Posted in New Zealand, Travel

Doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Having only one weekend in New Zealand and wanting to get the most out of it, I was on the lookout for things to do that are “the thing to do” here. One of which was my visit to Hobbiton.

But I was also looking to do some hiking in this largely empty country. Some research on the internet revealed that, apparently, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing falls into the above mentioned category. It’s a day hike between two of the highest volcanoes on the North Island and is quite famous for Kiwi’s and tourists alike.

So I booked a hotel in the area for the night and prepared for a day of mountain hiking.As the walk is a one-way trip, I had booked a transfer from the end point parking lot to the start on the other side of the mountain. And, since I wanted to beat the crowds, I decided to take the early bird option at 6:30am. So I set my alarm for 5:15am to allow time for some breakfast, dressing in 5 layers of clothing (a very wise choice, as it turned out) and packing up my stuff. By 6:15am I had arrived at the parking lot.

Which was already full, meaning I had to join the growing number of cars parked on the side of the access road.

I was also not the only one on the bus at this early hour.

Once the bus was full, we left for the starting point. The weather was overcast and misty, so we were very pleasently surprised when, after gaining some height, we broke through the cloud cover and saw “our” mountains against clear, blue skies.

Our first impression of the crossing from the bus.
We were not the only bus depositing hikers to this remote place of New Zealand.

With the sun just starting to rise, we set out for the 19.4km long hike that would take us from Pukeonake parking area at 1150m above sea level, in bewteen the Togariro and Ngauruhoe mountains, accross the Red Crater and the highest point at 1886m above sea level, along the Emerald and Blue Lake(s) to the finishing point at 750m above sea level.

The path was easy: just follow the crowd.
It was also very well maintained and signposted.
Early on the vegetation was lov and interspersed with little streams.
Looking back at the clouds and the beautiful morning sky.
The first couple of kilometers are fairly flat.
Before the first serious climb, there was the last toilet for the next 10km. The line was as expected.
Looking up at the ridge I was about to cross, the sun made its appearance.
After the first climb and entering the South Crater, there was no vegetation left.
…but the rocks looked very pretty in the early morning light.
Looking back at Mt. Ngauruhoe. Quite stunning with its red top.
And while the rest of the family wasn’t here in person, they were with me in spirit.
From the Red Crater, the path got pretty steep and windy.

Coming out of the Red Crater, the wind noticeably picked up. Where I had been wearing my t-shirt only down there, I was glad I had my fleece and wind-jacket to put back on.

Reaching the top, the view was breathtaking.

However, the view wasn’t the only think taking my breath away. The wind was coming from the side at considerable speeds, making me feel as if I would be blown off the mountain at any second now. And with hundreds of meters of free-fall options on either side, I did not dwell up here for very long.

I have to admit, I was slightly scared.

So I made my way down the other side, down a sandy slope towards the Emerald Lakes. I had passed the half-way point.
The lakes were a favourite lunch spot for a lot of hikers, so I joined the club for a short rest.
After the break it was onwards and (mostly) downwards. Looking back, I saw more and more people doing the crossing.
From then onwards it was back to the land of the living – and the parking lot way off in the distance.
Still more than 8 km to go. A looooong way to get down this mountain.
Down and down, along a winding path and past a hut with toilets (finally!).
But just once in a while you are reminded that this is actually a vulcano.
At this height, trees are having a tough time.
But the lower I got, the higher the bushes became.
Until, after a sharp turn in the path, I found myself in the middle of a forrest.

From there it was still about 3km to the car.

I finished the hike in 5 hours, just before noon, which is a bit quicker than the official 6 to 7 hour estimate.

Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? Absolutely. While the second half of the crossing is pretty long and sometimes a bit boring, the exciting and stunning first half more than makes up for it. I had a blast!

But I would add a word of caution at the end: this is not a hike undertaken lightly. Bring lots of water and food, and make sure you have proper shoes and are dressed in layers. It was not a hot day and I drank 2 litres of water. I was wearing anywhere from 5 to 1 layers of clothing, sometimes switching back and forth. And I was definately happy that I had proper hiking boots on the rocky and sometimes slippery pathways. So make sure you come prepared to be able to enjoy this adventure as much as I have.

3 thoughts on “Doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

  1. Bijzonder om zulke tochten te maken en apart om te zien dat er meer mensen zijn die de tocht vroeg begonnen. Had je het idee dat dit voornamelijk toeristen waren?

    Hoe lang denk je nog in Nieuw-Zeeland te zijn? En wat heeft jouw voorkeur 🇦🇺 (AUS) of 🇳🇿 (NZ)?

    Veel plezier nog ..


    1. Hoi Karin,
      Er waren veel toeristen, maar er zijn ook veel New Zealanders die deze tocht doen. Sommige collega’s hier zijn er al meerdere keren geweest.
      Ik heb nog een kleine 48 uur hier voordat ik weer terug ga naar Australië.
      En ik heb niet echt een voorkeur voor een land. Maar Willemijn en de kids zijn in Australië, dus daar is het beter. 🙂


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