Introduction

Explore the volcanic heart of Tongariro National Park, a landscape of stark glacial contrasts and alpine views.

Highlights

  • Journey through dramatic (and active!) volcanic landscapes, glacial valleys, native beech forest, alpine meadows and emerald coloured lakes

  • This path winds its way past Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe

  • Explore a World Heritage Area of natural and cultural significane

Watch videos | Look at photos

Video

Track overview

43.1 km loop

Walking and tramping

3-4 days Intermediate: Great Walk/Easier tramping track

Seasonal restrictions

During the Great Walks season:

  • Bookings are required for huts and campsites
  • Huts have gas cooking stoves and resident wardens

Outside the Great Walks season:

  • Bookings are not required - huts and campsites are first come, first served
  • There are no gas cooking stoves or resident wardens in huts

2014/2015 Great Walks season: 24 October 2014 - 30 April 2015

Dog access

No dogs

Brochures

About this track

Highlights

Emerald Lakes.
Emerald Lakes

Discover what you'll see on the Tongariro Northern Circuit.

Spectacular volcanic landscapes

The Tongariro Northern Circuit winds its way around the active volcanoes Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, showcasing the spectacular volcanic terrain of the central North Island.

The walk passes through unique and stunning landscapes, including active volcanic craters, brilliant blue lakes, and glacial valleys.

Sweeping views around the North Island

The central and high altitude location of the Tongariro Northern Circuit is in a prime position for sweeping views around the central North Island.

In addition to panoramas of the volcanoes and the surrounding countryside, you can see beautiful Lake Taupo to the north, the rugged Kaimanawa ranges to the east, and even as far as Mount Taranaki on the west coast!

Ngauruhoe from Oturere valley.
Ngauruhoe from Oturere valley

A land of strong contrasts

Side by side you can see chaotic, barren lava flows, winter snowfields, thermal steaming and active craters. From alpine herb fields to forests, from tranquil lakes to desert-like plateau, this walk is a place of extremes and surprises.

Interesting plants and birds

The plants in the area vary considerably, from alpine herbs to thick swathes of tussocks and flax; from the hardy, low-growing shrubs of the Rangipo gravel-field to dense beech forests. A diverse range of beautiful and unique alpine flowers abound in the spring and summer months. 

This is the perfect habitat for a variety of New Zealand’s native birds. In forested areas you may see bellbird/korimako, tui, robin/toutouwai, tomtit/miromiro, fantail/piwakawaka, and maybe New Zealand's smallest bird the rifleman/titipounamu.

Gentiana bellidifolia (Gentian).
Gentiana bellidifolia (Gentian)

You might be lucky enough to spot blue duck/whio in a stream, and in open terrain areas you may see pipits, skylarks, the rarer karearea/falcon or kaka, and even some wayward seagulls who live in the area in summer!

A range of walking options

A range of trips can be planned around the circuit, suitable for the whole family. You can do day trips, overnight trips or a three-four day walk around the complete circuit.

The Tongariro National Park is easy to get to from around the North Island. The Tongariro Northern Circuit is easily accessible from four trailheads, with Whakapapa Village being the main entrance and exit point.

Description

Walking options

Full circuit

You can walk the full circuit in either direction. Most people take 3 or 4 days, with 2 or 3 overnight stays. Very fit people can walk it in 2 days, but each day is at least 8 hours.

The time it takes you to walk between huts may be less or more than the stated time. Your fitness level and weather conditions affect how long it takes.

Shorter options

There are a range of shorter walking opportunities, suitable for the whole family and for those with less time available. You can do a walk of a few hours or a whole day, or an overnight stay in one of the huts or campsites.

Places to stay

There are three huts, with campsites close by, on the The Tongariro Northern Circuit: Mangatepopo, Oturere and Waihohonu.

Ketetahi hut and campsite are no longer available for accommodation following damage in the August 2012 volcanic eruption.

Huts and campsites must be booked in advance in the Great Walks season. Outside the Great Walks season, it is first come, first served.

Camping is not allowed within 500 metres of the Tongariro Northern Circuit Track.

Mangatepopo track.
Mangatepopo Track

Whakapapa Village to Mangatepopo Hut

Time: 3 hr
Distance: 8.5 km 

Begin 100 metres below the Whakapapa Visitor Centre at Ngauruhoe Place and along the lower Taranaki Falls track. After about 20 minutes the Mangatepopo track branches off from the Taranaki Falls track.

Heavily eroded in places the track crosses many stream beds. Ahead and to the right is Pukekaikiore, thought to be one of the older vents of the Tongariro complex. To the left is Pukeonake, a low scoria cone. Both Pukekaikiore and Pukeonake witnessed the last ice age when glaciers from Tongariro carved down through Mangatepopo Valley. The giant cone of Ngauruhoe and the flatter form of Tongariro are visible ahead. Ngauruhoe is a younger ‘parasitic’ cone on the side of Tongariro.

For the last hour the track skirts around Pukekaikiore until it reaches the Mangatepopo Valley track. The Mangatepopo Hut is five minutes off of the main track.

Mangatepopo Hut.

Mangatepopo Hut

Category: Great Walk
Facilities: 20 bunk beds, cooking, heating, mattresses
Bookings required

Mangatepopo Hut to Emerald Lakes

Time: 3 hr 30 min
Distance: 8 km 

The track follows Mangatepopo stream up the valley, climbing over a succession of old lava flows from Ngauruhoe. The youngest, very black, lava flows were erupted from Ngauruhoe in 1949 and 1954.

A five minute detour at the head of the valley leads to the cold Soda Springs and waterfall, which emerge beneath an old lava flow. In spring and summer moisture loving plants such as white foxgloves and yellow buttercups thrive in the area.

The steep climb required to reach the Mangatepopo Saddle rewards climbers views of the valley and if clear, Mt Taranaki to the west. From the saddle the track crosses South Crater, not a true crater but a drainage basin between the surrounding volcanic landforms.

Ahead more recent lava flows can be seen spilling over from Red Crater. The climb up to Red Crater offers splendid views of Oturere Valley and Kaimanawa Ranges to the east.

At the top of Red Crater a poled route to the left leads to Tongariro Summit. The main track continues on past the rim of Red Crater itself. The spectacular formation on the far side of the crater is a dike, an old magma feeding pipe to the vent of the volcano. Harder than the ash and scoria around it erosion has left it exposed on the side of the crater.

North Crater is the large flat topped crater to the north. This vent once contained a lava lake which cooled to infill the crater.

Tongariro craters.
Tongariro craters

Blue Lake is visible from the top of Red Crater, across the Central Crater - which like South Crater is actually another drainage basin. Blue Lake has formed where cold fresh water fills an old vent.

A scoria covered ridge leads down to the spectacular Emerald Lakes, which fill old explosion pits. Their brilliant colouring is caused by minerals washed down from the thermal area of Red Crater.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing continues from Emerald Lakes to Ketetahi Road.

Side trip: Mount Ngauruhoe summit (2,287 m)

Time and Distance: 3 hr return from South Crater, 6-7 hr return from Mangatepopo parking area
Distance: 6 km return from South Crater, 19 km return from Mangatepopo parking area

You need good fitness to climb the active volcano Mount Ngauruhoe - it is steep (about 30°), and the surface is mainly loose rock and stones (scree). The summit climb is not marked or formed. Find out more about the Mount Ngauruhoe summit climb

Side trip: Mount Tongariro summit (1,967 m)

Time: 1 - 2 hr return from near the top of Red Crater  

From Red Crater follow a poled route to the summit of Tongariro. The route is along an undulating rocky ridge, gaining less than 100 m in altitude.

Along the way you can see interesting volcanic rock formations, and fantastic views of the mountains and landscape - including Mount Ruapehu from the Tongariro summit itself.

Side trip: Blue Lake and Te Maari steaming craters

Time: 1 hr 30 min to 2 hr return

From the track junction near Emerald Lakes, continue further along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to see closer views of the Blue Lake and the new Te Maari steam vents. From this section of track you can also see beautiful views north to Lakes Rotoaira and Taupo. 

This is an Active Volcanic Hazard Zone - eruptions are possible without warning. The Te Maari craters erupted in August and November 2012. Know about volcanic risks and what do to in the event of an eruption.

Emerald Lakes to Oturere Hut

Time: 1 hr 30 min
Distance:
4.8 km

From Emerald Lakes the track descends steeply into the Oturere Valley with views of the valley, the Kaimanawa Ranges and the Rangipo Desert. The track weaves through an endless variety of unusual jagged lava forms from early eruptions from Red Crater which filled Oturere Valley.

A magical place to visit especially on a misty day. The Oturere Hut is nestled on the eastern edge of these flows. There is a pretty waterfall over the ridge from the hut.

Oturere Hut. Photo: Jimmy Johnson.

Oturere Hut

Category: Great Walk
Facilities: 26 bunk beds, cooking, heating, mattresses
Bookings required

Oturere Hut to Waihohonu Hut

Time: 3 hr
Distance:
7.5 km

After leaving Oturere Hut the track undulates over a number of stream valleys and open gravel fields. Plant life here has been constantly repressed by volcanic eruptions, altitude and climate. Loose gravel means that recolonisation by plants is a slow process on the open and bare countryside.

The track gradually sidles around the foot hills of Ngauruhoe descending into a valley and crossing one of the branches of the Waihohonu Stream. Continue through a beech clad valley before climbing towards the ridge top. Waihohonu Hut is in the next valley.

Waihohonu Hut

Waihohonu Hut

Category: Great Walk
Facilities: 28 bunk beds, cooking, heating, mattresses
Bookings required

Waihohonu Hut to Whakapapa Village

Distance: 14.3 km
Time: 5 hr

The track follows the Waihohonu stream and gradually climbs to Tama Saddle. This area can be windy as it sits between the mountains.

From the saddle there is a very worthwhile side trip to the striking Tama Lakes, two infilled explosion craters. The lower lake is only 10 minutes from the junction, while the upper lake is up a steep ridge, taking 1 hour 30 minutes return.

Whakapapa Village is about two hours from the Tama Lakes junction. After the first hour the track meets the Taranaki Falls loop walk, one of the best short walks in the Park. There are two options to return to the village, both take about an hour. To view the waterfall, follow the lower section of the track down the steps to its base, then follow the Wairere stream through beautiful mountain beech forest back to the village.

Alternatively take the upper section of track through open tussock and shrubland back to the village.

Side trip: Ohinepango Springs

Time: 1 hr return from Waihohonu Hut

Crystal clear cold water bubbles up from beneath the old lava flow and discharges at an enormous rate into the Ohinepango Stream.

The springs are signposted on the Round the Mountain Track heading south towards Rangipo Hut.

Side trip: Historic Waihohonu Hut

Time: 20 min return from Waihohonu Hut; 10 min return from the Tongariro Northern Circuit Track

Built in 1903/04, this was the first hut built in Tongariro National Park. It's the oldest example of a typical early two-room mountain hut in New Zealand. Find out more about the historic Waihohonu Hut

Side trip: Tama Lakes

Time: 20 min return to Lower Tama from the junction, 1 hr 30 min return to Upper Tama from the junction.

Access half way between Waihohonu Hut and Whakapapa Village.

Tama Lakes, two infilled explosion craters, are named after Tamatea, the high chief of the Takitimu Canoe, who explored the area six centuries ago.

The lower lake (at 1200 m), is 10 minutes from the junction. Volcanic debris is slowly washing in and filling the crater. The upper lake (at 1314 m) is a further 40 minutes up a steep ridge. This beautiful lake is reputed to be very deep.

Fees and bookings

Walking seasons

2014/2015 Great Walks season: 24 October 2014 - 30 April 2015

  • In the Great Walks season: huts and campsites must be booked in advance. Fees are paid at the time of booking.
  • Outside the Great Walks season: huts and campsites are first come, first served. Fees are paid with a Backcountry Hut Pass or Hut Tickets.

Fees

Fees are charged per person, per night to stay in huts or campsites on the Tongariro Northern Circuit. There are no fees to complete a day walk on the track or for entry into the Tongariro National Park.

Tongariro Northern Circuit fees
 Great Walks season

Outside Great Walks season

Adults
(18+ yrs)
Youth/child*
(5-17 yrs) 
Adults
(18+ yrs)
Youth/child
(5-17 yrs)
Hut $32 Free $15 Free
Campsite $14 Free $5 Free
Discounts

A 10% discount is available to members, staff and instructors of the following organisations, who also hold a valid 12 month Backcountry Hut Pass: NZ Mountain Safety Council; NZ Federated Mountain Clubs; NZ Deer Stalkers Association; NZ Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR); Scouts New Zealand; GirlGuiding NZ.

Discounts are not available online. To receive the discount we need to sight your membership card and Backcountry Hut Pass, so please visit a DOC visitor centre in person. If you get a discount you won't be charged a booking fee.

What to book

Before you start your Tongariro Northern Circuit walk:

  • You need to book huts and/or campsites on the track if you’re walking in the peak season between October and April (bookings are not required if you’re walking in the off-peak season).
  • You can choose to book transport to Mangatepopo Road end - an alternative to a three hour walk along the track.

How to book

Follow this step-by-step process to guide you through booking your Tongariro Northern Circuit walk:

  1. Decide whether you want to walk clockwise or anti-clockwise.

  2. Decide what huts or campsites you want to stay at. Consider:

  3. Decide the date you want to stay at each hut/campsite. Note there is a maximum number of nights you can at each:
    • Peak season: maximum 2 nights at huts and campsites
    • Off-peak season: maximum 3 nights at huts, 5 nights at campsites

  4. Check availability of huts and campsites on the dates you want to stay. If there is no space in one of the huts/campsites you want to stay at, consider:
    • Starting your walk on a different date
    • Re-arranging your walk to use a different combination of huts/campsites

  5. Optional: Check the availability of transport services on your desired date. Find transport operators for Tongariro National Park

  6. Book huts/campsites online or contact a DOC visitor centre or a local i-SITE for personal assistance. Note:
    • Bookings are required for children and/or youth even though it's free for them to stay.
    • If you’re booking campsites, you’ll need to know the number of people in your group as well as the number of tent sites required.

  7. Optional: Book transport to/from Mangetepopo Road end to shorten your walk. Find transport operators for Tongariro National Park

Terms and conditions

Read the Booking Terms and Conditions for general information, age ranges, prices, discounts, penalty rates and the alterations and cancellations policies. Bookings not meeting the terms and conditions will be treated as invalid and cancelled.

Booking Great Walks on behalf of others

Guided groups

To operate a commercial activity in an area managed by the Department of Conservation, you will need to apply for a concession (an official permit), in addition to any bookings you would need to make. Read more about concessions 

Booking on behalf of others

To make multiple bookings for facilities/services on behalf of customers, you must obtain permission or an agent agreement from the Department of Conservation. To do this, email: bookings@doc.govt.nz  

Getting there

The Tongariro Northern Circuit is easy to get to by private car or public transport. Whakapapa Village is the start and finish point for the Circuit.

Public transport options

There are two bus services and one train service that stop at or near Whakapapa Village, on route between Auckland and Wellington. If you stop at nearby National Park Village, there are local shuttle services available for transfers up to Whakapapa Village.

Shuttle services

Find commercial operators that provide services for the Tongariro Northern Circuit

Track access points

Whakapapa Village

There is a parking area in the village. It is approximately a 3 hour walk to Mangatepopo Hut, or a 5-6 hour walk to Waihohonu Hut.

Mangatepopo Road

From the parking area at the end of Mangatepopo road, it is approximately a 30 minute walk to Mangatepopo Hut.

Ketetahi Road

From the parking area at the end of Ketetahi road, you walk on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track. It is approximately a 2-3 hour walk to Ketetahi shelter (not available for accommodation). From there it is a further 3 hours to Oturere Hut, or 4-5 hours to Mangatepopo Hut.

The track begins by climbing through podocarp forest, then continues up the tussock-covered slopes of Mount Tongariro. This section of track goes through the active volcanic hazard zone. There are great views from the track of the steaming volcanic vents at Te Maari craters, the Ketetahi thermal area, and evidence of the 2012 volcanic eruptions.

Desert Road (SH1)

There is a parking area just off the Desert Road, 35 km south of Turangi. It takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes to walk to Waihohonu Hut.

From the highway, the track crosses tussock and shrubland. Much of the vegetation near the first part of the track was destroyed or damaged during a large fire in November 1988. Although recovering well, blackened stems and branches can still be seen.

The track, built upon volcanic material, is fragile and easily eroded. The track enters shady beech forest near the Ohinepango Stream, part of Te Mako Bush.

Past the stream the track re-enters tussock and shrubland where there are good views of Ruapehu. Just before the hut the track joins the Round the Mountain Track. The Waihohonu Hut is a 10 minute walk from this junction.

Round the Mountain Track

The Tongariro Northern Circuit connects with the Round the Mountain Track at two points - Whakapapa Village and Waihohonu Hut.

Vehicle security

When leaving your vehicle at track entrance parking areas, take valuable items with you and lock your vehicle. Alternatively, there are parking areas at Whakapapa Village and local towns, and transport is easy to arrange to and from the tracks.

Tongariro Northern Circuit map.
Tongariro Northern Circuit map

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Know before you go

Your safety is your responsibility. To have a great time in the outdoors, know before you go the five simple rules of the Outdoor Safety Code to help you stay safe:

  1. Plan your trip
  2. Tell someone
  3. Be aware of the weather
  4. Know your limits
  5. Take sufficient supplies

1. Plan your trip

Seek local knowledge, plan your route and the amount of time you expect it to take.

It's important to plan, prepare and equip yourself well. Have the right gear and skills required for the trip and always check the latest information about facilities you plan to use, and local track and weather conditions.

On the Tongariro Northern Circuit, be aware that:

  • Most of the track is on rugged and exposed alpine terrain, although there are sections of formed track/boardwalk. There are only two sections of forest - near Whakapapa Village, and near Waihohonu Hut. The lowest altitude of the track is 1120 m, and the highest (at Red Crater) is 1886 m.
  • The weather can change suddenly - from warm and sunny to cold, wet and windy.
  • Most streams are bridged and there are no large river crossings, but heavy rain could cause flooded streams to become difficult to cross safely. Be prepared to wait for water levels to drop.
  • Major hazards are generally managed on the track during the summer (October to April), and in winter the main hazard is snow/ice on the track.
  • We recommend that you treat stream water to guard against risk of infection from giardia and other bugs.

More information:

Check for alerts at the top of this page, or contact:

Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 7 892 3729
Address:   Whakapapa Village
State Highway 48
Mount Ruapehu
Email:   tongarirovc@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
 

View of Te Maari steaming vents from the track.
View of Te Maari steaming vents
from the track past the Blue Lake

Volcanic hazards

This is an active volcanic area, and eruptions are possible at any time without warning.

Active volcanic vents on the Tongariro Northern Circuit are Mount Ngauruhoe, Red Crater, and Te Maari Craters. Volcanic hazard zones surround all of these vents. If you are within one of these areas when an eruption happens, you may be in danger.

Vehicle parking

The main parking area is at Whakapapa Village, where the Circuit begins and ends. Parking is free and generally safe.

When leaving your vehicle at a parking area, take valuable items with you and lock your vehicle. There is a checked luggage service at Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre. We recommend that vehicles are not left overnight in the more isolated parking areas.

Toilets

This is a sacred and fragile alpine area. Please use the toilet facilities provided.

Toilets are available at Whakapapa Village, at each hut, at Mangatepopo parking area, and at Soda Springs. There are also toilets at Ketetahi shelter and Ketetahi parking area.

2. Tell someone 

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

Fill in the visitors' book if you are staying in a hut.

In the Great Walks season, there are resident wardens at all huts, who can give weather and track information or assist should an emergency arise. Outside the Great Walks season, there are no hut wardens, but sometimes rangers are present.

3. Be aware of the weather

New Zealand's weather can be highly unpredictable - expect weather changes and be prepared for them.

On the Tongariro Northern Circuit, be aware that: 

  • The safest and most popular time of year to walk the Tongariro Northern Circuit is during the summer months (December to March) when the tracks are normally clear of snow and the weather is less severe. During this time, daylight hours are much longer and daytime temperatures can get into the teens or 20s (celcius).
  • The weather in Tongariro National Park is often more extreme than other places in the North Island. Be prepared for cold, wet, snowy/icy, or windy weather at any time of year.
  • Heavy rain can occur with little warning and even small streams are dangerous in flood.

More information:

Check the Tongariro National Park weather forecast on the MetService website.

Winter conditions

During winter months snow/ice can cover all or parts of the track, and avalanche risk may apply. Walking and/or navigation can become more difficult.

Alpine experience and equipment is normally required during this period (crampons and ice axe, possibly avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe).

More information:

Ngauruhoe from South Crater in snow conditions.
Ngauruhoe from South Crater
in snow conditions

Avalanches

Avalanches are possible during and after heavy snow falls. Check the avalanche advisory before you leave. If risk applies, carry a transceiver, shovel and probe and know how to use them. If the risk is 'considerable' or above - don't go!

More information:

 Find out about the avalanche terrain ratings in Tongariro National Park

4. Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience.

To do the trip you need to be reasonably fit and have good equipment to cover all possibilities.

Ngauruhoe viewed from Oturere valley.
Ngauruhoe viewed from Oturere valley

On the Tongariro Northern Circuit, be aware that:

  • The track is classed as a Great Walk/Easier tramping track, suitable for hikers with reasonable fitness.
  • The track is a mixture of well formed and rough/not well formed sections, and through the Oturere valley alpine desert there are just marker poles with no formed track. Some sections are steep, rocky or muddy. The track however is well marked with signs, poles or markers.
  • Most stream and river crossings are bridged but heavy rain can make unbridged streams difficult to cross safely.

You can expect:

  • To walk up to 6 hours a day and longer depending on your fitness and trip plan
  • To carry a pack of up to 15 kg for 43.1 km
  • For a 4 day trip, to walk up to 15 km per day
  • For a 3 day trip, to walk up to 20 km on one day, with 2 shorter days
  • For a 2 day trip, to walk up to 23 km per day
  • Most of the track has a hard, rocky and uneven surface. Forest sections can be muddy following rain.

have enough food, clothing, equipment and emergency rations for the worst-case scenario.
Take enough food, clothing, equipment and emergency food for the worst-case scenario

5. Take sufficient supplies

You must be self sufficient: be sure you have enough food, clothing, equipment and emergency food for the worst-case scenario.

Take an appropriate means of communication such as a cellphone and/or personal locator beacon. Personal locator beacons provide increased personal safety. You can rent them from various outlets, check details on the Rescue Co-ordination Centre NZ website

On the Tongariro Northern Circuit, be aware that:

  • Food is not available for purchase at any of the huts
  • Cooking stoves are only at the huts in the peak season - during the off peak season, you need to bring your own
  • Cell phone coverage is reasonably good around the track, but there are sections that there is no coverage. Generally there is no or very limited cell phone coverage at Waihohonu Hut.

More information:

What to take

Part of having a great time in the outdoors is to be properly prepared. The following food, water, clothing and equipment is essential for all hikers on the Tongariro Northern Circuit. Be prepared for at least one wet day on your trip.

Food and water

Food is not available for purchase on the track. Food should be lightweight, fast cooking and high in energy value. For example:

  • Breakfast: cereal/oatmeal, firm bread, honey/nut butter or other spreads, coffee/tea, milk powder
  • Lunch: crackers, spreads, cheese, fresh/dried fruit, nuts, preserved meats
  • Dinner: dehydrated meals, instant soup, pasta or rice, dried vegetables
  • Snacks: biscuits/crackers, dried fruit and nuts, cereal bars, powdered fruit drink and emergency food in case of any delays on the track.
  • Water bottle or hydration pack of 1 - 3 litres. You need to drink regularly during the day, and due to the higher altitude here often you need to drink more than normal.
  • Drinking water is at the huts but stream water should be treated (water from Mangatepopo stream and the lakes is not OK to drink).

Well prepared hikers. Photo: Macpac.
Well prepared hikers

Clothing and equipment

You need at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night. It is not possible to dry clothes in the huts. Cotton clothing such as jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts don't keep you warm, they are not suitable. Quick-dry fabric and wool/polypropylene is recommended.

Most equipment is available for rent or purchase in towns surrounding the Tongariro National Park. See rental outlets in National Park Village - National Park Village website.

  • Waterproof and windproof jacket and overtrousers
  • Warm wool, polypropylene, and / or fleece base layers (tops and leggings)
  • Sturdy hiking boots or shoes. Boots are best as they give ankle support and are normally waterproof.
  • Backpack and waterproof plastic packliner
  • First aid kit (sunscreen, blister kits, pain relief, band-aids/bandages, personal medications)
  • Sunglasses and sunhat
  • Warm hat and warm gloves
  • Map and compass or GPS - and know how to use them
  • Gaiters - optional
During winter and snow conditions
  • Ice axe and crampons - and know how to use them
  • Avalanche equipment (probe, transceiver, shovel) - and know how to use them
  • Snow gaiters
  • Snow goggles

For the huts or campsites

  • Cooking stoves are available during the peak Great Walk season only. During the off peak winter season you need to bring your own. Campers can use the cooking stoves in the huts.
  • Trash/rubbish bag - pack it out!
  • Eating and cooking utensils (knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup, pot, pan or billy and cleaning kit)
  • Matches or lighter in waterproof container
  • Sleeping bag
  • Headlamp / flashlight and spare batteries
  • Toiletries (soap, toothpaste, small towel). Do not wash or use soap in lakes or streams
  • Survival kit (survival blanket, whistle, pocketknife, paper, pencil, high energy snack food)
  • Campers require a tent and ground sheet.
  • Optional extras: camera, lightweight shoes for in hut, ear plugs for communal bunkrooms (you will be sharing huts with up to 27 other people)

Winter tramping

Snow covers the Tama Lakes track.
Snow covers the Tama Lakes track

During the winter season the Tongariro Northern Circuit remains open with reduced facilities at huts and campsites. Snow and ice make it a full alpine trip, requiring alpine equipment and experience.

Tramping the Tongariro Northern Circuit in winter should only be attempted by experienced, well equipped people. Before you go:

On this page:

Winter conditions and hazards

Tongariro and Ngauruhoe in winter.
Tongariro and Ngauruhoe in winter

The following conditions and risks can be present in the winter and spring seasons:

  • Cold, wet and windy weather is common. Temperatures overnight are most often below freezing, and during the day may only rise a few degrees. Wind chill makes the temperature feel a lot colder.
  • Snow and ice are common in high areas, and sometimes on lower areas. Deep snow can hide the track markers.
  • During winter the days are shorter - daylight hours are approximately 7:00 am - 5:30 pm.
  • Avalanche risk applies to parts of the track during and after heavy snowfalls. At times surface conditions can be hard ice.

Avalanche risk

Parts of the Tongariro Northern Circuit track are on avalanche terrain and you should be prepared for avalanche risk, and know when it's not safe to go.

Avalanches are the most common during the winter and spring, from July through to October, but can happen for several months either side of that period if there are heavy snowfalls.

Snow can fall at any time of the year in the higher parts of the park - therefore avalanches are also possible, but not common, at other times of the year on the glaciers and the steeper higher-altitude terrain in the park. 

Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES)
Description  ClassTerrain criteria
Simple 1 Exposure to low-angle or primarily forested terrain. Some forest or bush openings may involve the run-out zones of infrequent avalanches. Many options to reduce or eliminate exposure.
No glacier travel.
Challenging 2 Exposure to well defined avalanche paths, starting zones or terrain traps; options exist to reduce or eliminate exposure with
careful route finding. Glacier travel is straight forward, but crevasse hazards may exist.
Complex 3 Exposure to multiple, overlapping avalanche paths or large expanses of steep, open terrain; multiple avalanche starting zones and terrain traps below; minimal options to reduce exposure.
Complicated glacier travel with extensive crevasse bands or icefalls.
How does ATES apply on the Tongariro Northern Circuit?

Most of the Tongariro Northern Circuit is simple terrain, however some sections of track including where it crosses over Red Crater between South Crater and Emerald Lakes contains challenging and complex terrain.

During periods when there is snow present people should not venture onto the Circuit without the right avalanche expertise and equipment, or should be accompanied by an experienced guide.

A large proportion of the Tongariro National Park below 1700 m is classed as simple avalanche terrain; elevations above this altitude are mainly challenging or complex avalanche terrain.

All visitors to the national park should consider carefully the class of avalanche terrain they will be travelling through. Due to the nature of the weather conditions in the park the avalanche hazard can change with very little warning.

Further information:

Your safety is your responsibility - be prepared

Below are some minimum recommendations for winter tramping on the Tongariro Northern Circuit.

  • Check conditions: check with the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre for conditions and weather before your trip. See alert notices on the intro page.
  • Always leave trip intentions with someone responsible, and fill in hut books as you walk.
  • Consider carrying a personal locator beacon in case of emergency.
  • Ensure all in your party are suitably fit and experienced in winter tramping, including navigation skills, alpine conditions, safety judgement.
  • Be equipped: carry the right supplies and gear for alpine and winter conditions (see What to take).

Huts in winter

Red crater summit in winter.
Red crater summit in winter

  • All huts and campsites operate on a first come, first served basis in the winter season - there are no booking. You must hut tickets or a hut pass to stay - buy them before your trip.
  • Hut wardens are not present in winter, although DOC rangers do periodically check facilities and hut tickets.
  • Cooking stoves are not provided - you need to bring your own.
  • Huts have heating (gas heater at Oturere and Mangatepopo, firewood and wood burner at Waihohonu).
  • All huts have rainwater tanks. Sometimes water pipes freeze - you may need to get water directly from the tank, or melt snow. We recommend that you treat all stream water in case of giardia or other bugs..

Contacts

Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 7 892 3729
Address:   Whakapapa Village
State Highway 48
Mount Ruapehu
Email:   tongarirovc@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
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