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Tongariro Northern Circuit Guided Great Walk

33 km, 16-18 hours hiking over 3-4 days

Days
4

Pricing From
$665

Difficulty

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Overview

Tongariro Northern Circuit Guided Great Walk

The Tongariro National Park is home to the most active volcano in New Zealand. If you’re looking for a one-of-kind place to embark on an extraordinary adventure, nothing comes close to hiking the Tongariro Northern Circuit Guided Great Walk loop around the park in 3 or 4 days.  This exciting trail, which is one of New Zealand’s popular and iconic Great Walks, takes you through volcanic landscape, valleys shaped by glacial forces, beech forest, and unbelievable emerald blue lakes. Along the way, watch out for fascinating wildlife like the rare blue duck or ‘whio’ and the ‘karearea’ or the New Zealand falcon. Learn more about these unique NZ animals from your Bushman.

One of Tongariro’s highlights is its contrasting landscape. If you’d like to experience ancient lava flows, native forests, alpine grass fields and desert-like plateaus in one go, the Tongariro Circuit is the place to do it. If you’re a keen Lord of the Rings fan, you may want to climb the forbidding “Mt. Doom”, locally known as Mt. Ngauruhoe.

Whakapapa Village marks the start of your first day when the hike is relatively easy going and the views of Mt. Ngauruhoe amazing, warming you up for the challenging climb on Day 2. Arriving at the Central Plateau, soak up the panoramic views of the park and the Blue and Emerald Lakes that greet you. With your Bushman, you can have the option to climb “Mt. Doom”. It’s a rare experience to ascend an active volcano, and you might not want to pass up this opportunity. As you get to the end of the trail, which sidles around the foothills of Mt. Ngauruhoe, open fields and stream valleys come into view. Following lunch, slowly make your way up to Tama Saddle, where you’ll have the chance to make a side trip to the beautiful Tama Lakes (a must-do, as these are old craters left behind by explosion). From the lakes, the trail finally takes you on a gentle stroll back to the Whakapapa Village.

Fitness: Great for anyone with reasonable fitness. Explore the dramatic volcanic landscape of Tongariro National Park, with an optional steep climb to the summit of Mount Doom, made famous in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Pick Ups: From the local iSites (Information or Visitor Centres)

Duration: 3 or 4 days

Q&A:

How is this route different from the other Tongariro Crossing?

If you intend to go on a day hike with just a tiny glimpse of the park while sharing the trail with crowds of tourists taking thousands of photos of “Mt. Doom”, then the Tongariro Crossing is the more suitable track. As the hike can only be done in a few hours, the Tongariro Crossing is often taken by visitors short on time. On the other hand, because the Tongariro Circuit is longer, it lets you immerse yourself in the surroundings of the national park, escape from the crowds, and lets you feel the volcanic nature of the environment you’re in. A local, experienced guide who climbs these mountains throughout the year takes you up close and personal to the active volcano.

How did the Emerald Lakes come by with their colour? Is anyone allowed to swim in them?

Volcanic minerals are washed down and deposited in the lakes from the thermal areas above, creating the lakes’ mesmerising blue colour. The perfect circumstances that have to come together for this natural marvel to happen take place in only a few places on earth, but no other place of a similar nature has a hiking track beside it from where the lakes are best admired. No visitors or Bushmen are allowed by Bushman Tours to swim in the lake.

Is this volcano safe?

By its very nature, no volcano can ever be safe. This volcano, however, is studied by scientists for research purposes and monitored daily by the Department of Conservation. To ensure our visitors’ safety, we keep up to date with the volcano’s daily situation to the run up of our booked trips. We will let you know if the volcano is deemed too volatile. However, visitors are welcome to this majestic mountain’s footsteps every day. We appreciate your respect when you arrive.

Tongariro Circuit Altitude Map

Cancellations:

  • Cancel 7 days before your trip for a full refund
  • Cancel within 72 hours will result in a 25% deposit taken
  • Cancel within 24 hours will result in full payment taken.

Tongariro Circuit Guided Walk

Tongariro Circuit Guided Walk

Tongariro Circuit Guided Walk

Tongariro Circuit Guided Walk

Itinerary

Open All
Day 1Whakapapa Village to Mangatepopo HutAbout 8.5 km, 3 hrs hiking

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.

Day 2Mangatepopo Hut to Oturere Hut via Emerald LakesAbout 12.8 km, 5 hrs hiking

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.

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.

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.

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.

Day 3Oturere Hut to Waihohonu HutAbout 7.5 km, 3 hrs hiking

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.

Side trip to Ohinepango Springs

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; 1 hour return from Waihohonu Hut.

Side trip to Historic Waihohonu Hut

20 min return from Waihohonu Hut or 10 min return from the Tongariro Northern Circuit Track, the historic Waihohonu Hut was 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.

Day 4Waihohonu Hut to Whakapapa VillageAbout 14.3 km, 5 hrs hiking

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 to Tama Lakes

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.

Cost per person 2019-20 Season

Three Days

  • Single: NZ$1,290
  • 2 people: NZ$820
  • 3 people: NZ$665
  • Child: NZ$600

Four Days

  • Single: NZ$1,400
  • 2 people: NZ$899
  • 3 people: NZ$740
  • Child: NZ$655

Itinerary

Open All
Day 1Whakapapa Village to Mangatepopo HutAbout 8.5 km, 3 hrs hiking

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.

Day 2Mangatepopo Hut to Oturere Hut via Emerald LakesAbout 12.8 km, 5 hrs hiking

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.

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.

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.

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.

Day 3Oturere Hut to Waihohonu HutAbout 7.5 km, 3 hrs hiking

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.

Side trip to Ohinepango Springs

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; 1 hour return from Waihohonu Hut.

Side trip to Historic Waihohonu Hut

20 min return from Waihohonu Hut or 10 min return from the Tongariro Northern Circuit Track, the historic Waihohonu Hut was 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.

Day 4Waihohonu Hut to Whakapapa VillageAbout 14.3 km, 5 hrs hiking

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 to Tama Lakes

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.

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