Centred upon three volcanoes - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu - Tongariro National Park is home to some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes.
For the latest information on access to Tongariro National Park please refer to the Department of Conservation's Tongariro Facebook page.
If you are wondering if the Tongariro National Park is worth the visit, wonder no more. The park will reward you with unparalleled beauty which will delight hikers as well as nature enthusiasts on the hunt for sites to remember for a lifetime.
Tongariro became New Zealand’s first national park in 1887. Just over 100 years later, the park was awarded dual UNESCO World Heritage status for both its cultural significance to Māori, as well as its outstanding natural features. It is one of only three World Heritage sites in Aotearoa New Zealand, and it was the first in the world to be given Dual World Heritage status.
The 80,000-hectare park is a testament to nature’s artistic brilliance, showcasing of volcanic wonders including emerald lakes, old lava flows, steaming craters, colourful silica terraces and peculiar alpine gardens. It is an environment of staggering beauty and diversity.
Tongariro National Park volcanoes
Three volcanoes – Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro – mark the southern limits of the Taupō Volcanic Zone, the horseshoe-shaped series of volcanic phenomena that make up the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire’.
Volcanic activity started here around two million years ago and continues to this day. Ruapehu and Tongariro, which date back before the last ice age, are two of the most active composite volcanoes in the world, with Ruapehu last erupting in 1996. Ngauruhoe – geologically considered a ‘vent’ – last erupted in 1975.
Before you venture into Tongariro National Park it's essential to check the current volcanic activity.
Admire stunning mountains views, waterfalls, and streams before reaching the Silica Rapids. Informative signage is available to explain the geological phenomenon behind the formation of the rapids, and their unusual colour (golden and red). For the latest informaton on the track, visit the Department of Conservation website(opens in new window).
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is best experienced in the Great Walks season (from late October to late April), with more facilities and less hazards encounters along the way. Note that bookings are required for huts and campsites.
Outside of the Great Walks season, only experienced and equipped hikers should venture on the track as facilities are reduced and the likelihood of hazards is increased.
The Round the Mountain track is best suited to advanced hikers. Six huts can be found along the way with some huts requireing booking, so ensure you book these in advance. In the winter, the track should only be attempted by equipped and experienced hikers with higher chances of hazards.
While this track is the most challenging, it will reward you with spectacular sights with a great variety of landscaped including waterfalls, gorges, mountain forests, and volcanic terrain.
Important updates for visitors planning to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro and DOC want to ensure the experience of walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC) protects the fragile environment, is safe, respects the cultural significance of the area, and is sustainable. A new process has been implemented, as per the following:
DOC introduced a booking system for the 2023/2024 season, where visitors using any part of the track should reserve slots in advance.
Bookings are strongly encouraged and are required for booking a shuttle or guided walk.
Whatever kind of accommodation you choose, it will pay to book in advance during peak season (December to March).
There are many ways to get to the park:
DOC encourages visitors doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to book a shuttle or arrange for someone to drop them off and pick them up, because the Tongariro Alpine Crossing takes 7-8 hours to walk and ends on the other side of the mountain.
The park is located near many alpine towns. The main entrance to the park is Whakapapa village, located west of the park, near Whakapapa ski field. The town of Ohakune is located south of the park, near Tūroa ski field. Parking space at the Mangatepopo and Ketetahi carparks is limited, first come first served and cannot be booked. There are 4 hour parking restrictions in place and rangers check compliance from Labour weekend in October until May each year.
The nearest airport to the park is Taupō, located 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Whakapapa village. You can easily combine your trip to the park with a break in Taupō(opens in new window).