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The best day hike in New Zealand: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Classed as one of the best day hikes in the world, and most certainly the best in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a ‘must do’ if you are reasonably active and want to see some of the best landscapes that New Zealand has to offer.

I completed the hike in November 2016 after having had it on my bucket list for a good few years. The scenes were absolutely incredible and whilst the walk itself was rather challenging, it was worth every second and every fall onto my bum. I spent half my day on it.

If you’re thinking about taking on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, check out my complete guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing here. That will assist you with preparation and successful (comfortable) completion of the track.

But if you’d just like to see the photos, get a little inspiration or see what the route entails, you’re in the right place…

Here’s my Tongariro Alpine Crossing route & photo diary…

Typical completion time: 7-9 hours

Distance: 19.4km

Start: Mangatepopo Valley

End: Ketetahi Road

Additional Extensions (you leave the track and then return back to it):

  • Mt.Ngauruhoe aka Mt. Doom (6km return, 2287m above ground)
  • Mt. Tongariro (3km return, 1967m above ground)

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing (even without the extensions) gets pretty challenging at points and it was definitely harder than I first anticipated. Here’s a little breakdown of what you encounter along the route and the time I completed it in.

  • Stage 1: Mangatepopo to Soda Springs

Time started: 7.10am

The hike starts with a pretty easy path along the boardwalks with, already, some spectacular views thrown in.

  • Stage 2: Soda Springs to South Crater

Time started: 8.10am.

It’s time to get down to business with the Devil’s Staircase (staircase of death!)

  • Additional challenge: Begin the Mt. Ngauruhoe summit.

Time started: 8.50am

When the bus driver said it was a dangerous climb I dismissed it, only later to find, she was not kidding. At all. Watch my video here. Yup, I fell on my bum around 15 times.

  • Reach the Summit of Mt. Ngauruhoe.

Time check: 10.25am

Enjoy the views (we had a snack at the top and recovered for about an hour), capture your incredible surroundings and prepare for the way down. The hard work is far from over! We had a 25-minute recovery at the bottom too, to empty shoes and get a snack.

A Complete Guide To The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog

Putting Tongariro on your bucket list, but you’ve never hiked before? Check out my beginner’s guide to hiking here.

  • A Complete Guide To The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog
  • Stage 3: South Crater to the base of Red Crater Ridge

Time started: 12.25pm

  • Stage 4: Red Crater Ridge

Time started: 1.35pm

This is the steepest part of the original track. Winds can get strong so don’t veer off the path or near the edge. Take caution and make sure you have the correct footwear to assist you. Check out my guide to the Tongariro Crossing here.

A Complete Guide To The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog
  • Additional challenge: Summit Mt. Tongariro.

You most likely won’t have the time or energy to do this and Mt. Nhauruhoe, so pick between the two. This one is easier, but still leave 3 hours to return.

  • Stage 5: Red Crater to Emerald Lakes

Time started: 2pm

The scree is similar to that on Mt Ngauruhoe: footing is easily lost and very challenging. Another point: walking boots are appreciated. Shop mine here.

A Complete Guide To The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog
  • Stage 6: Emerald lakes to Blue Lake

Time started: 2.15pm

A Complete Guide To The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog
  • Stage 7: Blue Lake to finish!

Time started: 2.30pm

Don’t get too excited. There are still 3 hours of walking to do! In an hour you’ll pass Ketekahi Shelter where there are some toilets and then it’s time for the never ending path…

  • Finish line!

Completion time: 4.50pm

We completed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing route, with the addition of Mount. Doom, in just under 10 hours!

Safe to say we had a big dinner and beer to celebrate a truly epic day!

Watch my Tongariro Alpine Crossing adventure come to life here…

Have you taken on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

What did you think? I’d love to know!

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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The best day hike in New Zealand: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The best day hike in New Zealand: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
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IT’S LOVELY TO MEET YOU

I’M MOLLIE AND I STARTED THIS BLOG BACK IN 2013 WHEN I HEADED OUT ON MY FIRST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE. I’D LOVE TO SHARE MY STORY WITH YOU…

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