8 Hours

19 km

Highlights

  • Emerald Lakes
  • Panoramic views
  • Volcanic craters and lava flows

Proximity

GRADE: ADVANCED

At peak times this walk can be very busy.

Tongariro Crossing Freedom Trek, New Zealand

Lava flows, an active crater, steam vents, emerald-coloured lakes and magnificent views combine to make this an unforgettable walking journey.

Often described as New Zealand's greatest day walk, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a challenging journey across a remarkable volcanic landscape.

Track overview

You can walk the track in either direction, but the more popular option begins at Mangatepopo Valley. 

Mangatepopo Valley

Beginning at Mangatepopo Valley near Whakapapa, the track follows a stream and the edges of old lava flows towards the valley head. Look out for varying patches of vegetation that reveal the age of the surrounding lava rock.

South Crater

At the head of the valley, the trail becomes steeper, climbing from the valley to Mangatepopo Saddle between the mountains of Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Stunning panoramic views look out over the volcanic terrain. On a clear day, you can see as far as Mount Taranaki.

Red Crater

The trail leads from South Crater upwards towards Red Crater, the highest point of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The smell of sulphur is a reminder that this crater is still active. 

Emerald Lakes

From here you begin the descent, past the stunning Emerald Lakes. This is the highlight of the track and a great place to pause for photos. 

The brilliant colour that gives them their name is caused by minerals leaching from the surrounding thermal environment.

Ketetahi end

The trail continues over Central Crater to the old volcanic vent of Blue Lake, before it rounds the flanks of North Crater and descends to Ketetahi Road end. The final section is a long descent through tussock slopes to cool green forest, a refreshing change to the volcanic landscape.

 

Department of Conservation

Click the link below for more information and detailed maps about this walk.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Planning your hike

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be walked in either direction and there are several side trips.

Side trips

  • Soda Springs: 15-minute side trip from the head of Mangatepopo Valley, where you will find an oasis for the moisture-loving, yellow buttercups and white foxgloves.
  • Ketetahi to Mangatepopo: Allow an extra hour to walk the track in reverse.

Getting there

The Department of Conservation recommends that visitors access the track via a shuttle from Whakapapa, National Park Village, Turangi, Taupo or Ohakune.

Local transport operators such as Adventure HQ, Dempsey Buses, Tongariro Expeditions and National Park Shuttles are just a few of the operators that offer shuttle services. 

Safety on the track

  • Weather conditions in this area can change rapidly. Please ensure you are properly prepared before setting out.
  • In winter the track is covered in snow and ice and it is strongly recommended that you take a guided trip with qualified operators such as Tongariro Guided WalksAdrift Tongariro or Adventure Outdoors. 
  • Visit the DOC website or view this informative video below. 

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