The best day hike in the world: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Torangario Alpine  Crossing is said to be one of the best day hikes in the world. With it’s amazing Volcanic terrain, emerald green and turquois lakes and its sweeping view of the valley below, it certainly lived up to its title.

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The National Park is about an hours drive from Taupo, and this where we stayed the night before our hike. We left at around 5:20 for a 6:30 shuttle, and probably should’ve left a little bit more time, as we were very rushed.

It is a very popular hike, although not for the faint hearted, and getting their early is the best time of day to avoid the masses of tourists. However, even getting the easiest bus to the start point at 6:30am as we did, will see you sharing the path with hundreds of other keen hikers.

However the hundreds of people quickly dissipate over the track and, while you’ll probably never have an empty trail to yourself, it will defiantly get more bearable.

Most people hike the trail to finish at their cars, opting to get a shuttle bus to the start point, at Mangatepop road-end, and therefore hike the trail one way, back to Ketetahi road-end.

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The other option is to hike to the half way point (aprox. red crater), from either direction (Ketetahi or Mangatepopo) and then, turn around and hike the same way back, eliminating the need for a shuttle.

However I would not recommend this for a few reasons.

1)      You miss lots of the scenery, not matter which way you go. If your only doing half the trail your only getting to see half of the views, obviously, and as the trail changes so dramatically , you’ll either miss out on the volcanic terrain or the sweeping valley views or the emerald lakes.

2)      If you hike from Ketetahi car park, your first 2 odd hours will be spent climbing very steep stairs and hills, instead of going down them. We saw many people doing this and it looked like pure hell.

3)      If you hike from the Mangatepopo car park you will get to see the emerald lakes, but then you will have to hike up the loosest volcanic sand you have ever seen, for a good 20 minutes, that is extremely hard to go down let alone hike back up.

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Many not look that hard, but that sand is like sinking sand!

So I would recommend you hike the full 19.4km from start to finish, it’s a long day of walking but it’s so worth it!

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The shuttle company that we used was Mountain Shuttle and it cost me $30NZD. We parked our car at the  Ketetahi car park and got dropped off at Mangatepopo, to start the hike. The shuttle we had booked initially got cancelled due to poor weather on the crossing and therefore inadequate conditions to do the hike in.

The man on the other end of my phone call was extraordinarily rude and unhelpful, even hanging up on me mid-conversation due to his disinterest in my questions about rescheduling my shuttle for the following day.

I tried to call back, but there was no answer, so I sent an email stating I would like to re-book for the following day, and I got a one word response “sorted”. No booking confirmation, no apology, nothing. I was extremely disappointed with this service.

However, despite that hiccup, our shuttle was on time and at the end of the day it got us to where we needed to go. However i would NOT BOOK WITH THEM ever again! After looking at other reviews, it appears many others had similar experiences, i would instead book with Tongariro Expeditions.

So once you have sorted out how you will get to the start point, all thats left to do is make sure you have adequate gear/clothes and be fit enough to actually walk the 19.4km! Also its very important to keep a close eye on the weather in the lead up to your hike, as the weather will dictate wether it is safe to hike or not.

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What to take:

  • Waterproof/wind resistant jacket (optional waterproof pants)
  • A warm, down or similar, jacket
  • Hiking boots or very sturdy runners
  • Hats x 2; 1x beanie and 1x sunhat!
  • Gloves
  • Thermals
  • Sunglasses
  • Fitted kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Toilet paper – there is only 3 toilet stops on the way, so be sure to take every opportunity you get to go. Doing your business on the track is not only hard, due to lack of bushes/tress for coverage, but also highly frowned upon.
  • Food and enough water for all day. There is no food viable on the track and no where to fill up your bottle. Bring what you think you need and then some!

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This Hike is challenging and it can take upwards of 7 hours, but if your fit enough you will enjoy every minute of it! Its such an amazing hike and there so many diverse sights that you get to see all in one day ! You will spend the first half of the hike climbing a mix of hills and flat ground. Once you pass the emerald lakes, there will be easy walking for around an hour before you will literally spend >2hrs going down. This is where you will get amazing valley views, and will wonder after hours, how on earth your ever going to get back down to the tree line. This part was almost harder than climbing, as you had to brace every step of the way down, for hours!

You will also have the option to “summit” which adds an extra hour to the hike, so if this is something you would be interested in, i defiantly would recommend getting the earliest shuttle bus!

If your a keen hiker, or even if your not, this is defiantly a hike i would recommend. However i do believe you need to have some fitness behind you and some decent gear, as even in the middle of summer, it was freezing and weather conditions can change very quickly.

Info at a glance:

  • Cost: $30 for a shuttle (plus petrol if you drive from Taupo)
  • Duration: 7-8hours
  • Distance: ~19.4km
  • Difficulty: 8/10

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