How to master Tongariro - Consider three simple rules. Read on for our insights to hike in the right season, be prepared for the elements, and arrange your shuttle in advance.
Weather and Hiking Season
The official DOC hiking season starts late October until end of April. However, best months with the most stable weather for hiking are during summer from December to February. Snow in winter (June, July) and at higher altitudes until spring is common. You need to be experienced for winter hiking or take a guide. The trail is closed in very poor weather conditions. This happens more often from the end of autumn until the beginning of spring. Poor weather conditions and fog can spoil the hike and the spectacular views.
In summer the mean daily temperature is about 20°C but can drop to 12 and even 10 °C. In March, April, and November the average temperature is about 18 to 16°C and can drop to 10°C and lower. Winter is very cold, and snow is common. Check the weather forecast for Tongariro first
Tongariro Crossing is known to be one of the most spectacular hikes in the world. Expect many hikers during the summer. The situation improves a little in November and March/April. Since October 2017 it is mandatory to book a shuttle. Continue reading to get more information about the new restrictions.
Tongariro Northern Circuit is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand for backcountry hiking. It extends the Tongariro Crossing into a multi-day loop of 45 km. Advanced booking during the great walks season is essential. Outside the season it is first come, first served. Get more details in the following description.
Tongariro was the first National Park in New Zealand declared in 1887. Its dual World Heritage status is second to none. Three mighty volcanoes; Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu are part of the National Park. Mount Ruapehu is the North Island highest peak with 2.797 m. Experience the dramatic volcanic landscape either in one day on the Tongariro Crossing or enjoy the whole World Heritage Side and follow the Northern Circuit in 3 or 4 days.
The trail is almost 20 km long and takes roughly 6 to 7 hours. If you want to climb to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe famous to be the “Heart of Modor” from Lord of the Rings add 2-3 hours. Anyhow, the peaks and alpine lakes are sacred to the local Maori. They ask that peaks are not climbed, and lakes are not touched.
Tongariro Northern Circuit
The loop trail is 45 km long and takes 3 to 4 days. It can be walked in either direction. During the Great Walks hiking season is a high demand for overnights stays in the three different huts. Book your bunk in advance or try to get one of the seven campsites. While camping, you can use the hut facilities which is not permitted on each great walk. The fees for the hut and camping are higher in the hiking season. The reason during the rest of the year facilities are reduced. Only limited water supply, no gas for cooking, no ranger is available, and even emergency radio facilities are not provided. More information about the booking process and fees
The trails are well marked but, in some sections, they are steep and rough. It is even possible to walk in poor visibility. Wearing different layers is perfect for all weather conditions. Be prepared weather can change quickly and unexpectedly. The hike is utterly exposed. A strong wind can make the hike quite challenging especially at the Red Crater Ridge on elevation 1886 m. It can happen that you have to crawl on hands and feet, more often in spring and autumn.
What to Bring
- Sunglasses and a hat
- Wind- and rainproof jacket
- Hat and gloves even in the summer
- Hiking poles are helpful for the steep ascent and descent
- Bring enough food and water
Good to know: Every 1-2 hours toilets are provided along the track.
The maximum time for parking at the end of the Mangatepopo road is 4 hours. If you plan to hike the Tongariro Crossing or the Northern Circuit you have to arrange a shuttle to drop you off and pick you up. This is a new rule since the end of October 2017.