When coming from Taupo/Turangi and travelling southwards to Tongariro NP, you will have the choice of driving along Desert Road, east of Tongariro. It has beautiful scenery and Mt. Ngaruhoe, Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ruapehu can be seen all the way and are wunderful sights.
During winter, however, this is NZ's most likely road to be closed down for traffic as heavy winds blow ice and snow from the mountains onto the street. There will be electronic signs saying wether Desert Road is open or not.
This one day mountain trek is very accessible to most able bodied people. A very popular walk, it's well worth the effort if the weather is somewhat "nice".
I'm holding the flag tight because it was so windy I nearly lost it!
Depending on your fitness, and the weather, oh and the density of trampers on the day, the walk can take anything from 6 - 10 hrs.
Average is 8 hours. I took 10 hours, being quite unfit, but able bodied. I took a LOT of time to stop and appreciate the view, taking plenty of photos. Of course this mean well earned rests for my legs which were suffering from shock having been put to extreme use without much warning!!
Remember this is a mountain and the weather can change rapidly, so take clothes, water and food for the worst conditions. People HAVE died on these mountains, not as one Aussie I met said when I quoted this, he replied "oh only in the movies"!! Get real! He was lucky and survived, and I was glad the weather cooperated for him.
You can read a more indepth coverage of this adventure here.
During our trip to the North Island, Sarah and I decided to take a day and visit all of the backdrops for the movie Lord of the Rings. Starting in the morning out at Hobbiton, we crossed the Plains of Gororoth and into Mordor!
Mordor is actually Tongariro National Park, and specifically the region near Whakapapa Village. We enjoyed our time here, although we were disappointed at how cloudy it was.... the nice part about the clouds however were that they left us a little snow to play around in!
Over all we had a great time in Tongariro, and would definitely recommend it!
During the summer months you can climb to the crater rim of Mt Ruapehu. Of course you can do this in the winter as well, however you need mountaineering experience.
But summer time it’s an ideal opportunity to get up on an active volcano, and see some amazing views. The crater lake is an unusual milky grey colour and is expected to collapse and empty some time over the next year or two. During the 1995 eruption the crater was “plugged” and the water has been building up gradually.
To see more photos on this climb, visit my Mt Ruapehu page.
Again, during summer, you can drive up most of the way, to Iwikau Village at the top of the Bruce Road, where you can leave your car. Then take the chairlift to Knoll Ridge, and it’s a walk from there. The route is NOT marked so it is essential you collect a map and make plans before you set out. From Iwikau, it’s about a 6 hr return trip using the chairlift, or add another 2 hrs if you walk all the way without using the lift.
Volcano enthusiasts love this mountain for it’s easy accessibility and during the 95 eruptions they actually had to put guards around to stop people who wanted to ski on an active volcano while it was erupting! Well the volcano is still active however eruptions are not expected. There are devices in place now to predict any irregular activity that may indicate another eruption.
To get to the Emerald Lakes you will need to take the Tongariro Crossing hiking route. The Emerald Lakes lie at the foot of Red Crater, a geothermically active area.
The best time to see the lakes is during the main walking season from December to March. It takes just over 3 hours to walk from Mangatepopo Hut to the Emerald Lakes. The lakes make a really nice setting for a lunch break.
If you are looking for a great place to ski on the North Island, then you could look no further than to Whakapapa Village in the middle of Tongariro National Park. It is the home to Mt. Ruapehu Ski Field.
Although neither Sarah nor I ski, we did go up and see that there was plenty of parking, plus transport from the chateaus and hotels located at the base of the mountain.
Everyone here looked like they were having a good time, but then again I do not know much about skiing!
Since it was cloudy, the best picture I could get of Mount Doom, better known as Mt. Ngauruhoe to the locals, or anyone not addicted to Lord of the Rings.
Sarah and I ventured past the normal picture making locations for Mount Ngauruhoe and onto the Whakapapa Village and headed into the Visitors Center, where they actually had a model of the entire park.
It would have been nice to see it live!
If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, then you will enjoy the drive from Lake Taupo to the heart of Tongariro National Park. Leaving from Turangi towards Whakapapa Village, take Highway 1 south to Highway 46 west!
For those of you that are a little more adventurous, you can also take a hike through the middle of these plains on a short or long hike. Sarah and I simply drove through this part, but maybe next time we will be a little more wild!
Is the tallest moutain on the North Island and is also home to a popular ski resort, opperating on both sides of the mountain.
The moutain has popular summit tours in the summer as well as moutianeering opportunities in the winter.
The the summit you can witness the crater lake as well as impecable views of the nearby Mt Ngaurahoe. On a clear day one can also see Mt Taranaki in the distance some 300 km away.
The moutain is also an active volcano and has erupted in recent years.
Mt Ruapehu is the home to Whakapapa and Turoa skifields (see the website link below for more information on skiing or snowboarding) which are the skiifields servicing the North Island population. Another great website to take a look at is www.ruapehunz.com which has loads of information on activities on and around the mountain year-round.
Mt Ruapehu is an active volcano which last erupted in 1995 disrupting the ski season. Other seismic activity, but less dramatic, occured also in 1997.
Ngauruhoe measures 2,291m (7515ft) tall and is still classified as an active volcano with over 61 eruptions since 1839. It is a beautifully shaped "classic" volcano. The cone is thought to be 2500 years old but is still being added to.
It is possible to climb Mt Ngauruhoe from the South Crater on the Tongariro Crossing. I had planned to do this but didn't in the end as I had overestimated my fitness!! The cone takes about 2 hours to acend and 30 minutes to come down. It is a scoria scree slope which means you take 2 steps up and 1 down.
Is a very popular and noticable landmark on the north island. It is the moutain which Peter Jackson used to portray "mt Doom" in his movie, "The Lord of the Rings".
Its best observed through the hiking in the region and most definately while partaking in the "Tongariro crossing".
The moutian is also easily summited (which good footwear and fitness level) in summer months
There is a large number of trails from easy to more difficult, from a short 15 minute walk to a day or more.
The most famous is Tongariro Crossing that takes several hours, 7 to 8.
On the way to Whakapapa Village there is for example Tawhai Falls, a mere 10-15 minutes away from the road. This fall appears on LOTR.
From Whakapapa there are several walks:
Ridge Track - about 30 min return
Silica Rapids - 2.5hours
Taranaki Falls - about 2 hours loop
Crater Lake - from the ski Area chair lift - a few hours, cut by a few if the lift is taken.
Guided Walks take reservations to Crater lake.
The day hike of Tongariro National Park was a highlight of my trip to New Zealand. I started in Taupo and took signed up for a bus which took me to the trail head early in the morning and picked me up in the afternoon at the end of the trail for $20. (December 2003) It a great service which I wished many other trails had.
The hike was often on loose volcanic soil and went from a light rain into snow as I rose in elevation. There were literally hundreds of people on this popular trail, so their was no sense of being alone with nature. It was often foggy and had limited visibility, but the sun broke through occasionally to give stunning views over emerald and blue lakes and the volcanic landscape. On the way down the trail often followed a cascading stream through a forest with one impressive waterfall.
Mt Tongariro is the third andesitic volcano in the Tongariro National Park and is 1968m above sea level. The last eruption on Mt Tongariro ocurred in 1926 from red crater. When we sat down for a rest in this area tbe ground was still warm which makes me think that the volcano is probably still active.
Most of the Tongariro Crossing is on Mt Tongariro. You will pass through the North and South Craters and the highest point is right next to Red Crater, which is amazing on a fine day. The Ketetahi Hut is located next to some Hot Springs. Unfortunately these are actually on private land so hikers are not able to access them but they do make for cool photos.