Yesterday I hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is rated as one of NZ’s best one day hikes. It’s 19.4km (just about 12 miles), so definitely a full day.
Tongariro is actually a volcano outside of Taupo, next to two other volcanoes – Ngauruhoe and Red Crater.
I was told the hike was gorgeous with changing scenery and incredible views. Thankfully the weather ended up being perfect and crystal clear, so I had great visibility the whole hike.
I arrived in Taupo on Saturday, and the crossing was closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday due to weather (rain and really windy), so I’m lucky they opened it.
The hike starts off easy and flat for the first hour.
From there it levels out a bit (for about 10 minutes) and then you start your second climb, which is Red Crater. This one was much trickier than the first, as the ground was a mix of volcanic rock and dirt, with no set path. There weren’t stairs like before so it was a bit slippery! It also got really windy on this portion, as you’re no longer sheltered.
Red Crater is the highest point of the whole hike, at around 7,500 feet. So while we climbed a lot, we started at a low elevation and never got too high.
Coming down the other side of Red Crater was probably the trickiest part. It was the same type of dirt/volcanic rock mixture and was really slippery! I walked down the mountain basically sideways, but there were a few people falling on their butts!
On the way down, you’re headed towards Emerald Lakes and Blue Lake, which are gorgeous colors due the minerals mixing with the thermal area. It’s pretty incredible to see these on the volcanic terrain.
I stopped and had lunch at Blue Lake – it was semi sheltered from the wind there.
It’s then about 3 hours to the bottom and end of the hike. It’s flat for about an hour and then downhill for 2. The path zigzags down, so while it’s not steep, it’s a very long descent!
It’s estimated to take 6-8 hours; I finished it in about 6 hours a 30 minutes. Looking back, I could have taken more breaks but I had no idea how long it’d take.
Overall it was a fabulous hike and perfect day!