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The Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Track Information 2018-06-19T10:20:03+00:00

About the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is known as one of the best 1-day walks in the world. The park is a UNESCO dual World Heritage area and was the first in the world to receive Cultural World-Heritage status.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing track ventures between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe in the Tongariro National Park. These volcanos are still active and the hike is a view into their growth and destruction. Mt Tongariro last erupted from Te Maari Crater in 2012 and Mt Ngauruhoe’s last was in 1975.

The landscape on Mt Tongariro is peppered with craters that have been active at different periods. The track leads through the perfectly flat moonscape of South Crater; climbs to the edge of Red Crater; skirts around Central Crater; and then leads down past the steaming Te Maari Crater. There are scoured volcanic rocks, lava flows frozen in time, mountain springs and brightly coloured emerald lakes. No matter what the weather, this is a hike of a lifetime.

Summer offers a majestic landscape with rich colours and varying textures released from within the Earth’s Crust. In summer this track can get busy and where possible, we take our clients away from the busy areas while making sure that the popular sights are still experienced. For an unique experience, book a sunrise guided trip and see the mountains bathed in the first golden rays of the day.

Winter is pristine snow with the call of an adventure! Wrap up in warm layers storage have your crampons fitted by your guide before heading off with your ice-axe to experience the snow-covered volcanos. No outdoor experience is necessary, all training and tuition is given on the day. Crampons and ice-axes are supplied by Adrift Tongariro for this fantastic alpine experience.

We take all individual and group bookings. If you are traveling alone please book as we generally always meet minimum numbers, especially on good weather days.

Our Maps

Adrift Tongariro Crossing Map

Quick Facts

Location: Tongariro National Park, Central North Island, New Zealand

What is it? The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a hike to the saddle between the two active volcanos of Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. The track then diverts over Mt Tongariro and down it’s northern side. This is a one way hike. See below for a detailed track description

Distance: 21.4 kilometers

Walking time: 7 – 7.5 hours for guided tours

Total trip duration: Approx. 8.5 – 9 hours

Track start: Mangatepopo Carpark 1120m

Track finish: Ketetahi Carpark 760m

Halfway point: Red Crater

Highest point: Red Crater 1886m

Track surfaces: Surfaces vary from boardwalks, soil, rocky, loose scoria, steep in places. Streams are bridged. The track is generally well formed.

Landscape highlights: Everything including, Soda Springs, Red Crater, Emerald Lakes, Blue Lake and the steaming Te Maari Crater.

On track amenities: Toilets are available

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Guided Trips with Adrift

Route Information

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing spans the length of Mt Tongariro (19.4Ks) and takes about 7-8 hours to complete. The walk starts at Mangatepopo (1100m), and terminates at Ketetahi (750m). The highest point on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is Red Crater (1886m).

Mangatepopo to Soda Springs

Grade: Easy – allow 1 – 1 and a half hours

 At the Mangatepopo carpark is a shelter and toilet facilities. This first section of the track is fairly flat. The track is well formed and board walked in damper parts. About 20 minutes from the car park is a sidetrack to the Mangatepopo Hut, and toilet facilities.

The main track continues up the valley following the Mangatepopo stream and around the edge of old lava flows.

It is interesting to notice the change in plants as you climb in altitude. At Soda Springs are the last toilet facilities until you get to the Ketetahi Hut.

Soda Springs to South Crater

Grade: Moderate-difficult. Allow 40 minutes to an hour

This section is steep – climbing from 1400 up to 1600 metres above sea level and is known as the devils staircase. Take your time – slow and steady is the best way to conquer this section.

On a clear day the view down the valley and out across the surrounding countryside is well worth it! You may even see Mt Taranaki, another volcano on the western horizon.

Take care as you are walking over layers of ancient and modern lava flows and other volcanic debits so the track surface is not smooth.

South Crater to Red Crater

Grade: Moderate-difficult. Allow 1 hour

It is great to be on the flat, but once you have crossed South Crater there is another short climb on an exposed ridge. The track follows the ridge to Red Crater.

If you have plenty of time you can make the decision to summit Tongariro.

The main track continues around Red Crater. You have spectacular views over the Oturere Valley, Rangipo Desert, Kaimanawa Ranges and down to the Emerald Lakes.

If you have plenty of time you can make the decision to summit Tongariro.

The main track continues around Red Crater. You have spectacular views over the Oturere Valley, Rangipo Desert, Kaimanawa Ranges and down to the Emerald Lakes.

Red Crater to Blue Lake

Grade: Moderate – 30 minutes

Care is required with the descent from Red Crater, as this part of the track is steep and

you are on loose scoria which can move under foot.

To the left you will see an old lava flow from Red Crater spreading out across the floor of The Tongariro Northern Circuit track to Otureree Hut branches off just past the lowest Emerld Lake. The Tongariro Crossing track follows around the edge of Central Crater then climbs up to Blue Lake (A cold acidic lake). The lake is tapu (sacred)

and it is disrespectful to eat or drink around its shores.central crater. To the right are the Emerald Lakes. Minerals leached from the surrounding rock cause the brillant emerald colour. The steam vents above the lake are responsible for the sulphurous smell.

Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut

Grade: Moderate – 1 hour

There is a short easy climb to the edge of North Crater. This crater was once filled with molten lava which then cooled and solidified giving a level surface more than 1000m wide.

In good weather there are spectacular views out over Mt Pihanga and Lake Rotoaira to Lake Taupo.

You then zigzag your way down to the Ketetahi Hut through the natural alpine garden. Ketetahi Hut has toilet facilities.

Ketetahi Hut to Ketetahi Carpark

Grade: Moderate – two hours

The track crosses the stream that flows down from Keteahi Hot Springs and the rocks are stained interesting colours from the minerals in the water.

The track leads through open tussock land to a clearing with some seats. At this point the track drops steeply to the Mangatetipua Stream and thourgh native forest for about and hour and a half. There is a short sidetrack leading to a waterfall a few minutes before reaching the Ketetahi carpark.

The Ketetahi carpark has a shelter, toilets and a refreshment from Adrift waithing for you.

Lord of the Rings Tours & Locations

Stewart worked with the LOTR cast and crew for 8 weeks whilst they were filming in this spectacular region and whilst we don’t run specific LOTR tours unless requested,  all of our tours pass through LOTR country including Modor Mt Doom, the Plains of Rohan and Gollums pool.

All our guides are fully conversant and knowledgeable with where these locations appear in the movies and have great personal experiences to share as a result of working with all the lead actors.