The seemingly perfect cone volcano is Mount Ngauruhoe, as seen from the top of Mount Tongariro in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan then you would know this place better as Mordor or Mount Doom. Beyond Ngauruhoe is another volcanic mountain, Ruapehu, which is the highest peak on the North Island. This area is laden with volcanic activity. Tongariro is also a volcano and the massive lake Taupo to the north is the caldron of a super volcano.

Staring down doom
My wife stares down Mt. Doom as we near the end of our first, very long day on the trail.

My wife and I hiked The Northern Circuit, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It is a 3-4 day hike that leads you all the way around Ngauruhoe. We did it in 2.5 days, but it made for a very long first day (22km or 13.7miles). While it was an enjoyable hike, if I were to do it again I would do the Tongariro Crossing with a single night in the Oturere Hut.

The Tongariro Crossing is the best part of the longer Northern Circuit. It has very dramatic, other-worldly landscapes like seen in the header photo. Oturere Hut isn’t on the Tongariro Crossing, but it is a few hours hike off the Tongariro on the Circuit track. The hut isn’t spectacular (it is in desperate need of renovations), but its location along a high ridge-line is very cool and you’ll feel like you are sleeping on a volcano. The hut wardens on the Great Walks always have good stories to tell.

If we had extra time, I would have liked to summit the Ngauruhoe, which looked to be very difficult but do-able. The Tongariro Crossing has its challenges with a lot of loose scree at the top of the crossing, but in my opinion this is a must do hike when visiting New Zealand. I’ve not seen any other place quite like it. More images and stories to come.

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