Tongariro National Park – New Zealand’s first, and the world’s fourth, national park – encompasses several of the North Island’s largest active volcanoes, including Mounts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. The majestic Mount Ngauruhoe is perhaps the most easily recognisable with its distinct conical features, while neighbouring Mount Ruapehu is the largest skiing and snowboarding area in New Zealand, home to the Whakapapa and Turoa ski resorts. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are several excellent hiking trails in Tongariro National Park including the four-day Tongariro Northern Circuit, the six-day Round the Mountain and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, widely considered New Zealand’s best one-day walk. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverses a spectacular volcanic setting of craters, lava flows and thermal lakes.
Several companies operate transport to and from the trailhead from Taupo, Turangi, Ohakune and National Park Village, making the Tongariro Alpine Crossing a popular day trip. The park also has some good shorter walks from Whakapapa village as well as the climb to Mount Ngauruhoe’s summit.
In April 2008, tragedy hit when a group of students and a teacher were swept away by a flash flood while canyoning in Tongariro National Park. Six students and one teacher were killed.
Coming and going
Although both Taupo and Turangi make good bases for visiting Tongariro National Park, the smaller towns of National Park and Whakapapa Village are more convenient alternatives. National Park is on the rail line between Auckland and Wellington and is also a stop for long-distance coach services. There are shuttle buses connecting National Park and Whakapapa Village.
Several hostels in Taupo organise transport to and from Tongariro National Park specifically aimed at day-trippers hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Hiking is the main attraction at Tongariro National Park. There is a wide selection of walks that range from an easy 15-minute stroll to demanding multi-day treks.