The Great Tongariro Walk – NZ’s Best One Day Hike

Tongariro Walk NZ

For those looking for the great walk that will leave lasting memories and can be completed in a day, Tongariro is for you. The alpine crossing is located in the Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. This is a walk like no other and a must do for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. I first walked the crossing 30 years ago as a teenager and I remember thinking back then, “wow this is like walking on the moon.”

The Crossing Walk is vastly different from the classic bushwalking trails of NZ and those of the rest of the world. Having completed this many times, I recommend starting your journey at the Mangatepopo road end and finishing at the Ketetahi car park. Mangatepopo is higher in altitude, therefore, less climbing is required, its 19.5K’s in distance and takes 6 to 8 hours depending on fitness levels. If walking from the Ketetahi car park add another hour to your walk.

Transport Services

For transport options to the Great Walk Tongariro, there are a number of shuttle operators available. For those using their own vehicle, I recommend driving to the end of the crossing and leaving your vehicle with the Mountain Shuttle people. They offer a security day car park and shuttle service to the trail’s entrance.
For more information, visit
 Mountain Shuttle.


There are toilets at the Mangatepopo road end and also at the Mangatepopo Hut, Soda Springs, Ketetahi Hut and the Ketetahi road end.

Track Description

From the road end, the track climbs gently up the Mangatepopo valley, following a stream (water is not drinkable) and weaving its way around the edges of old lava flows to Soda Springs. From Soda Springs the track climbs steeply up the infamous Devils Staircase to the South Crater. This is the longest climb of the Great Tongariro Walk, 40 to 60 minutes. The views are amazing and worth the slog. From here Ngauruhoe can be climbed, allow three hours for this, a great addition if you have the time and fitness or perhaps plan to do this on another day.

Walkers on The Devils Staircase
Walkers on The Devils Staircase

Walk on the top of the red crater

From here you can continue along the South Crater following poles which lead you to a steep climb to the top of Red Crater, this is the highest point of the crossing. On the ascent, you will smell sulphur which is a timely reminder that you’re in an active area. From here there is an option to climb Tongariro, allow two hours for this. It’s an easier climb than Ngauruhoe and perhaps a better addition to your crossing if time allows. From the crater the views are stunning, descend the gravel scree to the Emerald Lakes.

The Emerald Lakes
The Emerald Lakes
The Central Crater, Red Crater and Ngauruhoe
The Central Crater, Red Crater and Ngauruhoe

The Emerald Lakes, The Central Crater, Blue Lake and Ketetahi 

The next two stages of the Tongariro Walk go through the Active Volcanic Zone, Te Maari craters. The site of the 2012 volcanic eruptions. Observe the warning signs and keep your stops to a minimum.

From Emerald Lakes head across the Central Crater and a short climb brings you to Blue Lake. Continue on as the track sidles the North Crater (a cooled lava lake) and descends to Ketetahi Hut.

The final stage of the crossing leads to the Ketetahai car park. The track continues down the tussock slopes where views of Lakes Rotoaira and Taupo to the north can be seen. Once you reach the bush line this is the end of the Active Volcanic Zone and about 20 to 30 minutes to the road end.

What to Take on Your Walk

It’s important that you carry the right essentials for the Tongariro Walk (or any walk you undertake in New Zealand), weather conditions can change very quickly and due to the rugged and alpine environment of this walk, the weather in the car park can differ greatly from conditions further up the track.

Food and plenty of fluid (Take at least 2 litres of water. There is nowhere to get water so you must carry it)

  • Daypack (20-30L) 
  • Waterproof and windproof raincoat and trousers
  • Sturdy footwear
  • Warm clothing: thermals and fleece
  • Hat and gloves
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • First Aid Kit
  • Map
  • Camera

Find out more today

For more information on what to bring on the Tongariro Walk and other great walks in New Zealand. Check my blog on what to take hiking


For accommodation on the Tongariro Walk, there’s plenty of great places to stay, some offer transport options to and from the walk. Personally, I quite like Ohakune, a quaint wee town on the other side of the mountain. This location is popular during the ski season and has a great selection of restaurants. Other places nearby are Whakapapa Village, Turangi or even Taupo. Check out or Cheap hotels. I’ve found them to be very good and offer some amazing deals and rates.


To print the above map, click on The Great Tongariro Walk highlighted at the top of the map. The printing and PDF option at the bottom of this page will print or download the post except for the map. Once selected, choose actions to print the map. This map gives great information for getting to the start of the track, however, it’s only a guide of the route, for more detail on the track click on the topomap below, and this can also be printed.

For more information on where the ascents and descents are. Plus the distance and height at any point on the map, run the cursor over the elevation graph, this will display on the map where the ascents and descents are. It will also give you the distance and height at any point on the map. It’s a useful tool for planning your walk. The topomap below gives similar information, especially the ascents and descents. However, you need to know how to read those maps to get that information. The mapometer map gives you that information and more by simply moving the cursor over the graph. 

View Larger Topographic Map

Learn more about NZ’s amazing walks!

Interested in seeing more of the country’s incredible natural beauty? Take a look around the website to learn about other outdoor adventures, such as the Mueller Hut walk, in the Mt Cook National Park. It’s the only way to truly see New Zealand!













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2 thoughts on “The Great Tongariro Walk – NZ’s Best One Day Hike

    1. Hi Paul
      Thanks for leaving a comment 🙂 Pleased you found the Post helpful…it’s definitely a fantastic walk. Enjoy the crossing.


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