Tips for hiking the Tongariro Crossing: The best day walk in New Zealand

For people who love to hike (or tramping in Kiwi), crave for an adventure, if you are a photo enthusiast, or an avid fan of The Lord of The Rings (LOTR), you might want to put this place in your bucketlist when you plan to visit New Zealand one day.

This is Tongariro National Park. It is the oldest National Park in New Zealand. It’s a vast national park, a home for three still pretty active volcanoes, Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt. Tongariro.

If you watch LOTR, it is also used as the set for Mordor and Mt Doom. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is hailed “The best day walk in New Zealand” because you can do this track in one day, and at the same time you can witness stunning sceneries along the way.

The famous Mordor scene using Tongariro Crossing as the backdrop. Credit to:
The real Mordor!

It is a 19.4km one-way track, and I would say that the track range from moderate to tough. I believe you can finish the track between 6 to 9 hrs, depends on your fitness level, and how frequent you take a stop. I was very slow and taking my own sweet time, I did manage to finish in 9 hours. Pergh, sounds like 19.4km is not that far, but some tracks are flat, some parts you need to hike, going downhill and all.


How do I describe this place?

Walking across Tongariro felt like…. walking on a moon/ across Mars/ walking across somewhere not-on-earth-kinda-place, with eerie barren sceneries but still beautiful. The walk can be very tiring, but the view along the way is mindblowing and so worth it. The memory of doing this track still stuck with me until now. I mean, the sense of achievement that you manage to complete the track, plus you will witnessed snowcapped mountains, barren desert, volcanoes, red craters, beautiful turqoise-blue acid lakes, waterfalls, and alpine shrubs along the way. The view is out of this world!

I will let the pictures do the talking.

Walking into Tongariro National Park. The track during the first 1 hour is easy, and well maintained with walking platform.
The view at the beginning of the track. This is Mt Ruapehu. During winter it will be fully covered with snow. One of the famous place in North Island for skiing.
This picture doesn’t do justice! SubhanAllah.
Track going through Tongariro National Park. Memang macam nampak jalan dalam scene LOTR!
Sulphur and iron deposits along the way.
Breathtaking view of the Tongariro National Park.
When we look back, we can’t believe we have walked that far! Across the dessert sand.
Tramping team. Philippine, Mongolian and Malaysian girls. Miss these people ❤
Terpikir sempat ke nak lari kalau lampu flash merah? Agak scary bila fikir balik.
Continue to walk up to see the Red Crater.
This is Mt Ngauruhoe which was used as a template for Mt Doom in the LOTR. You can actually hike up to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe, but you will need to spare an extra 3 hours to do this. We skipped this because we don’t want to be late. From the bottom we can see tiny-ant people climb to the top of the volcano.
Smokes still coming out from the side of the volcano. There is a signage saying that you shouldn’t stop and rest around this area and you should continue walking.
The red crater during clear sunny day. Stunning isn’t it?
Can you see the tiny human being walking down besides the lake? Pretty crazy! For me walking down towards the lake is the toughest one because of the lose sand. Everytime you step you want to slip down (and I was doing it alone). Best to walk downhills with a friend so you guys can hold on to each other.
The Emerald Lake. It’s an acidic lake do not go and touch!
Probably my favourite photo! Macam kat Mars.
The Blue Lake. Did you see the tiny path on the right? Yes it is a part of the track that you going to walk. You will pass this lake on your left.
Hehe got a birthday card near the blue lake.
The walk at the end you will witness this view. I think that is Lake Taupo

Okay here come the important questions!

1. When is the best time to do Tongariro Crossing?

During the summer month (December to February). The weather is calmer, and the daytime is longer. We did this trip middle of February. It can also be done during Winter (this place will be fully covered with snow). However, you will need to do it with a guide and require additional gears for the hiking such as crampons (kasut gerigi tajam tu), thicker clothing and all.

Hiking usually starts early morning around 7am.

Tips for hiking Tongariro

2. Is there an entrance fee?

No entrance fee to the park or even to do the hiking. However you have to pay the shuttle (can’t remember how much but it’s not that expensive)

3. How do I go to Tongariro National Park?

Just set your Waze!

Rent a car. From Auckland, set up your waze and drive to Ohakune . Journey is around 4 to 5 hours.

Refer to this page for the list of car rental company.

Car rent (daily): Roughly between RM120 to RM140 per car.

(You can split between 4 to 5 people)

Gas: RM25 per person

4. Where to stay ?

I suggest that you stay 2 nights at Ohakune (1 night before tramping, another one night to rest after the long walk). 

Any accommodation in Ohakune will be fine. Ohakune has plenty of backpackers hostels. Since most people come here to do Tongariro crossing, there will be a shuttle service from Ohakune to the National Park in the morning, and also a return shuttle back to the hostel. (Yes you don’t have to worry about driving to the National Park). However it will be good if you can double check with the hostel management regarding the transport.

Check this page: Visit Ohakune

Suggested hostels such as : Ohakune Central Backpackers, Ruapehu Mountains and Motel Lodge, The Hobbit Motorlodge, Ohakune Top 10 Holiday Park.

Price: Range from RM80 to RM100/night per person (could be cheaper than this)

5. Pre-planning before tramping?

  • Always check the weather forecast. Do not underestimate the weather there, it can be very inconsistent. You can check with the hostel management what is the expected weather for tomorrow. Tramping is not allowed during poor weather.
  • At least travel with a partner! Bigger group is better.It is not suggested to do this hiking alone, in case of any emergency. My experience is that there are some parts along the track that you will be needing a friend for a help. When doing the track, try to stick in your group! You don’t want to end up like this
  • Make sure you are healthy and fit to do the walk :) It can be very daunting at some parts of the track. Exercise jalan sikit before starting to do the walk.
  • Talk to the hostel admin regarding the shuttle back and forth to the national park. Shuttle usually depart at 6am in the morning, and the last shuttle back from the national park is between 4pm to 6pm. Make you sure you finish the track around this time.

6. Things you will need for tramping

Due to the ever-changing weather, things you will need:

a) A good walking shoes (because of the 19.4km walk you need to be comfortable)

b) Warm clothes/thermal layer/ layers of clothes

c) A jacket that you can easily removed and put on when you need it.

d) A glove*

e) Raincoat*

f) A cap/ Snowcap*

g) Walking pole at least one*

h) Sunscreen is a must!

i) Shades

j) Plasters, painkillers

k) Knee guard or any other protections that you might need

l) Water suggested 1.5L to 2L (more during summer). Since this a volcanic area, the water along the way is not safe to consume

m) Any high energy food. What I pack in my bag: 2 homemade sandwiches, 2 bananas, 2 energy bars, 1 energy drinks.

l) Of course your camera and gopro 🙂

* Some hostels have rental service for some of these stuff.

It looks like there are a lot of stuff to put in one bag (and heavy too)! However, most of these things you might already wear before you start tramping anyway, so don’t make your bag too heavy since you are going to walk far. Just foods and water bottles, and medicinal stuff. Do not underestimate the list! You never know when you might need it.

So, next time if you visit New Zealand, do not miss this place! Hey not only South Island has all the amazing things (promoting North Island here) hehe.

In memories of the great adventure and great companions.

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