Guest Post: Easy Hiking New Zealand
With our new series, we are asking adventure travellers to tell us what their favourite easy hiking trail is and why. And no one is more appropriate to kick it off than THE Adventure Couple themselves, Dave and Deb of ThePlanetD who identified their favourite as the Tongariro Crossing in this guest post.
The Tongariro Crossing
Located near Taupo, the North Island’s main town for adventure, the Tongariro Crossing is known as one of the best one-day hikes in the world and it lives up to its reputation.
We caught our $20 NZ transport to the start of the trail at Mangatepopo. Busses run daily and you must arrange pick up on the other side of the trail at the Ketetahi hut some 18km later.
The day starts in the Mangatepopo Valley and is a leisurely walk on a well-marked path. A raised boardwalk takes you through the lowest part of the valley protecting you from the wetlands. It also protects the environment from any human disruption to the delicate mosses and lichens growing on the valley’s volcanic floor.
As the sun rises, you are treated to a gorgeous panoramic view of the volcanoes, Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings and Mount Tongariro. In the distance, the morning light ignites Mount Teranaki and the valley is aglow with the morning dew reflecting in the sun’s rays. It isn’t long before the trail becomes more difficult and you find yourself scrambling up a steep mountainside for a solid 45 minutes.
There are wooden stairways to help with the climb but the steps are steep and you will feel the burn in your thighs. Nearing the top there is a shorter scramble over loose rocks and scree where you will finally find yourself standing on the saddle between the two mountains. Here is the crossroads of the trail and is an excellent spot to stop for a snack or refreshment before moving on.
You may feel that you have finished this challenging hike but the day has only just begun. At this point you are only 2-3 hours into your scenic 7-8 hour trek. You will hear other hikers discussing whether or not to extend their day trek and hike up to the Tongariro Summit at 1,976 metres. This adds 1½ – 2-hours to your day but it is a relatively easy hike. Just be sure to keep an eye on the time as the last bus picks up hikers at 5:30 pm.
Once you have caught your breath, the fun begins. A final push to the top of the red crater offers you a breathtaking 360º view of lakes, mountain and valleys below and the scenery only gets better from here. Once you begin your descent, the famous Emerald Lakes appear before you.
The rocks and gravel are very loose on this descent and you will find yourself having an easier time if you slide down like you are ice skating rather than trying to fumble your way down slowly looking for secure land. These lakes are like nothing you have ever seen.
Brilliant green pools lie along the craters edge caused by the minerals of the volcanic system, you will smell intense sulphur reminding you that you are indeed walking on an active volcano. With views of these emerald lakes, old lava flows, steaming vents rising from the mountain and deep craters throughout the hike, it is no wonder that the Tongariro Crossing is considered such a legendary trek.
The latter half of the Tongariro Crossing trip takes you past another lake and more mountains until you spend an hour descending into a giant valley. From the top of this valley you are treated to views of Mount Pihanga, Lake Rotoaira and Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake.
It is a seemingly endless descent before entering a forest path taking you past waterfalls and creek beds. By the time you reach the end of the trail, you are ready to end the day and enjoy a celebration of finishing one of the world’s best trails.
We were lucky enough to be tramping through the Tongariro Route with the Flying Kiwi, an adventure tour company in New Zealand. We had the luxury of having our bus waiting for us at the other end of the trail as opposed to having to wait for the scheduled shuttle buses.
When we emerged from the path, our smiling guide Vinnie welcomed us with our cold drinks tucked away in the cooler. It was a short rest in the car park before heading off to our next destination in the world’s greatest country for pure adventure – New Zealand.