The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, long before its Lord of the Rings fame, has been referred to as New Zealand’s best one-day trek. We did a number of day walks throughout the country and I understand why this one is crowded with Kiwis and visitors alike. The terrain includes desolate stretches of barren rock and earth, a climb referred to as the Devil’s Staircase, traces of old lava flows, vibrant green and blue pools, the stench of sulfur, vapor rising from vents in active volcanoes, a shockingly red crater, lush forest, and a stretch of loose scoria and dirt on a steep slope that fells nearly everyone who slides down. Without adding in side trips, it’s estimated to take 6 hours and 20 minutes to traverse the 19.4 km from Mangatepopo Car Park to Ketetahi Roadend. Including stops for water, food, photos, adding or removing layers, and soaking in the scenery, it took us 6 hours and 5 minutes.

Warnings at the ends of and throughout the track are solar powered.
Warnings at the ends of and throughout the track are solar powered and quite serious.

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Our Czech friend Kat, who earned her divemaster on Utila while I worked on mine, joined us for a week on the North Island before she set out for Wellington to look for work. She may not have appreciated the fog and clouds at the start of our Tongariro hike any more than we did but I hope she enjoyed our company as much as we did hers.

The start of the trek is bleak and the fog was thick that morning.
The start of the trek is bleak and the fog was thick that morning.
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Seeing the Red Crater is a bit of a surprise after a steep hike.

 

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Somebody made a cairn at the top of one of the mountains!
Somebody made a cairn at the top of one of the mountains!

For fans of the Lord of the Rings films, no, we did not climb to the top of Mt. Ngauruhoe (used as Mt. Doom) because we were all completely freezing at the start of that side trip and the cloud cover was so thick a decent view was unlikely. We did, however, find ourselves in a hostel that evening where people gathered around the television to watch the first of the trilogy.

These green pools are a breathtaking surprise after the hardest climb of the hike.
These green pools are a breathtaking surprise after the hardest climb of the hike.
To reach those green pools one must get down this: everyone falls at least once.
To reach those green pools one must get down this… everyone falls at least once.
The walk to the sacred Blue Lake is a pleasant one and it didn't hurt that  the crowd thinned and the sun started to appear.
The walk to the sacred Blue Lake is a pleasant one and it didn’t hurt that the crowd thinned and the sun started to appear.
A natural reminder that the track passes over active volcanoes.
A natural reminder that the track passes over active volcanoes.

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Finishing the hike through the trees is a nice reprieve from all the brown.
Finishing the hike through the trees is a nice reprieve from all the brown.

With its steep climbs and stretches of uneven footing, hiking the Tongariro is tiring but if I had the chance, I’d do it again.

4 thoughts on “Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

  • April 9, 2014 at 11:38 am
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    Absolutely stunning pictures. Keep up the good work and enjoy yourselves.

    Reply
    • April 9, 2014 at 9:08 pm
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      Thanks; we’ll do our best!

      Reply
  • April 9, 2014 at 9:29 pm
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    Oh, this sounds and looks so amazing! I’d love to do this hike! Having said that, knowing where you ladies now are, I’m really looking forward to reading those posts. Miss you!

    Reply
    • April 10, 2014 at 12:27 am
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      Would have loved your company on the Tongariro – as always. Be patient on posts from our current location, we still have so much to share from New Zealand! A few photos are trickling out on Facebook and Twitter…

      Reply

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