How NOT to do the Tongariro Crossing

1. Have your husband pull his hamstring at rugby the week before. Nothing but pain can come from that.

2. Get lost driving to the shuttle pick up point and just about miss our ride. Bloody Aucklanders.

3. Fail to plan out a good lunch stop beforehand. Result: a teeth-chattering summit stop in freezing temperatures.

4. Forget that you have a terrible head for heights and that the ‘alpine’ part of the crossing does actually involve a mountain ascent. (Seriously, I always do this!)

Despite the mishaps, this was an epic experience from start to finish.

Hiking the Tongariro Crossing, April 2015

Tongariro Alpine crossing - NZ Muse

It all starts with a few kilometres of easy jaunts through fairly flat terrain in the Mangatepopo Valley. The sun is a scorcher, although as we wander in and out of sheltered valleys, the wind amps up to a pretty ferocious bite at times.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Mt Ngauruhoe


Why hello there, Mt Doom! (Mt Ngauruhoe, actually.) Those colours are REAL.


Tongariro Crossing - flat valley looks like Mars


Only a panorama could do this part justice. It was like an alien moonscape, down in a wide, barren flat.


Tongariro Alpine crossing - Mt Ngauruhoe

Clouds rolling in past the mountain peak. (No, we didn’t climb this one. It adds 3 hours to the trek and most definitely was beyond the ability of at least some of our group.)

Scrambling up the slippery earth and scoria slope toward the Red Crater summit did get slightly hairy; this is about the point when I remembered HEY I get dizzy at heights, and wind + fog only exacerbate that by infinity! It’s safe to say I didn’t really enjoy myself along this stretch.

This is also when it started to get seriously, seriously cold. We spotted a few slivers of ice along the ground up here.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Red Crater at summit

The Red Crater reveals itself at the summit. The colours, again, are out of this world.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Red Crater at summit

The sheer scale of it blew my mind. The enormity is humbling.

Then it was time to descend. Surprise #1: the big volcanic rock ridges were warm to the touch! Surprise #2: there was a whiff of that (un)lovely geothermal smell in the air. Surprise #3: those lakes!

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

The three Emerald Lakes are all slightly different colours, as you can see here: a deeper green, light green and a blue.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes


Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

You can see the wind rippling across the surface of the lakes.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock

Fog was a near constant companion through the second half of the hike.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock


T found it boring, but I was in my happy place. I love these muted reds, yellows, purples – volcanic, desert type landscapes are my absolute favourite in the world.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock

The very last stretch (not pictured) turns into what looks exactly like West Auckland bush.  Every single one of us felt this part was neverending – it just seemed to go on and on forever! It felt like someone should be at the end to greet us with medals once we emerged into the carpark (or at least hand out Milo and cookies).

We lucked out with great visibility and no rain. I can absolutely see why this hike gained its reputation as the best one-day hike in NZ.

9 thoughts on “How NOT to do the Tongariro Crossing

  • Reply Clarisse @ RFI May 12, 2015 at 10:43

    The pictures are really great! I really love that The Red Crater too!

  • Reply Rhonda Albom May 12, 2015 at 20:45

    Reading this I realize I have never seen photos of the Tongariro crossing before. I had no idea so much of it was so barren, but those lakes and the red crater are magnificent. Hope your hubby’s hamstring has recovered.

  • Reply Leigh May 13, 2015 at 02:09

    So beautiful! We drove around it on our way to Wellington. Thank you for sharing your pictures!

  • Reply Mama Herself May 15, 2015 at 10:00

    OK, I have a confession to make. I have never had an urge to visit New Zealand, even after the extended advert for the place that was the Lord of the Rings.

    Until now. I take it back. I clearly haven’t been paying attention. Phenomenal landscape. Blast. I have no budget for a jaunt to New Zealand.

  • Reply Adelina May 15, 2015 at 11:25

    Wow! How beautiful! I love the colours of those lakes! I wouldn’t mind doing this one day.

  • Reply Catherine May 16, 2015 at 08:53

    Despite the mishaps it sounds like you had a great time! It must be such an amazing experience being up there surrounded by mountains!

  • Reply Laia | colibrist May 16, 2015 at 09:21

    I did this crossing last month and found it absolutelt stunning! I was also quite lucky with the weather: cold and a bit foggy, but no rain 🙂
    And I agree… The last part in the bush forest feels never ending! 🙂

  • Reply SJ May 17, 2015 at 03:42

    So glad to read your blog again… but I was feeling sick as I read it. I too get sick and those heights. Great read… from down here 😛

  • Reply Untemplater May 20, 2015 at 11:02

    WOW! I’m glad you guys made it there despite those hiccups. Your pics are amazing. I love to hike and be outdoors so I have now added this to one of my wish list to-dos for when I get a chance to visit NZ. My favorite pic is the one of those lakes. Incredible colors!! Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *