Tongariro – The track across Middle Earth

Tongariro – The track across Middle Earth

Last update: 9 January 2021

Nhauruhoe featured as the terrifying Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. Although it is often referred to as a seperate mountain, it is actually one of the many cones of the vast Tongariro complex. With its 45 degree slopes and perfect triangular shape, Nhauruhoe is the most distinctive volcano-shaped volcano in the area – outshined only by Taranaki.

Tongariro and Mount Nhauruhoe, North Island, New Zealand
Mount Nhauruhoe in Tongariro National Park.

Tongariro Crossing

The Tongariro Crossing is a spectacular day walk in New Zealand. It crosses 20 kilometres of steaming and colourful volcanic terrain from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi.

Volcanic unrest in Middle Earth

But when I was there early 2013, the northern part of the track was closed due to Tongariro’s unrest and upheaval. The Te Maari craters near the Ketetahi end were still belching out fumes & smoke after their eruptions over the previous months in 2012. So it was only possible to do half the track. From Mangatepopo to the Red Crater and the Green and Emerald Lakes, and return the same way.

Mount Nhauruhoe, Lord of the Rings, Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
The perfectly volcano-shaped Mount Nhauruhoe.

Green and Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
Green & Emerald Lakes – the end of the track during the volcanic unrest early 2013.

Mount Nhauruhoe, Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
Mount Nhauruhoe and its colourful crater.

Giant Red Crater

At nearly 1900 metres, the Red Crater is the highest point of the route. When I approached it, I heard several excited exclamations coming from people further up the track. Once I reached the crater’s edge, I could see why. A stupendous gap laid in front of me, vividly coloured in all shades of red, with several ejection vents on the side and rocks & lava bombs scattered all around. It was so huge that the shouts of awe and surprise people were letting out when they saw it actually echoed off its walls.

Red Crater, Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
The stupendous Red Crater, triggering resonating exlamations of awe by all who gazed upon it.

Te Maari craters, Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
The fuming & smoking Te Maari craters, on the Ketetahi side of the track.

How to get to Tongariro National Park

Several shuttle companies offer transfers from National Park Village, Okahune, Raetihi and surrounding villages, as well as the major town of Taupo further away. Since 2017 there is a 4-hour parking restriction at both Mangatepopo and Ketetahi ends of the track. This allows enough time for short walks in the area. But if you want to do the full day Tongariro Crossing, you will need to book a shuttle. Another option is a one-way morning shuttle from Ketetahi to Mangatepopo. You can park at a private car park near the end of the track, and take a shuttle from there to the start.

Tongariro Crossing map

This handy interactive map shows the locations in the pictures above and around Tongariro National Park. You can also click on the icons, and zoom in for more details of the walking track itself.

Do you have a question or a comment? Please share them in the comment box at the bottom of this page. Other readers can also benefit from your feedback and the extra information in my reply. Thank you for sharing 💚 Follow the Wilderness Coffee & Natural High page on Facebook and Instagram for more stories, inspiration and updates.

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

Mountains & Volcanoes – Tongariro & Nhauruhoe, New Zealand

This post was originally published as NaturePic Challenge: a series of pictures of epic nature and places that will induce a natural high 😉

Covid travel restrictions New Zealand

In these uncertain times, things can change quickly. Procedures are constantly evaluated and updated. For the current situation regarding Covid-19 related travel advice and restrictions in New Zealand, see

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