The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a 43.1-km hike that takes 3 or 4 days and can be walked in either direction.
There are camping spots by the stream or cold springs (to the north of Waihohonu Hut, not Ohinepango Springs, which are to the south) in Waihohonu Valley, and beside Upper Tama Lake (a bit hard to get to).
Part of the route can be walked in one day as part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Visitor information Edit
Get in Edit
See Tongariro National Park § Get in on how to get to Whakapapa Village, the starting and finishing point of the Northern Circuit.
If hitchhiking, the easiest way to the circuit is from the Desert Road (State Highway 1, the main Auckland-Wellington road), taking the track to Waihohonu Hut (1 to 2 hours). The start of the track is just south of the Rangipo Intake Road intersection, 30 km north of Waiouru (SH49 turnoff) and 22 km south of Rangipo (SH46 turnoff).
The Northern Circuit is a round trip that can be walked either way. The tour below describes the clockwise route starting in Whakapapa Village. There is a car park and a DOC visitor centre where information is available. There are other possible starting points from various road ends along the track.
Whakapapa Village to Mangatepopo Hut Edit
Day one, 3–5 hours, 8.5 km (5.3 mi).
Starting the track at the 1 Whakapapa Visitor Centre, it follows mainly the Whakapapa Track over eroded plains. It crosses many smaller river beds and can be fairly muddy during rain. On the right side the cone of the volcano 1 Mount Ngauruhoe is visible. The 1 Mangatepopo Hut is 5 minutes off the main track.
Mangatepopo Hut to Ketetahi Hut Edit
Day two, 5–6 hours, 9 km (5.6 mi).
This is the actual Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Starting gently up the Mangatepopo River Valley, it becomes a steep climb on magmatic rock. It continues through the South Crater up and over the side of 2 Red Crater and down to the Emerald Lakes. During the walk there are views of the active volcanic scenery, weather permitting. At the Emerald Lakes, named after their colour due to minerals from thermal area, the track joins the route to Oturere Hut (1 hour 30 minutes). After the lakes, the route passes Blue Lake before descending down to 2 Ketetahi Hut.
Ketetahi Hut to Waihohonu Hut Edit
Day three, 6–7 hours, 16.5 km (10.3 mi).
The day begins with a moderate climb back to Emerald Lakes then down a relatively steep descent to 3 Oturere Hut. One can see many abstractly formed lava formations on the way. Passing Oturere Hut the track fades into field of gravel lacking vegetation. The day finishes with a valley crossing and ascent through forest, then a descent to 4 Waihohonu Hut.
Waihohonu Hut to Whakapapa Edit
Day four, 5.5}–6 hours, 14 km (8.7 mi).
The track follows an old pack route beside Waihohonu Stream without much climbing. On the way there are side trips to the Lower and Upper Tama Lakes (20 minutes and 90 minutes return), formed by water filled volcanic craters. Just before Whakapapa the 3 Taranaki Falls form a five-minute detour from the main track.