Hiking Tongariro National Park
Hiking Tongariro National Park was a spectacular addition to our 4 month long bicycle tour of New Zealand. We had ridden from Auckland, all the way around the Coromandel Peninsula before heading inland to Lake Taupo. From Taupo, we planned to cycle around the East Cape.
Mt Ruapehu, at 9,176′ is the most active and the highest in the park as well as on North Island New Zealand. It last erupted in September of 2007.
Mt Ngauruhoe was the next highest at 7,516′. The last eruption was in 1977. One can make a side trip of an additional 3 hours and hike a rather strenuous trail-less route to the summit.
Mt Tongariro is the smallest of the three volcanoes (far right in the photo)but historically is a giant in Maori tradition. The Tongariro Crossing passes over the flank of this volcano. Hikers also summit this volcano.
The Tongariro Crossing is the most popular route for hiking Tongariro National Park. Approximately 70,000 trekkers a year follow this route! Tour companies, especially in Taupo, provide shuttle service to the trail head at Mangatepopo Valley and pick up at Ketetahi Road.It is an arduous day hike, about 7 to 8 hours, with several steep climbing sections.
The trail starts out relatively flat across a great expanse of grassland. Since all the tour buses tend to arrive at the same time, it can be a zoo. We found, however, that many folks darted off as fast as they could hoping, we guess, to stay in front of the crowds. We hung back and soon enjoyed the trail to ourselves!
A steep winding, rocky path with steep steps (devil’s staircase) leads up to another plateau about 650′ higher in elevation.
The grasses have disappeared; old lava flows have smothered their ability to grow.
We are crossing what is known as South Crater.
From Red Crater, the trail drops precipitously down a loose scree slope to Central Basin.
This was perhaps our favorite part of the hike.
The Emerald Lakes glistened below.
The decidedly different colored Blue Lake was clearly visible on the next plateau.
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