New Zealand’s Tongariro Crossing is a challenging 12-mile hike across some of the most unique and beautiful landscape on the planet. When you hike the crossing you literally pass right next to the Tongariro’s volcanic crater. Ngauruhoe is the volcano looming behind Tongariro’s crater. If you look on the right-hand side of this image you can see the trail over the pass with the hikers making their way along what is arguably the hardest part of the transit. This is the pinnacle of the pass and is mostly a loose scree-laden path. My wife and I made this trek with fully weighted overnight packs on. It is disheartening to take one step up only to slide back half a step in the scree, but the scenery makes every inch of this journey more than worth the effort. I highly recommend anyone making a trip to New Zealand to put this trek on your ‘must do’ list, but come prepared for the slow uphill slog.
The journey has several options of how it can be done. My wife and I did the full Northern Circuit which was an amazing journey and much longer trek, but if you only have a day to dedicate to this area than the Tongariro Crossing is a must. Understand that the 12 miles is one-way, so transit will need to be arranged from one end to the other. This is a very popular hike so arranging transit is very common and easily done online. If you go from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi, the uphill portion is a tough 2,510 feet of gain, with a descent of 3,690 feet. I personally have bad knees and the downhill is rougher than the uphill so I would rather go up the 3,690′ and come down the 2,510′ but my wife says I am the exception. Also the lighting is probably better going from Ketetahi to Mangatepopo as the trail mostly goes from east to west with the sun. Either way, this trail makes for a long, tough day of hiking, but you won’t regret it… well, maybe your feet will.
It is also important to realize that these stunning craters are still very active. The last substantial eruption was as recent as 2012. In fact, only a few days after we finished the crossing in May of 2016 the volcanic sensors started to move and the park authorities highly recommended not doing the crossing because of the potential for eruption. Nothing came from the seismic warnings, but eruptions are hard to predict and can come at any time. All that to say that one who plans to attempt this journey should stay informed and pay attention to the warnings.