Ohinetonga Lagoon you can picnic, swim. or just enjoy the surroundings.

Okupata Caves

A natural and unmarked network of underground passages in Tongariro Forest. Guided tours can be arranged to enter the caves. Heavy rainfall may result in rising water levels in the caves, which may cause them to flood. You should only enter the caves with people who know them well.
Lake Rotopounamu web

Lake Rotopounamu (Greenstone Lake)

This is a picturesque lake on the side of Mt pihanga known as the greenstone lake. It will take you 20 minutes to walk one way to the lake or 2 hours around 5km loop track.

Tama Lakes

This trek is an extension of the Taranaki Falls track: You will track across undulating tussock country and alpine herb fields. Further on you will branch to the left to Tama Lakes , there is an overview of the lower lake and then the track climbs steeply to the upper lake at 1314 metres above sea level. Tama lakes occupy several old craters on the Tama Saddle between Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe. Windproof clothing is recommend for this area as the Tama Saddle acts as a funnel for prevailing westerly winds. This trek should take you between 5-6 hours and is a 17Km return trek.

Taranaki Falls


This is a great morning or afternoon walk, or a warm up for the next full days trek. Taranaki falls tumble over the 20 metres edge of a large lava flow, which erupted from Ruapehu 15,000 years ago, then plunges into a boulder-ringed pool. From below the falls there are fabulous views into the water-worn gorges of the Wairere Stream. This is a loop track of 6 km and will take about 2 hours.

Tawhai Falls

Is 20 minutes return via the same track. The falls tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow. It is a short stroll through mountain toatoa and beech forest.

Taurewa Track

This is an afternoon of or morning walk and follows the old milling trails through the bush. The track starts on the edge of the Tongariro Forest and is home to a wide variety of bird life it is a 2-3 hour loop track. You will need to turn left at John McDonald Road.

Silica Rapids


This highly varied track reveals to you a range of vegetation types and on a clear day you will have amazing views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe. The track will take you through mountain beech forest, traveling alongside a cascading stream, arriving at the creamy-white terraces of Silica Rapids. Featured around the track are sub alpine plants amid mixture of swamp and tussock country. It will return you to the Bruce Road and take about 2.5 hours for the 7 km trek returning to your starting point via the Bruce Road .

Whakapapaiti Valley

This trek begins on the Bruce Road at Scoria Flat you cross the ridge to be greeted with stunning views of the Whakapapaiti Valley and surrounding countryside. Then you zigzag down into the valley to the Whakapapaiti Hut through stunted beech forest. You will pass on your left the Mangahuia Track then join the lower Silica Rapids Track. Plan for 4-5 hours 11 km one way.

Tongariro National Park Geology

Geologically the volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park are of recent origin, dating back to about two million years, reaching their greatest heights during the last Ice Age when glaciers extended down the slopes of Ruapehu to about 1220m. The Tongariro National Park lies at the south-western extremity of a volcanic chain which extends through White Island in the Bay of Plenty and the Kermadec Island to the islands of Tonga 2000km to the north-east.

web_size_geology_r1_c1The volcanoes in Tongariro National Park are part of the long line of volcanic and earthquake activity that extends around the Pacific Ocean as the Ring of Fire. This activity is caused by the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates pushing against each other, with the Pacific Plate being forced under the Australian Plate in the North Island.

The land mass of Tongariro National Park was formed by many different eruptions from at least six cones. They all share the same alignment with the oldest lava dated at about 275,000 years ago, near what is now the Tama Lakes on the southern flanks of Mt Ngauruhoe. The eruptions continued for the next 200,0000 years, as the ice retreated it carved our valleys clearly visiable in the lower Mangatepopo and Oturere Valley. Clearly you can see this on your hike on the Tongariro Crossing or the Tongariro Northern Circuit.

Mt Ruapheu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are Stratovolcanos (Composite cone Volcanos) The last eruptive activity on Mt Tongariro was a gas and steam driven eruption on Monday 6 August 2012. The eruption lasted only a couple of minutes and occurred partly from existing vents at the Upper Te Maari Crater. It also involved the formation of a new crater and eruption fissure.

Mt Ngauruhoe last erupted in 1977 and true to her name (meaning; throwing hot stones) ejected red hot blocks of lava and ash thrown 3km away.

All the volcanoes in the Tongariro National Park are monitored and alerts are emailed and posted on the Geonet Website.