Located in the North Island of New Zealand, Tongariro Alpine Crossing is dubbed the greatest one day hike/walk in the world! And it is truly so! This spectacular alpine crossing involves so many different terrains, it takes in volcanoes, crater lakes, alpine desert, forest, waterfalls, and hot springs all in a day’s walk!
The walk starts from the Mangatepopo car park, crossing a tussock-grass plain to the Mangatepopo Hut.
The trail then climbs gradually through the valley across old lava flows.
From Soda Springs, it is a grinding climb up through volcanic rock, but after an hour you reach the top with fabulous views back down to the valley.
The trail then continues across the flat South Crater. This high desert is flanked by the glorious red-tipped cone of Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom as the other name) on the right and the craggy ridge of Mt. Tongariro on the left.
After crossing South Crater, the trail climbs up to the ridge and then gets steeper between the two craters.
The trail traverses the lip of the Red Crater, the highest point of the walk at 1,886m (6,188 feet), with views stretching forever.
It then plunges down through loose scoria to the superb Emerald Lakes, which glisten and steam. The most challenging part for me during the whole trail was this super steep and slippery slope down the scoria (loose volcanic rocks)! It is more challenging mentally than physically. I find it is harder than the climb itself! I was very nervous going down as it was so slippery…
The nervousness made my body stiffer, which caused the muscles to tense up. I could feel the pressure on my knees due to this! I slipped once but thankfully it was almost like a bed of sand although rougher.
The trail continues across the floor of the desertlike Central Crater, where we stopped to have our lunch. Our lunch spot reminded me so much of Death Valley National Park!
Past the blue lake, it is all downhill on the sheltered side of the mountains, where mosses, shrubs, and other stunted plants begin to appear.
The trail winds leisurely (according to NatGeo guide book but still so much pressure on the already tired legs, knees and the blistered toes!) around the hillside, the panorama of far-off Lake Rotoaira and the lowlands a constant companion.
The trail then switchbacks down to ketetahi Hut. Then suddenly the trail leads to a rainforest like area. Definitely a lush surprise after the desert!
I seriously thought I got lost. I got separated from our tour group as I went ahead without stopping for toilet breaks. I was so worried that I took the wrong track and kept thinking if I missed any signs because the terrain changed completely. There were not many people in the forest too when compared to the amount of people I see along the trail thus far.
I could not see what lies ahead in the forest…I can only kept walking, crossing all my fingers and toes and hoping I am on the right path! And the track seems endless!
I kept looking for people and when I found a few and noticed their shoes were muddy too, I felt a little better but still worried. And finally when I heard car doors opening and closing, I was filled with joy and HUGE relief that I made it!!! YAYYY!!!
I am so grateful to experience this hike and for the amazing weather! It was sunny, not so cold yet and most importantly the sky was so clear. The magnificent views of Mt. Ngauruhoe along the hike, Red Crater at the top and also Emerald Lakes and Blue Lake were the reward only possible by the clear sky! Thank God!
I sped through the last downhill of the trail in the forest as my toes were screaming! Two of them were bruised and two were blistered. I loved the challenges presented throughout this hike!
Despite all the pain endured, all of us finished with huge smiles and a sense of achievement and gratitude! We cheered to some drinks before driving back to our hotel.
I must salute to all the other ladies in the group! They’re absolute champs! I was the youngest in the group and my stamina is not even as strong as some of them. They are still so strong and healthy to finish the Alpine Crossing!! I hope that I can be this healthy when I am their age!
For dinner, all of us limped to the cafe. We looked so ridiculous not being able to walk properly especially up and down the stairs. We could not stop laughing at one another. It was truly an unforgettable experience!
Have you been to New Zealand? I’d love to hear your experiences! Leave your comments below. If you haven’t, I hope this post would encourage you to explore this beautiful country.
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Camera: All photos were taken using an iPhone X.
Post-processing: Adobe Lightroom Classic Mobile Version.