Thinking about attempting the 19.4 km Tongariro Crossing on your next trip to New Zealand? Access to the Tongariro Crossing is free, but you’ll need to have a shuttle to drop you at one end and pick you up from the other side. Shuttles start at $20 and often you’ll need to pay the driver in cash.
In good conditions, the hike can take anywhere from about 5 hours if you’re really hoofing it, to 8 hours if you meander and stop to breathe on the tricky ascents in the first third of the trip. Budget even more time if you’re attempting to reach the additional peaks. I’d take my next vacation in Iraq before I tried hiking this trek in the winter, but braver folks have done it.
With three active volcanoes in the area, Tongariro’s terrain ranges from sold lava flows to loose minerals and rocks called tephra. From the top of Red Crater down to Emerald Lakes, the soil was loose and filled with volcanic rocks of varying sizes, and combined with an incredibly steep grade, the best I could do was to bend my knees and enjoy the ride!