New Zealand is a land of adventure regardless of the season. Since moving here five years ago, we’ve grown closer to nature even more thanks to the abundant outdoor activities and the myriad of breathtaking scenery right at our doorstep. One particular location that we’re quite fond of is Tongariro National Park. It’s been deemed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, due to its significance to the Maori culture. The park is home to three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngaurohoe (a.k.a. Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy), and Ruapehu. This national park also boasts a long list of walking tracks, the most popular of which is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
For those planning to take on the Tongariro Crossing, here are a few tips that we’ve gathered from our experience doing the crossing last January 2018 (Summer).
- Wake-up EARLY and EAT breakfast.
The distance from start to finish, is 19.4km and it takes approximately 7 to 8 hours to complete, which is why it is best to start early (especially during winter time). If you start a bit later, make sure that you pack extra supplies including batteries and flashlights to help you see in the dark. Eat a hearty breakfast before going on the hike because your body will definitely need the extra energy.
- Wear the RIGHT clothing and footwear.
Tongariro National Park is more than just your usual walk in the park. Because of its varying terrain and sometimes unpredictable weather, it’s a must to wear appropriate footwear (comfortable, well-fitting hiking shoes/boots) and clothing (season-appropriate). On the day we did the hike, we saw a handful of people not wearing the appropriate gear, and we noticed those same people were in noticeably significant discomfort at the end of the hike (some of them did not even complete the track).
- Apply ENOUGH of sunscreen.
We’ve always mentioned in our tramping-related posts that sunscreen is very important, especially under the very harsh New Zealand sun.
- Bring a RELIABLE backpack.
A backpack that provides good back and shoulder support is a must-have. Remember that you will be carrying gear, food, and water with you, which can be quite heavy. There are a multitude of options out in the market today, it is just a matter of figuring out which best fits you and your hiking needs.
5. Pack ENOUGH food and water.
This tip is a no-brainer, you’ll definitely need food and water to keep you going the entire trip. For water, bring at least 2 liters per person (more if you are crossing during the summer) also keep in mind that there is no source of clean water along the way. Pack snacks that are easy to eat, good for replacing your electrolytes, and energy boosting. On our trip, we packed heaps of nuts and fruits.
6. BRING extra batteries especially for your phone and pack a FIRST-AID KIT.
This not only allows you to document your journey throughout the Tongariro crossing, it also ensures that if you run into trouble, people are able to reach you and give you aid right away. It’s for the same reason that you should always bring a first-aid kit when hiking.
7.FOLLOW all the signs.
Tongariro National Park is surrounded by active volcanoes and is also a World Heritage site with unique flora and fauna, thus, you are expected to follow all the signs. It doesn’t matter if you see an Instagram worthy spot for a photo, if the sign says “keep to the track” or “do not enter”, stick to it!
8. Hike WITH a buddy.
Always hike with a partner.But if you prefer to travel alone, make sure that you inform the people you trust about your plans. Tell them that you will call or text after “x” number of hours as soon as you reach the end or when you are safely back at your accommodation. This serves as a precaution in case something unexpected happens during the hike.
9. CHECK the weather forecast.
Due to the elevation changes around the park, you’ll expect sudden drops and spikes in temperature. Checking the weather forecast the day before allows to you plan and prepare for what lies ahead. Back in 2015 and 2016, we ended up cutting our trip short due to the erratic weather and strong winds.
10. DO NOT litter.
Like most parks in New Zealand, the Tongariro National Park requires care and respect. Bring a spare plastic bag for all your rubbish. Make sure to take everything you brought with you when you leave the park.
For more information about the Tongariro Crossing, visit the Department of Conservation website here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tongariro Alpine Crossing
1. How long is the crossing one way?
The track is 19.4km long.
2. How long does it take to cross the Tongariro National Park?
It takes approximately 6-8 hours depending on your pace. If you stop and take heaps of photos along the way, it usually takes longer.
3. Do I need to be fit?
Yes you do, this is a very straightforward answer, because we do not want you to get injured.
4. How much water should I bring?
You will need at least 2 liters of water, more if you tramp during summer. Please take note that there is NO potable water source along the track.
5. What should I wear?
Your clothing will be weather dependent. As for footwear, make sure that you wear proper hiking boots or shoes with thick wool socks that will give you additional support.