The Tongariro Crossing is one of the best day hikes on the north island of New Zealand. It is also one of the most crowded hikes in all of New Zealand. There are other hikes in the area that have far fewer crowds. They are good hikes, but honestly, they do not compare to the crossing.
The DoC has an excellent information pamphlet about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that goes over all the details of the trail. Keep in mind that there are active volcanoes in the area and you can monitor their status.
The crossing is a one-way hike. Most people start at Mangatepopo trailhead and go to Ketetahi trailhead. I strongly recommend doing it this way because if you do not, you need to pass every person going the “normal” direction. This can be very frustrating since the trail is often not wide enough for two people. Remember that New Zealand trail etiquette dictates that the uphill person has the right of way.
Climbing Mount Doom
Mount Doom or Ngauruhoe is one one of the most prevalent peaks on the crossing. It used to be possible to climb to the top (and many people threw in gold rings), but it is no longer possible. The local Maori iwi has asked people not to climb Ngauruhoe due to it being a sacred site. The DoC has removed all signage and the poles for the route up Ngauruhoe.
There are numerous shuttle companies, and our Tongariro shuttle guide goes over them in detail. I recommend the one-way shuttle since you can finish at your own pace and not have to wait for a shuttle at the end.
The car park at the Mangatepopo end and theKetetahi end have minimal parking. There is a 4-hour limit mid-October through 30th April which is enforced.
There is limited street parking 800 meters from the Ketetahi trailhead. This parking is frequently full by 7:00 am.
There is a secure car park 800 meters from the Ketetahi trailhead. The rate to park in the lot of you do not have a shuttle run by Mountain Shuttle, Tongariro Crossing Shuttles, or Tongariro Expeditions is $10.
Most of the roundtrip shuttles have free parking available.
Toilets are located at the start of the track and throughout the track. The bathroom at the beginning has running water and toilet paper. None of the other toilets have running water and rarely have toilet paper. It is pretty common to wait 15 minutes to use the loo.
Food, Drink, and Rubbish
There is not any food or drink available along the track. No goods are available for sale at the start or end of the track. There also are not any rubbish bins at the beginning, finish, or along the trail. Please carry out everything that you bring along, including banana peels, apple cores, and fruit skins. Do not through any rubbish in the toilets. It has to be removed by hand.
You will notice right away that the crossing is a very very popular hike. Most foreign tourists who tour the north island attempt the crossing. Our guide on avoiding crowds in the Tongariro Crossing covers strategies to avoid the crowds.
Even though the crossing is very popular, it can be dangerous. It reaches an altitude of 1,886 meters (6,188 feet), and the weather can change suddenly. During tourist season two people a week need to be evacuated from the trail by helicopter. Shuttle operators will pick you back up from the stat of the track if you decide that turning back is the safest action.
How was your experience on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?