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Tongariro Northern Circuit - Great Walk of New Zealand

The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a stunning alpine walk which encircles Mount Ngauruhoe, an active volcano in Tongariro National Park.

* From late October to April, explore the volcanic heart of Tongariro National Park, a landscape of stark glacial contrasts and alpine views. From May to late October, it can be cold and wet, with ice, snow, avalanches and short daylight hours - only go if you have navigation and alpine skills. *

From the desert-like plateau, through alpine herb fields and lush forests to tranquil alpine lakes, the Tongariro Northern Circuit showcases just about everything that the Central North Island's wilderness can offer. 

Over the four-day journey you’ll travel through a landscape of stark contrasts, with phenomenal views completely unique to this dual UNESCO World Heritage site. Meandering by Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngāuruhoe, you will be struck by the volcanic landscapes, gaining a close-up view of New Zealand's geological and formative history. Within view of parts of the track is Lake Taupō to the north, the Kaimanawa mountain range to the east, and on a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Taranaki, regally marking the western edge of the North Island.

Staying in huts on the way, the Tongariro Northern Circuit can be walked over two to four days in either direction. The track is well marked and signposted, but some sections may be steep, rough or muddy. For inexperienced hikers, you can easily employ the services of an experienced guide, they can let you know of the pitfalls of the track and give valuable local insight into the historical and natural features of the area.

Walking options 

You have the flexibility to traverse the Tongariro Northern Circuit in either direction. Most trampers opt for either a 4-day/3-night journey or a slightly shorter 3-day/2-night excursion. Exceptionally fit individuals may complete the circuit in just 2 days/1 night, albeit each day demands at least 8 hours of walking.

For those intending to run the circuit in a single day, we suggest utilising the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track. Visitors holding a reservation for a hut or campsite along the Tongariro Northern Circuit need not make an additional booking for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track.

Please be aware: ascending the summits of Mounts Ngāuruhoe and Tongariro is considered disrespectful and unacceptable to Ngāti Tūwharetoa, the iwi who bestowed these sacred peaks upon Aotearoa New Zealand.

If you prefer a day hike option, walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing might be a good idea. It offers breathtaking rugged views of the area and can be completed in one day. Tongariro Crossing shuttles listed here allow you to get there with no hassle.

Walking the Tongariro Northern Circuit

Day 1, Whakapapa Village > Mangatepopo Hut, 8.5 km

Beginning 100 metres below the Whakapapa Village Information Centre, today's walk is all about quaint stream beds, volcanic views and ancient lava flows. For the final hour the track skirts around an old steam vent before reaching the Mangatepopo Valley track and the hut soon after.

Day 2, Mangatepopo Hut > Emerald Lakes > Oturere Hut, 12.8 km

Today's steep climb rewards with spectacular views of the Central Plateau as well as the Blue and Emerald Lakes, which fill explosion pits. Their brilliant, otherworldly colour is caused by volcanic minerals washing down from thermal areas. From here, the track descends into the Oturere Valley, where you'll find tonight's hut.

Day 3, Oturere Hut > Waihohonu Hut, 7.5km

After leaving the hut the track runs through a number of stream valleys and pretty open fields. You'll sidle around the foothills of Mount Ngauruhoe before walking through a valley of beech trees and then arriving at the Waihohonu Hut.

Day 4, Waihohonu Hut > Whakapapa Village, 14.3km

The track today gradually climbs to Tama Saddle, where there is a beautiful side trip to the stunning Tama Lakes, two old explosion craters. Whakapapa Village is around two hours walk from here. After the first hour the track intersects with the Taranaki Falls loop walk - follow the track to the bottom to see the waterfall before following the stream to reach the village.

For more information about the trail sections and to book your huts, check out the Department of Conservation's website.

Accommodation options

Three huts equipped with nearby campsites are available along the Tongariro Northern Circuit. Reservations are essential, particularly during the Great Walks season. Camping within 500m of this track is prohibited. These huts feature bunks, mattresses, heating, toilets, basic gas cooking facilities, solar-powered lighting, and cold running water. A Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger is stationed at each hut. Please note that the huts do not offer food, cooking utensils, or showers.

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