Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Often described as the best one day hike in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing provides an oportunityto experience some of the most scenic and active volcanic areas of the park.The track winds up the Mangatepopo Valley to the saddle between Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. It climbs to the Red Crater (1886m), then drops down to the vivid Emerald Lakes. After passing the Blue Lake, the track descends around the northern slope of Tongariro, then descends further in a zig-zag to the Ketetahi Hut. From the hut, the track continues down the mountain through tussock plains, then into the native forest to the end of the track.



See maps and walking times below of the most popular route of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.


Tap a number on the map to learn
more about that section of the track.

starting point
1150 metres
finishing point
750 metres
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8     toilet toilet toilet toilet toilet

Hover over points for more information.

1 - Mangatepopo to Soda Springs

Easy Walk / 1 hour

Follow the Mangatepopo Stream along board walks with a back drop of the magnificent Mt Ngauruahoe.

2 - Soda Springs to South Crater

Hard Ascent / 1 hour

Prepare yourself mentally for the challenge ahead. You can do it! Put one foot in front of the other and breath. Remember to take in the view as you go and enjoy where you are! We call this the Devil's Staircase. When you get to the top you are at the entry to the South Crater and the start point of the summit sidetrack of Mt Ngauruhoe.

  Mt Ngauruhoe Summit (Early Bus option only)

Dangerous Ascent / 2 1/2 hours return

DO NOT attempt this if you suffer from vertigo.

This starts at the top of the Devil's Staircase and is sign posted to the base of the mountain only. This optional sidetrack in not marked all the way up, so it should only be done if the weather is totally clear and not too windy or cloudy. You need to start your climb NO later than 9:15am to allow enough time. To protect yourself from sharp rocks, you should have long pants and ankle boots to attempt this climb.

This track is extremely dangerous and should only be attempted if you found the Devil's Staircase easy. This track takes 1 ½ hours to climb and ½ an hour to descend. To help you, look to the left-hand side about a third of the way up and you will see a solid lava flow to follow. Leave the top NO later than 11:45am. When you come down, put your weight into your heels and come down the scree with care to avoid slipping or causing rock slides. If at any point on the way up you feel it is taking too long or it is too difficult, turn back. If you do not follow this advice you could find yourself in serious trouble. Falling rocks and poor footing on this track are serious hazards. Caution is essential!

3 - South Crater to the base of the Red Crater

Easy Walk / 10mins

Point of no return. This means, if you are having trouble or difficulty for any reason or the weather has closed in and you feel that you need to get down, the base of the Red Crater is the place to do it. If you continue on DON'T turn back at the top of the Red Crater as you will be past the most dangerous and difficult part and if you continue on you will be more sheltered.

4 - Red Crater Ridge

Difficult Ascent / time TBC

Going from the South Crater to the top of the Red Crater is the steepest part of the track. Caution is required as this section of track is steep and has a big drop either side. This track can be scary when the winds are strong as you may get pushed around or even find you need to be on your hands and knees. Please do not walk too close to the edge of the crater, stick to the track.

  Mt Tongariro Summit (Early Bus option only)

Moderate / 1 hour 30mins return

If the weather is good, you may choose to do this sidetrack if time allows (1 ½ hours). You will NOT have time to do this one and Mt Ngauruhoe. It is a nice easy track and well sign-posted.

5 - Red Crater Summit to Emerald Lakes

Easy Descent / 15mins

At the top of the Red Crater you are at the summit of the main track. It is a great spot to have your lunch with natural underground heating, as the crater is active and there are hot spots to sit on. On a clear day, you can see coast to coast views. You will need to leave NO later than 12:30pm to make the bus. Take care descending as the scree can be loose and unstable. When you leave the summit the track is almost all downhill.

6 - Emerald Lakes to the Blue Lake

Easy Descent / 20 mins

From the top, follow the track down to the Emerald Lakes. There is no swimming in any of the lakes. When you get to the bottom you will be inside the Central Crater. You will recognise it from the front cover of the brochure. The walk is flat and easy with a mini climb to the Blue Lake.

7 - Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut

Easy Descent / 1 hour

From the Blue Lake you will follow the Rotopaunga Valley down the North face to the Ketetahi Hut.

8 - Ketetahi Hut to Ketetahi Car Park

Long Descent / 2 hours

When you get to the hut you may want to use the rest rooms and have a small rest to enjoy your final views and take stock of what you have achieved. Don't rest too long as you will stiffen up, making the final 2 hours difficult. You must leave no later than 2:30pm to make the last bus.


Tongariro Alpine Crossing

7-8 hours, 20km one way. Grade:
Side tracks
Mt Ngauruhoe
Mt Tongariro

Northern Circuit

2-3 day hire requiring hut booking and transport options to be considered. Grade: Challenging
Advice on how to go about this below

Tongariro Traverse

7-9 hours, 22km one way.
Grade: easy/moderate.
Side Track Tama lakes

Tongariro Traverse

Take a hike through Mordor of The Lord of the Rings. This is a full day self-guided hike that traverses the Tongariro National Park from the extreme eastern boundary to the heart of the park at Whakapapa Village passing between the peaks of Mt Ngauruahoe (Mt Doom) and Mt Ruapehu. Highlights along the way are the historic Waihuhunu hut; the Tama lakes formed by old volcanic explosions, and the Taranaki falls. At the end of the hike, if time permits, visit the Whakapapa Village visitors centre to see the history of the park, or the village tavern for a well deserved break. The hike itself is easy with no steep ascents or descents – and with great views. This area of the park is less susceptible to the severe weather conditions that can be experienced at high altitude on the crossing track – making it safer in marginal weather.

Northern circuit

This is a two to three day hike that can start and finish at either Mangatepopo or Whakapapa village. If you have a car you are best to park at Whakapapa and start and finish the track there.

If you require transport from Taupo we suggest the following:

    1. Get a one way shuttle with us from Taupo to Mangatepopo Car park.
    2. Hike from Mangatepopo car park to you first hut, either Otorere Hut or Waihohonu Hut.
    3. The next day hike from your hut to Whakapapa village.
      1. Either catch a shuttle back to us at Ketetahi car park and then back to Taupo or
      2. Stay a night in Whakapapa village. Hike to Mangatepopo Hut the next day. Stay a night at Mangatepopo Hut and then catch a one way shuttle back to Taupo with us the following morning