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What’s Up With The Tongariro Crossing Seasons?

Blue lake tongariro

The seasons to us on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing are not specific dates on the calendar, oh no. It’s more of a moving target, depending on the weather and we move with it, offering options based on the actual conditions of the track.

So, what do the seasonal terms mean to us? Let me explain:

tongariro crossing accommodation and shuttle

'Summer' is when there is no snow on the track. The temperatures are warmer and it’s a completely different experience to crossing in winter. We offer shuttle services from Taupo, Turangi, Base Camp and Ketetahi. We have hire gear on the bus if you need it and we give you a map and information sheet. Guiding can be organised on request. ‘Summer’ is usually November to May.

emerald lakes tongariro
'Midseason' is when it changes between the two. It’s a tricky season and we must always be at the top of our game when it comes to judging the track and conditions.

It can change between ‘Freedom hiking’, ‘Track safety’ and ‘Fully guided’ day by day. The snow comes… the snow melts away…. This is usually June, July and October.

tongariro hike

'Winter' is when there is snow on the track.

In winter, we offer either 'Fully guided' or 'Track Safety'. This is when there is snow on the track requiring cramp-ons. 'Winter' is usually August and September.

For these different seasons, there are different types of tours and transport options we have to help you make your crossing a safe experience.

tongariro crossing shuttle

Transport only options are available from most accommodation providers in Taupo and Turangi. We also pick up from Base Camp, and a car park in from of the Tongariro Holiday Park.

Ketetahi car park is a one-way shuttle where you park your car at the end of the track in the morning. We take you to the start of the track. That way you are hiking your way back to your car. Hire gear is available to only those doing return shuttles – not Ketetahi. We give you a map and information sheet. The track is well mark and you do not require a guide.

tongariro alpine crossing

Track safety is when there is not too much snow and it is safe to hike with cramp-ons without support. There is a staff member that goes up ahead of the group to assess the track and weather conditions. If they change to unsafe they will turn you around. If they remain safe they let you pass. This option includes gear and transport.

tongariro crossing winter

Fully guided is when you have a trained guide per 8-10 hikers. You are equipped with cramp-ons and an ice axe that you are trained in using plus a helmet. The guides show you the way as the marker pole may not be visible or the conditions could be white out. They at times have to cut steps or take a detour if needed. This option includes gear, transport and guide.

So, what does this mean when you are trying to book ahead of time?

When booking ahead of time you are pretty safe to book Fully Guided for August and September. We suggest you book Track Safety for July and October. Transport Only Options for November to June.

At times, there may be a requirement for an upgrade or refund. For example, if you book Track Safety for October but the snow has all melted away when you call we would update you with the most up to date track conditions and explain your options. Once you decide on your Transport option then we would put through a partial refund. Also, if you book a transport only option but we are only offering fully guided due to snow levels you can either upgrade or cancel for a full refund.

Guiding options have limited spots available. If you book transport only and we end up guiding, your booking is seen as holding a guided spot until you choose to either upgrade or cancel.

June – Freedom
July – Track safety
August – Fully guided
September – Fully guided
October – Track safety
November – Freedom hiking

These overviews are just a basic statistical possibility, coming from our years of knowledge around the track. We try our best to accommodate all our guests and make adjustments as we go along, in case you need a different option.

I hope this helps you to book confidently for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for any season.