The Tongariro Crossing – First of the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand

On the trail of a one Mr Frodo Baggins

February 2017

Having two back to back long weekends, is that a boon or bane? You’ve just been chasing spirits last week in the incredible northern tip. Had a short week to digest everything and round the corner comes another.

Just when I thought that it would be an overkill, I just couldn’t resist the temptation of doing the Tongariro Crossing. 19.4 kms of pure bliss of tramping, steep climbs, slippery slides, volcanic rubble, stunning vistas and a loose ground, its got it all.

Tongariro features as one of the best New Zealand day trips for the active (or someone who doesn’t mind a challenge), It also features as one of the 9 great walks of New Zealand. Tongariro also gets honorable mentions and holds itself against the other walks around the world, here is what Walkopedia thinks.

For the LOTR fans, this is the crucible of the series. The dramatic settings of the landscape and a one in particular Mt Ngaurohoe or most famously known as Mt Doom, forms the headquarters of Lord Sauron.

Back to my trip, I had booked myself into a shuttle company, they also provide a secure parking facility. The shuttle takes you to the start of the track (Mangetepopo, you can also do it from the Ketetahi side which is slightly harder)

We camped at Turangi the previous night, this is about 20kms from the start point, the start point is from the Secure carpark. Both the secure carpark are on SH 46, 400m from each other on the opposite sides of the state highway. We had an early start at 6:30am (You better be on time !!!!)

We huddled into the Mountain Shuttle coach and were off for the first of my NZs Great Walks. The yawns were broken with our bus driver delivering a Maori message about the National Park. A few excerpts that I caught from his speech were.

An Early Morning Shuttle
At the Start of the Trail


“I welcome you to our ancestral lands, the lands where my tribes ran. The land of the great Mountains”and then he made some joke about “How we should kiss our sweet ass, goodbye, if the mountain was to start spewing” (remember you are trekking through an active volcano site, as you pass through the park, you can see the gases spewing)

First Stop : Soda Springs

The first part of the trip is nippy if you have an early start, I’ve posted a list of stuff that I totally recommend carrying for the trip. The walk upto Soda Springs is a nice and easy stretch lasting about an hour and half. A few steps and climbs but not much of a strain here and at the end your greeted to a small waterfall and your first nature break 😛

The many hazards of hiking in an active volcano site

A warning before entering the Devil’s Staircase

Under the eyes of Mt DOOM

Now starts the real fun, the climb from Soda Springs forms the base of Mt Doom / Mt Tongariro, expect the contour to change drastically, the ascent becomes steeper and your left catching your breath every few hundred meters. This flight of stairs is aptly named as “The Devil’s Staircase”

The Devil’s Staircase

Your legs start to ache and the track becomes a narrow one way bridge (You just have to be thankful for all these crossings as they reduce the flow to a trickle and you get an opportunity to catch your breath ;))

At the end of the rather strenous climb, you reach a cross-road, here you can take a short detour to the top of Mt Tongariro or double that for a 4 hr return journey to the top of Mount Doom. I opted for the summit of Mt Tongariro.

At the Cross Roads

A fly photo bomber
The walk across the Southern Crater
Atop the Summit
The Vista at the Summit – Blue lake, Emerald Lake and Mt Ngurahoe (aka Mt Doom)

South Crater & The emerald lakes

Just past the cross-roads is the red crater, this is one of my favourites, imagine a blood red crater, absolutely gorgeous. Slip and slide past the crater and you come to another stunning set of beauties. The gobsmackingly gorgeous emerald lakes. Small pools of sulphur with vibrant hues of blue and green. Its like a painting and like someone just dialed down the temperature setting in lightroom, such radiant colours.

Sliding and Slipping down the Red Crater Slopes
The Emerald Lakes
Moi at the Emerald Lakes

Blue Lakes – Ketetahi hut & to the carpark

Moving on, we reach the massive blue lake (it kinda pales in comparison to the radiant emerald pools). The track now stretches out and an hour or so takes you to Ketetahi Hut. The landscape becomes a bush walk here and you can witness some of the spewing mountains here, sulphur hangs about in the air and you wonder how someone cramped so much beauty in a short stretch of 20kms or so.

Another couple of hours and you reach the end of the trail, your tired feet thank you as you trudge into the carpark at the Ketetahi Side. If you’ve left your car at the security carpark, your journey just got longer.

We were blessed to have such a beautiful clear day and with nothing more than the occasional breeze.

The not so barren rocks
The Stunning Vistas
The Spewing Mountains

Thanks for reading my post, do check out the Facts about the crossing and what I would recommend carrying.

Fun facts about the Crossing

  • Tongariro is a National Park and is one of the famous active volcanoes, the other being Mt Taranaki.
  • The weather changes rapidly and it is very common for the shuttle services to get cancelled.
  • You can also do it without the shuttle, leave one car at the two carparks at either end.
  • Remember to check the weather, before you leave.
  • You’ve got to have a moderate levels of fitness, it is a strenuos climb and I’ve seen people struggling, you dont want to risk a broken ankle on the loose lava rocks.
  • There are no dustbins throughout the track, so all that comes out of your bagpack goes back in.
  • Ketetahi Hut isn’t the last toilet stop, there is one after after about 45 minutes. (Why is this important? Because no one tells you this and there are huge queues at the Ketetahi Hut)

Things to carry

  • Good Walking Shoes – Can’t stress this enough, sneakers AREN’T walking boots.
  • Plenty of water – I had a 1.5 litre bottle. I would recommend a 2 ltr bottle.
  • Carry food, some energy bars, a couple of bananas maybe and a sandwich maybe.
  • A windbreaker / jackets etc
  • Suncream
  • A good backpack (My zipper broke and I had to keep shifting weights around)
  • A hat / cap
The route from start to finish, you can do it from the Ketetahi side too


Most importantly enjoy the walk, take plenty of time (it takes about 7-9 hrs) but its OK to take longer, after all your not going to do this everyday.


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