The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Ohakune is without a doubt the best place to stay when doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The North Island's only mountain town offers a great choice of accommodation, excellent dining and shopping opportunities and a spectacular setting at the foot of the mystical Mount Ruapehu. Set right in the heart of the Tongariro National Park, Ohakune is the perfect place to rest and prepare for the challenging Alpine Crossing. Shuttles depart daily from Ohakune offering a door to door service. See below for operator details.

The world renowned Tongariro Alpine Crossing has a reputation as New Zealand's best day hikes and ranks in the top 10 one day walks in the world. It's just a 40 minute shuttle bus ride away from Ohakune to the start of the Alpine Crossing and as Ohakune's facilities and services are geared towards the many outdoor activities offered in the area, the wealth of local knowledge provided here can only serve to better enhance your overall experience.

Distance: 19.4km
Time: 7-9hrs – Allow extra time for walking to the summits: 1.5hrs for Tongariro and  2-3hrs for Ngauruhoe.
Start Point: Mangatepopo car park, 35mins drive from Ohakune
Difficulty: Moderate - Hard

Mangatepopo Road and parking area is open to private vehicles, but are restricted due to limited car parking. When the car parks are full, most visitors will need to use shuttle services to the Mangetepopo car park.

Volcanic eruption hazard remains in the Te Maari Volcanic Hazard Zone on the northern side of Mount Tongariro.


The other-worldly landscapes along this route have been shaped by thousands of years of volcanic activity, from the immense craters to the twisted lava formations.

The formed track leads up to the saddle between Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro, which is not just one volcano but a complex network of many craters. After reaching the Red Crater (1886m above sea level) the track descends towards the Blue Lake droping down an exposed ridge towards the spectacular Emerald Lakes area (the perfect spot for lunch). After ascending to the Blue Lake and passing by the impressive, still steaming Te Maari crater, the track then proceeds around the northern side of Mt Tongariro zig zagging down through the tussock plains on the mountain side and down to the Ketetahi Hut. A great place for a rest before tackling the final 2hrs of the walk. The track then meanders down past the Ketitahi Springs and into a canopy of native forest with the final 1.5hrs of the walk passing through an impressive ancient Beech and Totara forest which finally opens out to the Ketetahi Car Park and shuttle pick up.

Essential items for the trek:
Weather conditions can be extremely changeable from very hot to bitterly cold. It is necessary to be prepared for all conditions.

  • It is a good idea to take a day pack for spare clothing, food and water.
  • A good supply of water, at least 1.5ltrs per person is recommended. (Take extra if you are doing the summit walks or it is a hot day).
  • Ample supply of food and snacks as nothing can be purchased on the track.
  • Very sturdy footwear as the volcanic terrain is uneven and scree in places.
  • It is advisable to wear either polypropylene or merino clothing next to the skin in cold conditions. Take layers.
  • A waterproof jacket/over trousers.
  • Woollen hat & gloves as weather can change very quickly in the mountains.
  • Sunscreen (very important) even on a cloudy day.
  • Mobile phone in case of emergency. There is not much coverage on the walk best places being the Ketitahi hut and near the toilet at the carpark.

Shuttle Services:
During the summer months several companies run a shuttle service from Ohakune to the start of the trail and will collect you at the finish point to return you back to your accommodation. This is usually a door to door service with one pick up time at either end.

The Crossing during Winter:

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be done during the winter on a fine day, however it is essential to be accompanied by an experienced guide as conditions can be extreme such as avalanches, ice walls, snow and very strong winds. Special equipment such as pickaxes, crampons and other survival equipment are necessary for your safety. The experience is exceptional and well worth the effort. The guiding companies will provide you with all the necessary equipment.

Pocket Ranger Application: The Department of Conservation and Project Tongariro's smartphone application.

New Zealand’s first interactive smartphone application called "The Pocket Ranger" is free to download and is designed to offer an interactive and multi-media experience.  It provides interpretation, maps and images of the unique natural features of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing at the same time conveying important safety messages.

Click here to download the free app

Click here for DOC Factsheet and Map