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How to prepare for the rough terrain of NZ’s best day hike: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, voted New Zealand’s best day hike, is a backpacker favourite. Don’t be fooled, however! The terrain can be tricky and weather conditions can be unpredictable, which means you need to be prepared and pack wisely. Luckily for you, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to answer all of your questions and help you get the most out of your experience.

Located in the Tongariro National Park, this 19.4km trek across volcanic plateaus will bring you to magnificent craters and mesmerising emerald lakes. You’ll find it hard to believe you haven’t been transported to a different planet as you admire the mounds of volcanic rock, mountain springs and lava flows that surround you. 

Amazing views: magnificent craters and mesmerising emerald lakes

Whilst the Tongariro Alpine Crossing may be advertised as a day walk, it’s certainly not a walk in the park so get ready for an intense workout. It takes most people around 6/7 hours to complete (plenty of time to enjoy a lunch break and a few photo stops) but fitness fanatics might find 4/5 hours to be a more realistic goal. Either way, you’ll need to bring plenty of enthusiasm and determination!

What should I wear for the Tongariro Crossing?

The weather can change drastically on the crossing so it pays to be prepared for anything. Light and breathable clothes are best. You’ll always spot someone attempting to hike the Crossing in Vans or Converse-style shoes. Sprained ankles aren’t worth the fashion statement! Make sure to bring the following items,

  1. A good, waterproof coat that will keep you dry if it rains and warm when it’s windy.
  2. Layers, layers, layers.
  3. Hiking shoes or very sturdy trainers.
  4. A comfortable backpack.
    You’re going to need to carry food, water and other layers just to name a few things.
  5. Hat and sunglasses.
    The track is very exposed so make sure to protect yourself from those UV rays.
Be a smart traveller and wear the appropriate attire for this hike

What to bring to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

  1. A small/medium backpack with comfortable straps
  2. During the summer months it might be too hot to start the hike wearing your coat but don’t forget to pack one just in case the weather changes
  3. Sturdy, worn-in hiking boots or good quality sports trainers
  4. Gloves are a must in the cooler months but you’d be surprised how numb your fingers can get at high altitudes even in the summer!
  5. Good quality, thick hiking socks. The longer the better as they keep rocks and stones from creeping into your boots.
  6. Depending on what the weather is like when you start the hike, you may need to put on/remove layers.
  7. It’s useful to carry a phone just in case you need to call or message anyone in an emergency
  8. There are a million Instagram worthy moments on this hike, you’ll want to bring a camera to document the memories!
  9. A baseball cap in the summer and a beanie in the winter will protect your head from the elements
  10. Sunscreen is a must no matter what the season! The last thing you want is a burnt, peeling face the next day.
  11. No toilet paper is provided at the bathroom stops so we would highly recommend that you bring your own.
  12. Hiking is no fun if you’re squinting the whole time. Sunglasses are a must!
  13. Just like toilet paper, soap is not provided so if you want to freshen up after using the bathroom/before eating lunch then hand sanitiser is the perfect solution.
  14. There’s no doubt that you’ll work up an appetite on this hike, so pack a lunchbox filled with yummy food that is easy to eat (sandwiches, fruit, energy bars, chocolate, nuts etc.)
  15. Probably the most important thing you can pack: water. Bring at least 1.5-3 litres so that you have enough to last the whole day if necessary.
Essential items to bring to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Optional extras to consider for Tongariro

How do I get to the Tongariro Crossing?

The Tongariro Crossing is not a loop track – it begins at the Mangatepopo car park and finishes at the Ketetahi car park. The start/endpoints are not within walking distance from any nearby towns so transport is needed.

Tongariro Crossing is not a loop track so plan ahead

If you’re on the Stray bus and plan on sticking to minimum time then you can ask your driver to book the Tongariro Crossing for you and your transport will be organised to and from Raetihi. The shuttle company we use is called Adrift and costs $50pp in the summer (price will increase during the winter as a guide is required).

If you are driving to the crossing then please be aware that there are now fines in place for long-term parking at the Mangatepopo car park. It’s best to park at the Ketetahi car park, catch a shuttle to the starting point at the Mangatepopo car park and then you can drive straight out when you finish.

Top tips for the Tongariro Crossing

Always respect the rules and please do not venture off the tracks.
Make sure you are prepared when starting the Tongariro Crossing hike
Follow the rules and stick to the trail
Enjoy every second of the Tongariro Crossing hike

Make the most of every second!

The most important piece of advice we can give you is the most cliche advice of all: Make the most of every second! The Tongariro Crossing is a truly spectacular hike with once-in-a-lifetime views. Now you’ve got all the important information you need to have an amazing day, it’s time to grab your gear, your friends and experience real-life Mordor for yourself.

Tongariro Crossing is a truly spectacular hike with once-in-a-lifetime views.
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