Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Emerald Lake

Location: Tongariro National Park, Northern Island, New Zealand

Highest Altitude: 1300m (4265 ft)

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Trek Distance: 19.4KM

Trek Time: 1 Day

Have you ever trekked in an active volcanic region? If not, you must not miss the Alpine crossing at Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. It is the most scenic part of the Northern circuit trek. It is also regarded as one of the most beautiful day treks in NZ. The trail discloses some of the most vibrant landscapes in the world with active volcanos, emerald lakes and red crater. Here is my guide to this incredible trek in Northern island of New Zealand. 

How To Get There

The nearest town from where you can plan this trek is Taupo. Taupo is a small town located 93 km from Tangoriro national park. It will take you around an hour to reach the Mangatepopo parking lot, where the trek begins. 

You can book your transport through hostels you are staying in or walk to the nearest i-Site office (Tourist information centre) or DOC (Department of conservation). The offices will contact the authorised shuttle operators for your booking. No matter where you book, the prices are uniform.   

Shuttle service picks you up from your hostel at around 5 AM.   They would drop you at the trek start point. There are multiple pickups between 2PM -4:30PM from the end point of the trail. At the time of return, you can board any of the buses available from the respective operator.

Trek Details

Mt Ngauruhoe

Alpine crossing is part of the Northen circuit, a 43 km trek which is normally covered in 3-4 days. Those who do not have enough time to do the entire stretch, prefer to do the most scenic part of this trek – Alpine Crossing. It is a 19.4km long trail and takes you anywhere from 6.5 to 8 hours to finish. Here are some of the main points about the trek – 

Start Point – Mangatepopo Car Park

End point - Ketetahi Car Park

Distance – 19.4 km

Time – 6.5- 8 Hrs (If you do not climb the peaks)

Difficulty – Moderate to Difficult (Some steep climbs)

Camping – Allowed

Toilet Facilities - At the beginning and end of the trail 

Winter Trek - The trail is covered in snow during winter (May-October). Trekking is allowed with proper gears. 

The Route


The first stretch of the trek (Mangatepopo to Soda springs) is moderately difficult and is a long walk by the mountains. There are three peaks with active volcano - Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. If you intended to trek these then you may have to plan extra time so as to be back before the last bus leaves Ketetahi car park. You can also choose to camp and explore the peaks at leisure. 

From Soda springs continue your trek till South Crater which involves some steep climb. Here take a steep descent to reach the emerald lakes. Emerald lakes is the highlight of this trek. 

From South crater, follow the trail to Red crater. This involves a steep climb. The trail goes around the crater and you can get some great views. 

Red Crater

From Red Crater, you make your way up to the Blue lake. This is a good place to stop for lunch. Enjoy the pristine setting while you eat your packed lunch. 

The rest of the trek (Blue lake to Ketetahi Car Park) is moderately difficult and involves gradual descent. Enjoy the sight of the volcanic terrain and more steam vents as you descend.

Things To Carry

A good shoe is a must for this trek. The terrain is rocky and mostly dry. You can choose to carry a trekking pole. Make sure to carry a lot of water and some food for the day. Wear light clothes and take care of protecting yourself from the sun. There isn't a single tree on this route, so carry sunscreen, sunglasses and a cap. If you plan to hike during winter (May-Oct) carry necessary gears to trek in snow. 

You can also choose to carry your camping gears if you intend to stay there overnight.  

My Experience 

I trekked Alpine crossing in Decemebr 2016. I teamed up with a German traveller friend at my hostel in Taupo. We left hostel at  around 5AM. As we reached the start point, to be honest, I was a bit worried looking at the steam vents all around me. The fact that I was trekking in an active volcanic zone hit me then. However, the moment you get off the bus and see tons of people doing this hike, your fear will be replaced with an excitement and you can't wait to begin this adventure. 

We began our trek at around 7:10 AM. We did not rush. We did not do any peaks either and hence we had plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of this diverse landscape. We spent a lot of time at the Emerald lake and Blue lake. The initial climb can be a bit challenging but the descent was smooth and easy. We reached the end point of the trail at around 3:40PM. It took us 7.5 hours to complete this trek. Seasoned trekkers can do it within 7 hours. You can find a detailed report on my experience in my personal blog.

My Film On Tongariro Alpine Crossing - 

For more information checkout the official site for Tongariro Alpine Crossing. 


  1. Magnifique reportage avec des photos qui nous entraînent à la rêverie sauvage...
    Gros bisous

    1. Merci Martine Alison. C'était une experience incroyable!


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