Tongariro Northern Circuit

  • Walking
  • Circular Track (Loop)

Explore the volcanic heart of Tongariro National Park, a landscape of stark glacial contrasts and alpine views. 

  • Journey through dramatic (and active!) volcanic landscapes, glacial valleys, native beech forest, alpine meadows and emerald coloured lakes
  • This path winds its way past Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe
  • Explore a World Heritage Area of natural and cultural significance

Highlights

Discover what you'll see on the Tongariro Northern Circuit.

Spectacular volcanic landscapes

The Tongariro Northern Circuit winds its way around the active volcanoes Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, showcasing the spectacular volcanic terrain of the central North Island.

The walk passes through unique and stunning landscapes, including active volcanic craters, brilliant blue lakes, and glacial valleys.

Sweeping views around the North Island

The central and high altitude location of the Tongariro Northern Circuit is in a prime position for sweeping views around the central North Island.

In addition to panoramas of the volcanoes and the surrounding countryside, you can see beautiful Lake Taupo to the north, the rugged Kaimanawa ranges to the east, and even as far as Mount Taranaki on the west coast!

A land of strong contrasts

Side by side you can see chaotic, barren lava flows, winter snowfields, thermal steaming and active craters. From alpine herb fields to forests, from tranquil lakes to desert-like plateau, this walk is a place of extremes and surprises.

Interesting plants and birds

The plants in the area vary considerably, from alpine herbs to thick swathes of tussocks and flax; from the hardy, low-growing shrubs of the Rangipo gravel-field to dense beech forests. A diverse range of beautiful and unique alpine flowers abound in the spring and summer months. 

This is the perfect habitat for a variety of New Zealand’s native birds. In forested areas you may see bellbird/korimako, tui, robin/toutouwai, tomtit/miromiro, fantail/piwakawaka, and maybe New Zealand's smallest bird the rifleman/titipounamu.

You might be lucky enough to spot blue duck/whio in a stream, and in open terrain areas you may see pipits, skylarks, the rarer karearea/falcon or kaka, and even some wayward seagulls who live in the area in summer!

A range of walking options

A range of trips can be planned around the circuit, suitable for the whole family. You can do day trips, overnight trips or a three-four day walk around the complete circuit.

The Tongariro National Park is easy to get to from around the North Island. The Tongariro Northern Circuit is easily accessible from four trailheads, with Whakapapa Village being the main entrance and exit point.

Description

Walking options

Full circuit

You can walk the full circuit in either direction. Most people take 3 or 4 days, with 2 or 3 overnight stays. Very fit people can walk it in 2 days, but each day is at least 8 hours.

The time it takes you to walk between huts may be less or more than the stated time. Your fitness level and weather conditions affect how long it takes.

Shorter options

There are a range of shorter walking opportunities, suitable for the whole family and for those with less time available. You can do a walk of a few hours or a whole day, or an overnight stay in one of the huts or campsites.

Places to stay

There are three huts, with campsites close by, on the The Tongariro Northern Circuit: Mangatepopo, Oturere and Waihohonu.

Ketetahi hut and campsite are no longer available for accommodation following damage in the August 2012 volcanic eruption.

Huts and campsites must be booked in advance in the Great Walks season. Outside the Great Walks season, it is first come, first served.

Camping is not allowed within 500 metres of the Tongariro Northern Circuit Track.

Conditions:

Seasonal restrictions

In the Great Walks season (19 October 2018 - 30 April 2019):

  • Bookings are required for huts and campsites
  • Huts have gas cooking stoves and resident wardens

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 18 October 2018):

  • Facilities are greatly reduced
  • Avalanche risk exists
  • Experience is required
  • Bookings are not required – huts and campsites are first come, first served

How to get here

The Tongariro Northern Circuit is easy to get to by private car or public transport. Whakapapa Village is the start and finish point for the Circuit.

Public transport options

There is one bus services and one train service that runs on alternate days that stop  in National Park Village, on route between Auckland and Wellington and 15 km from Whakapapa Village. Local shuttle services are available for transfers to Whakapapa Village. Contact the Whakapapa i-Site on +64 07 892 3075  for all your transport and accommodation needs or refer to our list of Commercial operators for Tongariro National Park.

Track access points

Whakapapa Village

There are overnight parking areas available in the village. Visit the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre for directions to these areas and to receive a free parking permit. It is approximately a 3 hour walk to Mangatepopo Hut, or a 5-6 hour walk to Waihohonu Hut. 

Mangatepopo Road

A 4-hour parking restriction is in place at the Mangatepopo road end throughout the Great Walk season. Visit the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre for a free parking permit or have your booking ticket available for the traffic management team to sight. From the parking area at the end of Mangatepopo road, it is approximately a 30 minute walk to Mangatepopo Hut.

Ketetahi Road

Parking is limited at the Ketetahi road end and is based on a first in first serve basis. From the parking area at the end of Ketetahi Road, you walk on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track. It is approximately a 2-3 hour walk to Ketetahi shelter (not available for accommodation). From there it is a further 3 hours to Oturere Hut, or 4-5 hours to Mangatepopo Hut.

The track begins by climbing through podocarp forest, then continues up the tussock-covered slopes of Mount Tongariro. This section of track goes through the active volcanic hazard zone. There are great views from the track of the steaming volcanic vents at Te Maari craters, the Ketetahi thermal area, and evidence of the 2012 volcanic eruptions.

Desert Road (SH1)

There is a parking area just off the Desert Road, 35 km south of Turangi. It takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes to walk to Waihohonu Hut.

From the highway, the track crosses tussock and shrubland. Much of the vegetation near the first part of the track was destroyed or damaged during a large fire in November 1988. Although recovering well, blackened stems and branches can still be seen.

The track, built upon volcanic material, is fragile and easily eroded. The track enters shady beech forest near the Ohinepango Stream, part of Te Mako Bush.

Past the stream the track re-enters tussock and shrubland where there are good views of Ruapehu. Just before the hut the track joins the Round the Mountain Track. The Waihohonu Hut is a 10 minute walk from this junction.

Round the Mountain Track

The Tongariro Northern Circuit connects with the Round the Mountain Track at two points - Whakapapa Village and Waihohonu Hut.

Vehicle security

When leaving your vehicle at track entrance parking areas, take valuable items with you and lock your vehicle. Alternatively, there are parking areas at Whakapapa Village and local towns, and transport is easy to arrange to and from the tracks.

Map of Track

Mountain Safety Council Plan My Trip
Page last updated: Sep 8, 2020, 3:42 PM