Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
My New Zealand bucket list housed “Walk the Tongariro Crossing” for over a year. I was sorely disappointed last year when my intended day to do the walk was cancelled due to the fact that I couldn’t get a shuttle in the snow. Since good things come to those who wait, the national park welcomed me this time around with a burning sky from the rising sun and beautiful weather all day long.
By recommendation we parked our car at the end carpark (Ketatahi) and took a shuttle to the starting point early in the morning so that we would have the freedom to spend as much time as we desired on the trail. We thought we would beat the crowd by taking the first available shuttle we could book the night before, which was at 7:30 am, but it turns out everyone else had the same idea. The start of the trail was lined with sporadic pairs, families, and solo walkers. We hoped to be on our own further down.
Hiking Mount Ngauruhoe
To set eyes on Mount Doom is a goal of most Lord of the Rings lovers, to climb it with one’s bare hands and booted feet is an honor. In addition to the crossing’s 19.4 kilometer one-way trek, hikers have the option to embark on a three hour round trip walk up Mount Ngauruhoe (2287 meters)—popularly known as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Halfway up the volcano we stopped for a quick sandwich and chance to take in the scenery before heading back down. It was the first time on the trek that I finally felt like we were alone.
The Emerald Lakes
Pictures of the Emerald Lakes are breathtaking and even they do not do this view justice. Just before reaching the lakes, we came to the highest point on the regular track of the trek. The downhill trail was littered with a mixture of people falling down—like myself—as well as those descending slowly and cautiously, and some even running carelessly. At this point I finally felt like we deserved to sit down for a long time, take a break and crack a beer. It may come as no surprise that descending down this trail provides some of the best photo opportunities on the entire 19.4km walk.
I could not pass up the chance to walk the circumference of each lake before nestling quietly beside one to enjoy the quiet and open up our sandwiches and, naturally, more beer.
The Final Stretch
After the Emerald Lakes lies a winding path of 10.4 kilometers to the Ketatahi carpark, where we parked our car. Though the distance is technically longer than the trek leading up to the lakes, the second half is quite an easy walk and a nice cool down because it’s almost entirely downhill. This is probably the best walk I have ever done to date.
What was your experience with the Tongariro Alpine Crossing? Do you have a favorite New Zealand hike?