The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a challenging one-day alpine trek which covers 19.4km (12 miles) and encounters a varied range of landforms and views.
After only a couple of hours of sleep at The Park Hotel, we checked out and boarded our 5:45am shuttle to begin our hike that’s considered to be the best day hikes in New Zealand and one of the top in the world.
Our hike begins at Mangatepopo Valley with signs clearly marking the way.
The gradual climb and easy terrain lifted our spirits and confidence as we made our way through the first hour.
We had perfect weather for our hike, cool 45 degree morning turning into a warm sunny 70 degrees by afternoon.
We continue along the easy path alongside Mount Tongariro which is to our left and Mount Ngauruhoe, which played the role of Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, on the right.
The grade gets steep as we head past Mount Ngauruhoe and through South Crater. We are now about 3 hours into our hike.
You’ll find yourself breathing heavily on this steep incline upwards. Morgan and Dorie take a snapshot and a final look over Mangatepopo Valley before coming to the Ngauruhoe Summit Track.
Our challenging ascent goes up, up, up past a sign warning you to turn back if tired. We have no thoughts of turning back. 👍🏼 We’re good!
Red Crater, the highest point on the crossing at 6,187 feet is a deep U-shaped crater with iron-rich earth that is a mix of vivid reds and dark chocolatey browns. The crater’s color comes from oxidized iron (rust) in the soil.
Taking a brief moment to celebrate and catch our breath before heading down to Nga Rotopounamu to see Emerald Lakes.
From Red Crater Summit, the trail turns down a steep slope of loose scree toward the Emerald Lakes. On this portion of the hike, I slid backwards on my left arm and fell on my butt.
Everyone took a break to remove the gravel from inside their shoes.
The stunning views of Emerald Lakes appear as we descend. The lake’s unique color comes from the high concentration of minerals in the water.
The track crosses Central Crater, another barren basin of orange earth. There is a fan-shaped flow of black lava spread out across the floor of the crater to our left. Over our shoulder there are views up into Red Crater. The dark cone of Mount Ngauruhoe rises up behind the crater.
Blue Lake is a beautiful freshwater lake that formed in an old lava vent and has a natural blue color that somehow looks out of place in this setting. Like the Emerald Lakes, the water in Blue Lake is acidic with a PH around five. This lake is sacred to the Māori, so do not swim in or eat food around the lake. It was beautiful to see as we stopped a bit to rest and catch our breath.
Plumes of steam escape from Te Maari Crater, which erupted near midnight on the sixth of August, 2012. The trail passes close to the crater where a large area was blown out of the mountainside. You can spot bright patches of yellow sulfuric soil alongside steaming vents.
The track leaves the barren volcanic terrain and descends switchbacks into grassland similar to the vegetation at the start of the track.
Beautiful views of Lake Taupo which are cradled by green mountains. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand. I head down the path still wearing my jacket, not because it’s cold but because it’s hot. I did not want to get sunburned.
The track passes through a dense forest that is typical to New Zealand, but not like anything else on this unique hike. There are lots of wooden steps to assist with the descent and several bridges crossing streams through the forest. We found the last 45 minutes of zigzagging through the bush very exhausting and never ending.
This 8 hour volcanic trek of beautiful scenic views took my breath away (literally)🤣. Every few miles, the landscape changes completely, offering something new and amazing to see. The challenge produced a memorable experience I will never forget.