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Tongariro Northern Circuit is a 39.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Owhango, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from September until April.

Length 39.2 mi Elevation gain 8,681 ft Route type Loop

Backpacking

Camping

Hiking

Nature trips

Walking

Bird watching

Running

Forest

Lake

Hot springs

Views

Wildlife

Rocky

Scramble

Snow

Description
Waypoints (0)

Located in the heart of North Island in Tongariro National Park. A volcanic park full of unique lunar landscapes, old craters, lakes and steaming hot pools. https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/central-north-island/places/tongariro-national-park/things-to-do/tracks/tongariro-northern-circuit/

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (63)
Photos (91)
Recordings (53)
Completed (86)
Stefan Macfie
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 25, 2020
Hiking

I have done this loop a few times and it is my favorite part of the world by far - I have done it both in training and for enjoyment. Have always started and finished at Iwikau/Whakapapa Village (42km). Have done it in anticlockwise in one day with a very early start and late finish and running where I could - my only advice is DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO IT IN A DAY!!! This is an alpine environment and extremely changeable - if done anticlockwise the climb from Emerald Lakes to the track summit and descent into Tongariro Crater plateau is very challenging and can be dangerous. Then the stretch from Mangetepopo to Chateau is always exposed, the track usually has ice in it and can be slow going. Likewise if you do it ‘clockwise’ in the afternoon the piece from Waihohonu to Chateau is straight into the setting sun and can have a VERY strong headwind. My advice - take at least 2 days maybe 3. Start and finish at Iwikau Village - otherwise the climb up from Ketetahi is super long and relentless and you can’t stay at Ketetahi Hut - and parking is safer and better at Iwikau. If you do it over 3 days you can side trip to Tama Lakes and summit Ngaruhoe without putting yourself under undue pressure. Do not underestimate how difficult this can be - the maunga is beautiful but it takes its share of lives every year. Enjoy :)

Steph Bunker
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 7, 2020
HikingBugsNo shadeRockyScramble

I did this circuit back in January. I did it anti-clockwise and in 3 days. Day 1 from Whakapapa Village to Waihohonu Hut. Day 2 from Whakapapa to Mangatepopo Hut. Day 3 from Mangatepopo to Whakapapa. This is a challenging hike offering little to no shade. If I did this hike again, I would definitely go clockwise and stay the full 4 days to really be able to appreciate the scenery and have time for pretty waterfall side missions. Otherwise, it was a lovely hike and I met many wonderful people along the way!

David Platt
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 15, 2020
Backpacking

Did this in 3 full days: Day 1 Whakapana to Tama Lakes to Oturere (16.5 mi), Day 2 left the tent + gear at Oturere and did the Ketetahi spur (19 mi), and Day 3 did the Alpine Pass Okurere back to Whakapana (13 mi). When you start out, don't be discouraged by the manicured stairs / boardwalks the first few miles -- the rest of the hike gets plenty more challenging with scree fields, mud ditches, and lava flows that await you :) The individual landscapes you'll encounter -- alpine meadows, mountain lakes, and lava flows -- won't be the most beautiful you've ever encountered, but they're still top tier and what makes the hike so spectacular is how they're all right next to each other. It's really like having North Cascades, Rocky Mountains, and Haleakala all in one hike. You'll also enjoy different perspectives of Mount Ngauruhoe, the huge cone volcano you circle most of the hike ranging from glowing gold in the sunrise to towering over the clouds when they appear. If you can, try to plan your loop so your Alpine Crossing day is not on a Saturday/Sunday/Holiday -- this way you can avoid the biggest swarms of day hikers. If you do the route counterclockwise, you'll be going against the swarm, but your exposure will be short (only about 1.5-2 hours for me). If you go clockwise, you'll be going with the swarm but you'll rolling with them all day, and there are a number of bottlenecks to contend with. For side trips, I thought Tama Lakes were certainly worth the detour. Instead of turning back at the Upper Lake, you can follow the social trails and do a full loop around the lakes along the rim of the calderas (the path is actually on the Alltrails map). It's not too technical and I found the added challenge, solitude, and views very enjoyable. Only note is you'll have to do some minor bushwhacking the last 5 minutes to get back to the main trail. For the Ketetahi spur, you only need to go about halfway down to get a good feel for the meadows and hot spring. The bottom third is a forest and unless you're a Polynesian fern enthusiast, is not particularly noteworthy. Important detail: the Ketetahi spur is NOT a loop like the Alltrails map shows. What the route shows as the return leg has been closed for several years due to volcanic activity and is not maintained. If you go this return route you'll pass within 10 feet of active fumeroles and at one point have to jump across 2 ledges where the old bridge has fallen -- really not safe and better to return the same way you came. Long post but hope there's some useful info in it for your trip planning. Happy hiking!

Scott Jurd
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 19, 2020
HikingBugsNo shadeRocky
View Scott's Recording
Arnaud Cismondi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarFebruary 9, 2020
HikingFeeNo shadeRocky
View Arnaud 's Recording
Booy Rodermond
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFebruary 2, 2020
Hiking

Dag 1 van Tongariro Northern Circuit. Erg tof, mooie uitzichten op de vulkaan en de plek waar ooit lava uit de vulkaan kwam. Mooie bergmeertjes en maanachtige landschappen door vele vulkaanstenen overal en lavatongen.

View Booy's Recording
Ryan Maloney
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 12, 2019
HikingMuddyRockyScramble

If you hardly exercise and your day job is sitting in a cube staring in to a computer screen as if it was an abyss sucking your soul out of your eye sockets, you will probably be tempted by this trail, one of the great walks oohhh ahhh. you came to New Zealand for this. You may be suffering from a lack of sleep from jet lag and a migraine and sick with a chest cold that makes you want to spit out your lungs. You may be insufferably cheap and choose to tent camp slinging a 65 lb. pack with a camp stove, an iPad, and other non essentials instead of using the huts. You may cut your trek down to 3 days instead of 4 due to weather and it's just a few more kilometers for just one day. If so, you may be in a lot of pain towards the end and wonder if it was worth it. What makes that a great walk? Clever advertising, you got me. You feel ashamed of how pitiful you must have looked over the crossing and of how out of shape and fat you've let yourself become. However, you soon realize you've pushed yourself farther and harder than you thought you could. you feel a sense of accomplishment and wonder what you're really capable of. After a shower and a day to recover you become hungry for more. Although beautiful, this trail for a person like me, is more about overcoming than views. I've been on harder treks but because of lack of physical preparation and all the choices I made to make it harder, this was the hardest trek I've ever made.

Marine Clavaud
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 6, 2019
Hiking

A faire absolument dans le sens inverse des aiguilles d une montre. Mieux en terme de dénivelé et surtout de monde. Tous les gens qui font la Alpine Crossing la font dans el sens normal!!

Netanel Levine
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 25, 2019
Hiking

Amazing hike. I really liked Tamma Lakes , it’s a long detour but it was worth it for sure

Adam Jordan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 26, 2019
Hiking

Didn’t make it all the way around, came back after Oturere hut due to rain and heaps of wind!

View Adam's Recording
Bracken Allen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 26, 2019
HikingMuddyWashed out

This is a truly spectacular trail that takes you through an amazing variety of landscapes and scenery. Forests, rolling hills, steep mountains, desolate lava rocks, stunning lakes, majestic waterfalls. You name it, this trail likely has it. I did the trail in about 3 days, staying the first night at Oturere Campsite and the second night at Mangatepopo Campsite. I think going anti-clockwise was definitely the way to go. I stayed at the Skotel Tongariro the nights before and after the hike. I will say, though, that it should probably be marked “Difficult” instead of “Moderate.” I’ve done many of AllTrails’ difficult hikes, and this was by far the most challenging trail I’ve done. If I were to do it all again, I think I would have done it in 4 days instead of 3. I took some online advice to go straight from Whakapapa to Oturere, skipping the first hit and campsite. While not skipping the first hut would have made for a short day 2, skipping it made for a VERY long day 1, and I was quite ready for a break by the time I got to that first hut. I also MIGHT consider skipping the stretch between Mangatepopo and Whakapapa and just catching a shuttle from the Tongariro Crossing trailhead back to Whakapapa. That stretch of trail was by far the least scenic, and was amazingly unkept. You are literally walking through 1 meter deep trenches for large chunks of it.

Laura Brooke
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 30, 2019

Phenomenal landscape! Challenging in some sections, however, worth every step and emotion. Highly recommend!

Andrew Ross
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 22, 2019

great hike but too many people on the crossing.

Rachel Bradley
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 23, 2019
HikingRockyScramble
View Rachel's Recording
Michael Shiu
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 29, 2018
Hiking

Awesome great alpine level walk with spectacular lakes and scenery.

Émilie Langis
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 18, 2018
Hiking

I did this hike in March in 3 days instead of 4 and could of done it in 2 days. It is awesome! I did it anti clockwise so I did the summit at the beginning of the second day. Be aware that there is a LOT of people on the Tongariro crossing so leave for the summit very early in the morning. But the view is stunning and I’d do it again!

Taylor Rosenfeld
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 20, 2018
Hiking

I haven't done this hike, but for those who don't know, the volcano in the center of the loop, Mt. Ngauruhoe, is Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Melissa E.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarMay 26, 2018
Backpacking

Type 2 fun :) This hike has become a bit of an inside joke between my partner and me, because of how miserable two of the three days were. I'm a volcanologist so I was absolutely stoked to hike this one, but we were hit with a rain storm during the ascent (right around the chains) and it didn't let up really for the next two days. Even weather aside, after the first day, it's really just a couple of days of wet Mordor. We slept in huts all 3 nights, which was a treat, but the other tenants were messier and louder than what I've experienced on other treks. Anyway, it's a fine hike, trail is well maintained and the difficulty is moderate if you do treks regularly, but Day 1 (aka the Alpine Crossing), in my opinion, had all the gems and the rest was a 5/10.

Crystal Barbre
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 25, 2017

One of my favorite hikes of all time.

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