The Tongariro Alpine Crossing: the hike for active parents with kids!

Tongariro hike / Tongariro crossing! All the information about the walk!

Sometimes there are times on a trip when you want to do something for a while without your kids. For active parents, then, the Tongariro hike is one of the most beautiful hikes you can do in one day. For parents who do not want to be without the kids for a whole day, it is even possible to walk the tour in half a day. I (Joep) walked the trek and I really thought it was one of the highlights of our trip through New Zealand. In this blog we will give you all the information you need to walk this trail.

Best hike New Zealand north island

The Tongariro hike/ tongariro crossing

The hike is one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes. The hike is a 19.4-kilometer trek through Tongariro National Park. The hike starts at the Magatepopo parking lot and ends at the Ketetahi parking lot.

You can walk the trek in five to eight hours, and if the weather conditions are fine and you walk a little bit then the trek can really be walked in five hours. Personally, it took me about 5 hours untrained and I also stopped several times to take pictures and movies and to eat.

Still, you shouldn’t underestimate the hike, because you do rise and fall quite a bit in elevation (from 1150 meters to 1886 meters and then back to 750 meters elevation).

Tongariro hike
Tongariro hike

What do you see along the way?

You walk through an active volcanic area and the views along the way are stunning. Thus, you have views of Mount Ngauruhoe (2291m) and Mount Tongariro (1978m). Mount Ngauruhoe is also featured in the Lord Of The Rings films (Mount Doom).

In addition, you will walk past craters and have stunning views of the various colored crater lakes (Emerald Lakes).

The last part you walk through the forest and still have beautiful views of the landscape.

Tongariro hike
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What about transportation?

There are several organizations that organize transportation to the park. You can take a shuttle from Turangi, Taupo and the parking lots at the national park. For prices and further information, visit the website of Tongariro Expeditions .

Tip: Pay close attention to weather conditions beforehand! Weather conditions are very decisive as to whether the rental companies will run the buses. That can be frustrating at times. For example, when I was in Taupo, the tour was canceled several days in a row, even though the weather in Taupo was fine. In the end, we were already in Waitomo with our family when I was able to walk the trek. As a result, I had to drive almost three hours by car to get to the starting point. Keep an eye on the weather via metservice .

In the past, tourists have died who had gone hiking in bad weather anyway. By the way, you can walk the trail all year round, both summer and winter. Incidentally, there are also options to take the hike with a guide!

Tongariro hike

What does the route look like?

If you are going to walk, everyone gets a map with the route in advance.

Tongariro walk/ Tongariro crossing:

Part 1: from Mangatepopo to Soda Springs (Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours)

This part of the Tongariro hike to Soda Springs is very easy to walk. You already have a nice view of Mount Ngauruhoe. If weather conditions are fine and you walk a bit, you can walk this trail in less than an hour.

Part 2: From Soda Springs to South Crater. (Duration: 40 minutes to a 1 hour)

This is a tough climb uphill. The play is also called the devil’s staircase. Take occasional rests along the way and before you know it, you’ll be at South Crater. I myself think I walked this stretch in about 30 to 40 minutes.

Part 3: South Crater to Red Crater. (Duration: 1 hour)

The beginning of this section slopes slowly and is fine for walking. The last stretch to Red Crater is the most difficult part of the trek, as you have to climb quite a bit and there aren’t really any more trails. This is also the part where the wind can strike hard.

Some sections allow you to pull yourself up with a rope. For people who are afraid of heights, this section can be challenging. For this part, it is also kind of important that the weather conditions are right, otherwise you can get yourself into trouble.

So keep a close eye on the weather and turn around otherwise if the weather really turns. Generally, the organizations that bring you with the vans will also always keep a close eye on the weather conditions and if there are risks, the vans will also not leave and you will not be able to walk the trek.

Part 4 Red Crater to Blue Crater. (Duration: 30 minutes)

The hardest part is over and you now have, if all goes well, a beautiful view of the various lakes and now the descent over loose gravel begins. Some find this very scary and others not at all.

I took a little too much risk myself and went running for stretches, which caused me to slip and open my fingers on the sharp pebbles. It also didn’t help that I walked the hike on my sneakers instead of hiking boots.

From Emerald Lakes to Blue Lakes is flat again and is fine for hiking.

Part 5: Blue Lake to Ketetahi parking lot. (Duration: 3 hours)

A small climb, but that doesn’t amount to much. After that, it is mostly downhill on a simple trail. This is quite a boring stretch, so it’s best to walk that at pace. Over this last section, I think I walked for 1.5 hours, but I must say that I kept a very brisk pace while doing so.

After a little more than 5 hours, I was in the parking lot and had over three more hours to wait until I could return my rented jacket to the rental company. This was quite a bummer in retrospect, since I now had to wait quite a long time, so I could have returned to my family with my car much earlier. Still, I am glad I had rented a windproof jacket, since the part to Red Crater was quite cold and there was quite a strong wind.

Tongariro hike
Tongariro hike

Tongariro hike

Tongariro hike

What do you need for the Tongariro hike?

  • Good fitness is helpful.
  • Windproof jacket.
  • Hiking boots are not needed in summer when the weather is good. Then you can easily run it on sneakers. I asked the rental company if I needed shoes, but they themselves indicated that sneakers were sufficient. Many backpackers you see here walking on sneakers. Slippers I would not recommend. g
  • Food and drink. I carried some sandwiches, a roll of cookies and two bottles of water. That was enough for me.
  • Warm clothing. On the mountain it is a lot colder, than it is in Taupo, for example. About the temperatures in different places you can find information on this website but also, for example, at the Taupo tourist office.

In winter, you may then need additional gear such as irons under your shoes and a walking stick. Be sure to inquire really well about conditions for the day you want to go. top!

Tongariro Expeditions also rents gear so you don’t have to bring all kinds of gear from home for this one hike. I rented a windbreaker from this organization. They themselves did not think shoes were necessary and indicated that this could be fine on my sneakers.

So it is a great trek to walk, but you have to be lucky with the weather conditions. If you love hiking and want to take a day without your kids, then this trip can really be a highlight of your New Zealand trip.

Tongariro view New Zealand parents

Visiting the national park with kids

The described hike is too strenuous for kids, but there are opportunities to hike in this national park even with kids. For example, the shortest hike in the national park is 20 minutes and several hikes to different waterfalls are also described. For more information please click here .

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Tongariro hike
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