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The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4 km day hike in Tongariro National Park on New Zealand’s North Island. The hike through world heritage site-worthy volcanic landscape is often hailed as one of the best day hikes in the world, and anyone who has hiked it would probably agree.
It’s not just a leisurely afternoon hike, however. This trek takes you up to high altitude and can take up to 8 hours to complete. Therefore, some tips for hiking the Tongariro Crossing are probably warranted.
The hike is free, but it’s not a circular track, meaning you’ll need someone to drop you off at the beginning and pick you up at the end of the track. Shuttle services exist for this purpose, and start at around $20 NZ.
Transport can easily be arranged from Taupo, which serves as a great base for all sorts of North Island adventure activities. Just be sure to make reservations ahead of time.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing can technically be hiked year-round, but it is best hiked in the summer months (December-February), as snow can still be found at higher altitudes well into the spring.
If you do want to hike in the snow, a guide is recommended, as is serious gear like crampons and ice axes.
Watch the Weather
The weather in Tongariro can change rapidly. What begins as a sunny morning can easily turn into a gale by the afternoon. Pay attention to the weather forecast, and don’t attempt this trek in poor conditions.
If the Department of Conservation advises against hiking the Crossing, heed their warnings.
If you want to breeze through this hike, you can probably make it in about 5 hours without any detours. However, it can easily take up to 8 hours to complete the Crossing, depending on your pace.
You can also climb Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom if you’re a “Lord of the Rings” fan) or Mount Tongariro during this trek, but each can add hours on to your hike, and neither is an easy climb. Pay attention to the time, as most shuttles stop running between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Wear Proper Attire
Since the weather can change rapidly in Tongariro, wearing layers is the best practice. Avoid jeans and cotton, which both take a long time to dry if they get wet, and instead focus on pieces that can breathe.
Waterproof overlayers are definitely recommended if you have them, too, in case you get caught in some rain.
Bring a hat and sunglasses, as well, as there’s no shade on this hike. Sunscreen is also advised year-round, as New Zealand sits under a very thin layer of ozone. You can get burnt even if the sun isn’t out.
Lastly, make sure you have sturdy, comfortable footwear. Hiking boots aren’t absolutely necessary in good weather, but just make sure whatever you’re wearing has a good grip and won’t give you blisters after a few hours.
There isn’t anywhere to refill water bottles or get food until near the end of the Crossing, so be sure to bring enough with you. In fact, when it comes to water, bring more than you think you’ll need.
The best snacks will be high-energy foods like trail mix, fruit, granola bars, and maybe a light sandwich.
And, last but not least, be sure to bring your camera! The views during this hike are definitely something you’ll want to remember.