The best longer hikes in and near Tongariro National Park
A good, long hike in the fresh air and calming solitude of nature is great for the mind, body and soul. It's certainly our go-to activity to keep fit and happy!
Fortunately, there's an abundance of excellent trails in and around Tongariro National Park - ranging from a few hours to a few days - to satisfy your spirit for adventure and yearning for the great outdoors.
Here's our selection of some of the best longer hikes in and around Tongariro National Park:
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
No list of great walks in Tongariro National Park would be complete without including the iconic Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is the most famous and popular hike in the Park, and for good reason - it is after all a 19.4km hike across an active volcano! And it in spectacular terrain and unique landscapes. Find detailed information about hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in both summer and winter here.
Distance: 19.4km Duration: 6-8 hours
This track is great year-round alternative to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and is perfect for those who have already done the Crossing. The Tama Lakes track crosses a distinctive undulating landscape of tussock and alpine herbfields. With very few ascents, apart from a steep incline to 1440 metres to the upper lake viewpoint, it's far less arduous than the Crossing. Flanked by Mt Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu, the views along this walk are truly exceptional. The Tama Lakes occupy several old volcanic explosion craters so are well worth the trek to view. The walk starts and ends in Whakapapa Village, and also takes in the scenic Taranaki falls.
Distance: 17km Duration: 5-6 hours return
One of the lesser discovered hikes in the area, the Tupapakurua Falls Track is easily reached from the lodge. It's just a 30-minute walk or short drive from the lodge to the start of the track off Fishers Road, behind National Park Village. The track begins with an easy 20 -minute walk through native New Zealand bush with lush undergrowth including many varieties of ferns to the Taranaki lookout from where you can view Mt Taranaki on a clear day. From here, it becomes a back-country adventure track suitable for experienced hikers. The track follows a ridge and then descends steeply to a stream with good stands of native trees, including tawa, mature rimu, miro and totara, along the way. Climbing from the stream, the track winds its way around bluffs to a good lookout point with views of the falls.
Distance: 11km Duration: 4-5 hours return
Whakapapaiti Valley Track
This track follows Whakapapaiti Valley through stunted beech forest on the flanks of Mt Ruapehu from Whakapapa Village to the Whakapapaiti Hut - one of the overnight stops on the Round the Mountain Track. From here you can continue in a loop back to Whakapapa Village. Along the way, it travels through forest then an open tussock-covered area and crosses the Whakapapaiti River. Be aware the track includes an unbridged river crossing, which may not be possible to cross safely when the river is high following or during rainfall. The Whakapapaiti Valley track begins in Whakapapa Village - 250 metres above the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre. The upper section begins 5 km up the Bruce Road from Whakapapa Village.
Distance: 16 km loop Duration: 4-5 hours return
The Waihohonu Traverse is another lesser known, yet great alternative day-hike to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is similar in distance but is less strenuous and since it's a lower mountain hike, is less affected by the weather. The track starts off the Dessert Road section of SH 1, just south of Rangipo Intake Rd, and joins the Tongariro Northern Circuit and Round the Mountain Track route at the Waihohonu Hut. From here it follows the Waihohonu Stream towards Tama saddle, cradled by Mt Ngauruhoe on the right and Mt Ruapehu on the left. Along the way a 10-minute return side trip leads to the Historic Waihohonu Hut. Built in 1903, this was the first hut built in Tongariro National Park and is the oldest example of a typical early two-room mountain hut in New Zealand. From the saddle, a detour leads to the Tama lakes. The track then passed by the Taranaki Falls before ending at Whakapapa Village. This is a one-way hike, so transport to the beginning and a pick up at the end will be needed, which can help you arrange.
Distance: 20 km Duration: 7 hours
Mount Ruapehu Crater Lake Climb
The Crater Lake on Mt Ruapehu is a stunning sight. However, the route up the mountain to the crater is unformed, not marked and in high-altitude and rugged terrain, with the lake lookout point at 2672m. That means this climb is suitable only for fit, experienced and well-equipped hikers who can make effective judgements about alpine and volcanic hazards. So, unless you have extensive experience hiking in such terrain, we would highly recommend joining a guided trip to see the Crater Lake. Adrift Tongariro, based just down the road from our lodge in National Park Village, offers a full-day Ruapehu Crater Lake Guided Walk. For those able to tackle this climb on their own, find detailed route information here. The journey starts at the base of the Whakapapa ski area at the top of Bruce Road. From here you can either walk the entire way to Dome Ridge, from where you can view the crater area, or take the Sky Waka gondola up to the Knoll Ridge chalet at 2020m above sea level, which cuts around 3 km or 2 hours off the trip.
Distance: 7 or 10 km Duration: 5 or 7 hours
If you have more time to spend in the area, nothing beats one of these multi-day hikes which allow you to stay overnight in Tongariro National Park in well-maintained and equipped Department of Conservation huts or campgrounds. The peace and tranquillity of being in the park at night is an incredible experience - not to mention stargazing at the night sky with no light pollution.
Tongariro Northern Circuit
One of the New Zealand Great Walks, the Tongariro Northern Circuit journeys across dramatic landscapes around the active volcanoes of Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. It incorporates the main section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and offer panoramic views of the volcanoes and surrounding countryside, as well as Lake Taupo, the rugged Kaimanawa ranges to the east, and even Mt Taranaki on the west coast! The full circuit can be walked in either direction - usually starting and ending in Whakapapa Village. Most people will do the circuit in three or four days, with two or three overnight stays in well-equipped huts. We offer secure parking at the lodge while you complete the hike and can arrange transport to and from the circuit, or you can leave your car in Whakapapa Village. For more details on the Tongariro Northern Circuit visit the Department of Conservation website here.
Distance:43.1 km loop Duration: 3-4 days
Round the Mountain Track
The Round the Mountain Track takes you all the way around Mt Ruapehu - an active volcano! The track showcases the varied volcanic landscapes and alpine vegetation on the flanks of Ruapehu. Scenery along the way includes mountain beech forest, tussock country, alpine herb fields, glacial river gorges and gushing waterfalls. Plus the Rangipo Desert with its wind sculptured sands and volcanic rock. A more remote alternative to the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk, the Round the Mountain Track typically takes between four and 6 days. It can be walked in either direction - starting at Whakapapa Village or Ohakune Mountain Road. It's also possible to do a part of the track over two or three days between Whakapapa Village and Ohakune. For more details on the Round the Mountain Track visit the Department of Conservation website here.
Distance: 66.2 km loop
Duration: 4-6 days
Tupapakurua Falls can be reached on a back-country track from National Park Village
The Upper Tama Lake can be reached via Tama Lakes Track, as well as the Waihohonu Traverse, Tongariro Northern Circuit & Round the Mountain Track
The Historic Waihohonu Hut can be seen on the Waihohonu Traverse, Tongariro Northern Circuit & Round the Mountain Track
Mt Ngauruhoe seen from the Tama Lakes Track
The Tongariro Northern Circuit journeys across dramatic landscapes around the active volcanoes of Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe