New Zealand

Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk

Quick Info

Tongariro Northern Circuit Map
  • 3 to 4 day hike
  • 4 large huts
  • true circuit starting and ending at Whakapapa village
  • moderate fitness required as track has numerous steep climbs
  • stunning alpine and volcanic scenery
  • incorporates 'the best one day hike' - Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • beware of changeable weather as the track is exposed

Huts and Times

StartDistance (kms)Time (hrs)EndBunksHut amenities
Whakapapa8.8 3 Mangatepopo Hut 23 Cooking and heating facilities
Mangatepopo Hut 7.6 5 Ketetahi Hut 26 Cooking and heating facilities
Ketetahi Hut 12.1 3 Oturere Hut 26 Cooking and heating facilities
Oturere Hut 6.2 2.5 Waihohonu Hut 29 Cooking and heating facilities
Waihohonu Hut 5.3 5.5 Whakapapa    

Tongariro Northern Circuit Options

  • 4 days start and end at Whakapapa village omitting Ketetahi Hut
  • 5 days start and end at Whakapapa village including Ketetahi Hut
  • 3 days start at Mangatepopo road-end and end at Whakapapa omitting Ketetahi Hut using the Tongariro Alpine Crossing transport to reach Mangatepopo road-end from Whakapapa village on the first day.

Walk Description

TNZ's account of the Tongariro Northern Circuit

The Tongariro Northern Circuit passes through scenery of outstanding beauty, with stunning views of the central volcanic range of the North Island. On the first day you will pass the Taranaki Falls and Pukekaikiore, one of the oldest vents in the area.

The second day between Mangatepopo and Ketetahi is also the Tongariro Alpine Crossing - be prepared to share the track with a large number of day hikers. The track passes by Soda Springs, a cold spring emerging from beneath an old lava flow. A steep climb takes you into the South Crater, from where there is an optional side trip to the summit of Mount Ngaruahoe.

From South Crater another steady climb leads to Red Crater, from where there are stunning views of the surrounding areas including Ngaruhoe. From here there is another side trip to the top of the Tongariro summit whilst the main track leads down a ridge to the Emerald Lakes.

At the lakes, the track splits, the northern route leading past Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut, whilst to the east lies the track to Oturere hut. A day can be saved by by-passing the Ketetahi Hut.

On descending from the volcanic area down to Oturere Hut there are amazing views of the Kaimanawa ranges and Rangipo desert. There is also a waterfall close to the hut.

The track between the Oturere and Waihohonu huts passes across streams and gravel areas whilst keeping the dominant Ngaruahoe off to the right.

On the last day the track from Waihohonu hut leads up to Tama Saddle. On reaching the saddle there is a worthwhile side trip to the Lower Tama Lake (10 minutes) and the Upper Tama Lake (1.5 hours). From the saddle the final destination of Whakapapa village is only two hours away. There is yet another side trip option along the way with an alternative route to the village passing by the Taranaki Falls.

More information about the Tongariro National Park.

How to get there

Whakapapa village is situated some eight kilometres off State Highway 47, at the end of SH 48. State Highway 47 connects the townships of National Park and Turangi with the latter on State Highway 1, the main route on the North Island. Turangi is 325 kilometres from Auckland and 321 kilometres from Wellington.

Accommodation is available at Whakapapa village, ranging in cost from the chateau to a DOC campsite. Turangi also has a good range of places to stay.

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