3-4 Days 44.9 kms loop

Highlights

  • Active volcanoes
  • Stunning emerald lakes
  • Alpine & volcanic scenery

Proximity

GRADE: INTERMEDIATE

Trekking season: late October until late April

Tongariro Northern Circuit is a stunning alpine walk which encircles Mount Ngauruhoe, an active volcano in Tongariro National Park.

Marvel at sacred Emerald Lakes and the Red Crater on this epic Great Walk in the Tongariro National Park.

1. Overview of Tongariro Northern Circuit

The Tongariro Northern Circuit encircles the cone of Mount Ngauruhoe - the most perfectly shaped volcanic cone within the Tongariro National Park. Although currently dormant Mount Ngauruhoe is New Zealand's most active volcano with 61 eruptions since 1839.

Starting from Whakapapa Village the first day of the circuit includes the most stunning scenery of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is one of New Zealand's most popular walks and a great alternative for those short on time. 

The Great Walks season is from late October until the end of April. 

If you wish to walk the Tongariro Northern Circuit outside of these times you will need to book a guided trip with an experienced winter guide, or be very experienced in alpine mountaineering and have crampons, ice axes and adequate mountaineering gear along with strong navigation and alpine skills. 

 

2. Walking the Tongariro Northern Circuit

The fitter you are the more you will enjoy yourself, so a good level of fitness and strength is necessary. 

Find out more about the walk and what is involved; 

Day 1, Whakapapa Village > Mangatepopo Hut, 8.5 km

Beginning 100 metres below the Whakapapa Village Information Centre, today's walk is all about quaint stream beds, volcanic views and ancient lava flows. For the final hour the track skirts around an old steam vent before reaching the Mangatepopo Valley track and the hut(opens in new window) soon after.

Day 2, Mangatepopo Hut > Emerald Lakes > Oturere Hut, 12.8 km

Today's steep climb rewards with spectacular views of the Central Plateau as well as the Blue and Emerald Lakes, which fill explosion pits. Their brilliant, otherworldly colour is caused by volcanic minerals washing down from thermal areas. From here, the track descends into the Oturere Valley, where you'll find tonight's hut(opens in new window).

Day 3, Oturere Hut > Waihohonu Hut, 7.5km

After leaving the hut the track runs through a number of stream valleys and pretty open fields. You'll sidle around the foothills of Mount Ngauruhoe before walking through a valley of beech trees and then arriving at the Waihohonu Hut(opens in new window).

Day 4, Waihohonu Hut > Whakapapa Village, 14.3km

The track today gradually climbs to Tama Saddle, where there is a beautiful side trip to the stunning Tama Lakes, two old explosion craters. Whakapapa Village is around two hours walk from here. After the first hour the track intersects with the Taranaki Falls loop walk - follow the track to the bottom to see the waterfall before following the stream to reach the village.

3. Accommodation on Tongariro Northern Circuit

The Tongariro Northern Circuit is dotted with three Department of Conservation (DOC)(opens in new window) operated huts with nearby campsites. 

Bookings are essential for all huts and campsites on the Tongariro Northern Circuit from late October through to the end of April.

During the trekking season the huts have bunks, mattresses, heating, toilets, basic gas cooking facilities, solar-powered lighting and cold running water. A DOC ranger is present. The huts do not provide food, cooking utensils or showers. Campers need to carry their own gas cookers. 

Huts can be booked online(opens in new window), through any DOC office(opens in new window) or at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre.

During the off-peak season DOC hut tickets or annual hut passes are required and the huts do not have a ranger on site and have limited facilities. 

Book Great Walk huts

4. Towns near Tongariro Northern Circuit

The Tongariro Northern Circuit starts and finishes at Whakapapa Village. Accommodation is limited in Whakapapa so it pays to book in advance. 

Ten minutes drive from Whakapapa you will find the small village of National Park Village there are more accommodation options here.

Built in 1929, the Chateau Tongariro Hotel in Whakapapa Village offers an elegant and historical stay with luxurious rooms and delicious restaurants including their delicious high-tea experience.

A great place to relax and rejuvenate after completing the Tongariro Northern Circuit. 

5. Getting to Tongariro Northern Circuit trail head

Car parks at either end of the track fill up quickly during peak season so we recommend that visitors access the track via a shuttle from National Park Village, Turangi, Taupo or Ohakune.

Long-stay parking is available at Whakapaka Village. 

Local transport operators such as Adventure HQ, Dempsey Buses and National Park Shuttles(opens in new window) are just a few of the operators that offer shuttle services to and from the trail head, a full list can be found on the Department of Conservation(opens in new window) site.

6. Book a guided tour of the Tongariro Northern Circuit

Guided Tongariro tours 

Let someone else take care of the logistics and book a guided tour with a local operator; 

Self guided Tongariro 

Walking the Tongariro Northern Circuit independently takes some organisation. 

7. How to prepare for the Great Walks of New Zealand

Five simple rules, also known as The Land Safety Code, to help you stay safe when trekking or tramping in the outdoors of New Zealand. 

1. Choose the right trip for you

Make sure the chosen trip is suitable for your fitness level.

2. Understand the weather

New Zealand's weather changes quickly, always check the forecast. If the weather is bad, wait until it clears or turn around. 

3. Pack warm clothes and extra food

Prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.

4. Share your plans and ways to get help

Tell a trusted person your trip details and take a personal locator beacon with you - these can be purchased or hired from local gear shops.

5. Take care of yourself and others 

Eat, drink and rest. Stay with your group and always make decisions together. 

The Land Safety Code

What to pack for Great Walks of New Zealand

Having the right gear is imperative when tramping in the outdoors. 

Watch this video(opens in new window) to find out how to pack your gear.

Find out all you need to know about walking in New Zealand at Adventure Smart(opens in new window).

Find out what to pack

Tongariro Northern Circuit on the map

Book your Tongariro walk

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