Full day

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This world famous hike, is only 40 minutes drive from Ohakune, the base for several local transport operators. For details on the track please see our Tongariro Crossing page from the drop down menu. - Click here for full details

 Ruapehu Crater Lake
Distance: 7km using the chairlift, 10km otherwise.
Time: 6 hours return using the chairlift, 8 hours return otherwise (note that if the chairlift is not operational this is a good indication that the mountain is unsafe to climb)
Start Point: Bruce Road, Iwikau Village, Tongariro National Park – 45 minutes’ drive from Ohakune
Difficulty: Hard

Mount Ruapehu dominates the skyline above Ohakune. It is a sacred peak of the Maori people and legend tells of its origins as the Guardian of the North Island.

It is no surprise then that one of the most iconic tramping trails of the region is the Ruapehu Crater Lake hike. On a clear day the sight of the shimmering blue geothermal lake amid the snow-capped peaks is a real breath-taker that is well worth the effort and from the summit it is possible to see much of the North Island. When completely full, the crater lake holds 8-10,000,000m3 of acid water!

The trail begins in Iwikau Village, or you can take the Whakapapa Waterfall Express chairlift to Knoll Ridge, and follows the line of the ski lifts to the right up to the head of the valley. Climbing up behind Glacier Knob, a narrow trail snakes up the face of the ridge that ends at Dome Ridge. Follow the ridge along to Dome shelter and from here the crater lake is visible. It is recommended that you do not try to enter the crater without a guide and the proper equipment.

An alternative route is accessible when there is little snow and follows a trail up Restful Ridge, joining the Dome Ridge track further along and continuing along the route outlined above.
This is a rare opportunity to encounter an active volcano (the last eruption was as recent as 2007) but bearing this in mind, care should be taken at all times on the mountain. You are advised to take extra caution within 700m of the crater lake where risks of volcanic activity and volatile conditions increase. Dangerous gases can also build up in this area on calm days and therefore it is recommended that you do not spend more than 45 minutes in the crater zone.

This is a strenuous hike at all times of the year, though not technically difficult during the summer months. Guided tours are available in the summer months (weather permitting) and DOC recommends these at all times as conditions are subject to quick change and can become treacherous if you are not familiar with the terrain.

This hike should not be attempted from June-October unless you have winter alpine mountaineering experience, are very well prepared and are confident in using maps as the trails are unmarked (Tongariro National Park map 273-04 is recommended). There may be snow and ice on the mountain in any season so crampons and an ice axe may be required all year round. You should check with the local DOC office before starting the climb as, even in summer, there are sometimes days when the conditions make it too dangerous.

For more information on the Crater Lake hike, current conditions and trail maps, please contact the local DOC office.

 Waihohonu Track & Tama Lakes
Distance: 17km
Time: 5-6hrs round trip
Start Point: 100m below Whakapapa Visitor Centre, Whakapapa Village
Difficulty: Moderate – steep sections

The trail begins on the Taranaki Falls Track, heading past the 20m cascades before heading through the tussock and on to the Tama Saddle ridge which connects the mountains of Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. Along the ridge, the two scorched craters of past eruptions are now transformed into serene alpine lakes.

Once you leave the Taranaki Falls Track the trail is more rugged and less travelled but this only adds to its charm. When the trail splits, take the left hand path to reach the lakes. It is, however, particularly windy in this area so appropriate clothing is recommended.

For more information on any of the walks in the Ruapehu region, as well as safety information and weather reports, contact The Department of Conservation at the Ruapehu Area Office in Ohakune or visit the DOC website.