Tongariro National Park is an adventure lover’s paradise, offering active volcanic valleys, incredible hikes and in winter, snow activities. And of course, the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
I only spent 2 days in this national park, with my main attraction being the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I did get to explore some beautiful waterfalls while I was there, but I recommend you spent 2-3 days in this national park. Especially if you plan on doing the crossing, as the extra day or 2 will give you some wiggle room in case there is bad weather.
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Where to stay in the National Park
If you are travelling in a campervan, I recommend staying at one of the DOC campsites in the national park. They have basic camping facilities but are also very close to hikes and the shuttle service for the crossing, leaving from National Park.
1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
This is New Zealand’s best day hike and is well worth doing. Along this track you will hike through volcanic valleys, lava flows, to craters and vivid crater lakes. This day hike is 19.4km long and will take you roughly 5-8hrs to complete.
Although I did not have the amazing experience and views you get along this hike, it was still incredibly beautiful is some spots. You can find out all the information you need to plan the hike and my experience here.
2. Hike to Taranaki Falls
This is an epic waterfall, and easily accessible. This hike is 6km return, leaving from the Whakapapa Village. It will take you roughly 2-3 hrs to complete, depending how many photos stops you get along the way.
Although my crossing experience didn’t go as planned, I was treated to the most incredible views along this hike. On a clear day you will get views of Mount Ruapehua and Mount Ngaruruhoe (which you may know as Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings).
The trail is well marked and flattish. There is one set of steep stairs which leads you to the waterfall. You can get up close with this waterfall, so much that you can feel the mist!
3. Mangawhero Falls
Another short walk from the car park. I unfortunately missed this one on my travels, but it is said to be stunning. This is also another one for the Lord of the Rings fans!
4. Short walk to Tawahi Falls
This walk will only take you about 10-15mins and is located on the road to the Whakapapa Village. The walk down to the falls is very easy and has two points where you can see the falls from above or below. The falls is a beautiful turquoise colour, offering some great photo opportunities. This is well worth doing as it won’t take you very long to complete!
5. Ski Down an active Volcano
If you are visiting in the winter months, Mt Ruapehu becomes a hub for skiing and snowboarding, with two large ski fields on the mountain.
6. Hike the Tongariro Circuit
This is a hike I would love to do one day! It’s one of New Zealand’s great hikes. It is a 42km loop, tracking through some of the best volcanic scenery of the national park. It includes to Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Tama Lakes, however you will also get to some secluded sections only this track follows.
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