How does the parking at Ketetahi Park n ride work
This can be a confusing concept for some people. Our one way shuttle. How does it work?
Basically, you park at the end of the track (Ketetahi end on SH46). Tongariro Expeditions pick you up from there in the morning and take you to the start of the track (Mangatepopo car park). You are given a map and information sheet and off you go. Hiking completely free of thinking about a bus in the afternoon. You are hiking back to where you parked your car. No need for a shuttle in the afternoon. Great option. Very popular.
The next confusing thing is where to park. DOC have put in place 4 hour time restriction for the Ketetahi car park for peak season between October to April. This means you have to park outside of the car park. It adds a 10-15 minute walk at the end of the day back to your car. It is a flat straight gravel road that you need to walk alongside to get back to SH46 where you would have parked your car.
Parking in peak season on SH46 has actually been happening for years. Well before DOC put in the time restriction. This is because Ketetahi car park is only small and could only take around 50 cars. However, people used to park all over the place and cause congestion issues. There is plenty of parking along the side on SH46. Space for 200 plus cars. The berms are wide and safe to park on for the day.
How challenging is the track?
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing takes most people between 6-8 hours to complete. Between Mangatepopo and the Red Crater you climb 800m in altitude. This requires reasonable fitness. If you train for this hike, or you are an experienced hiker this will be a breeze. For a person of average fitness this will prove to be a challenge but you will be able to do it. Lots of water, mini stops, look at the scenery, give yourself a pep talk, one foot in front of the other and you will get there. You know your body better than I do. If you are worried, you could try an easier hike before attempting the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Mt Tauhara in Taupo is a great practise mountain.
If you are a slow hiker and worried about making it back to the bus in time, we highly recommend the Ketetahi Park N Ride. This is where you park your car at the end of the track at Ketetahi in the morning. Tongariro Expeditions pick you up from there and take you to the start of the track at Mangatepopo. That way you are hiking your way back to your car. No need to rush for a shuttle in the afternoon. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in your own time back to where your car is patiently waiting for you.
What is the best time of year to do the track?
Tongariro Expeditions specialises in offering shuttle options for freedom hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Once there is snow and ice on the track, around July, it is no longer safe to freedom hike. We close up for the winter and open again when the snow clears, around October.
Between October to July the Tongariro Alpine Crossing offers a range of experiences. From mountain snow caps to rich volcanic colours and back to snow. The trick is to get the weather right on the day you want to go.
Our busiest months are January, February and March. The weather patterns tend to be the most stable and you have better likelihood of your booked date to go ahead. However, you will also experience a hot hiking conditions and a busier track. It is nice for you and the mountains fragile environment, if we spread hikers more evenly over the summer season. October is the month where we are watching for when the snow is safely off the track. If you catch a good weather day in late October, with a back drop of snow, you will be treated to seeing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in both winter and summer conditions in one. A great time to go for diverse vistas, cooler more comfortable hiking conditions and a feeling of having the mountain to yourself.
Our main advice is do not wait to see what the weather will be doing to book your spot. Your booking is fully transferable closer to the time if you see that the weather is better another day. It is rare but we do sell out in advance some times, so transfers do need to be checked for availability by emailing the office. So as soon as you know you want to move your booking please let the office know.
If you are not able to move your booking, or you do not mind a little bit of weather, the trip may still go ahead if safe. We would be in touch with you the day before your trip and discuss your options with you via email. If the weather is not safe to go ahead we will offer you a refund or to transfer to another day.
What weather conditions do you cancel for?
We are a freedom hiking company, this means no guide. Therefore, we no longer operate in wintertime conditions. Once the track is clear from snow and ice, we start to operate for summer. This is usually some time in October. We stop operating when snow covers the track, this is usually in June or July. It changes every year.
During the summer months, we keep up to date using Metservice. We monitor the wind, rain, and temperature forecast and make an experienced call every day.
Is it safe to take a baby to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?
There is no short answer to this. Ideally, do not take a baby on this track as it is slippery and steep in areas and you are exposed to the elements all day. However, if you are experienced, hike regularly and have a purpose built hiking pack to carry your baby then, yes it is possible to take a baby. Please be mindful of the weather conditions. We give a full refund to anyone booking with a baby if they choose to cancel due to the weather.
Also, once your child is too big to carry the whole way we again suggest not taking them until they are around 10 years old. This is so they can hike the whole track without needing to be carried. We take each situation on a case by case basis and prefer to talk to you about your experience and confidence in your child before accepting the booking.