Experiencing the Tongariro Crossing with Walking Legends

No trip of the North Island is complete without ascending the spectacular Tongariro Crossing, and there is no better way to experience it than with one of Walking Legend’s guided tours.  As one of The New Zealand’s Great Walks, this spectacular hike has been described as one of the world's best one-day walks.  

The Tongariro Crossing is a 19km hike of moderate difficulty which takes walkers through spectacular scenery with impressive natural features and full of colour.Correctly called the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, it’s situated in the central part of the North Island within the 796 square kilometre Tongariro National Park. The area has been awarded World Heritage status not only for its natural wonders which include steaming vents, old lava flows, water filled craters and breath-taking views, but also for its cultural significance.

Emerald Lakes 

The world-renowned Emerald Lakes (Photo credit Walking Legends)

For visitors looking to get the most from their crossing, a local, specialist guide is definitely the best way to go. Rob and Hilary are two of the most experienced local guides and have been offering custom New Zealand hiking tours through their company Walking Legends since 2003. Their insight and knowledge of the area greatly enhance the journey and they can tailor the trip to meet the needs of any visitor. Also, because Walking Legends provides each party with their own private guide, visitors can complete the crossing at their own pace and know that they won’t hold others up or be slowed down.

The Tongariro Crossing adventure starts in the glacial valley, Mangatepopo, at 1120-meters (3670-feet) which climbs up to the Red Crater, which is the highest point of the journey at 1886-meters (6188-feet). From here visitors are rewarded with magnificent views of breath-taking rock formations and amazingly brilliant coloured lakes. Around this active rim walkers can appreciate a range of mellow hues through red, yellow, brown and black caused by the high temperature oxidation of the iron in the rocks.

During the descent stunning views are offered of the vibrant coloured Emerald Lakes, each of which has a slightly different hue of green depending upon the concentration of minerals dissolved in it.  Ngarotopounamu, meaning greenstone-hued lakes is the Maori name. Further down the trail is the Blue Lake, formed in an old lava vent and 16-meters deep. In Maori it is called Te Wai-whakaata-o-te-Rangihiroa, which translates as Rangihiroa’s mirror. The son of Pakaurangi, a local chief, Te Rangihiroa explored the Tongariro volcanoes in around 1750 AD and to the Maori people this lake is considered Tapu, meaning sacred.

 Tongariro National Park

The colourful volcanic landscape of the Tongariro National Park (Photo credit Walking Legends)

Descending further, the tour passes by the Te Maari Craters where walkers can appreciate the yellowish rocks which were expelled during the explosions of 2012 as well as the many impact craters. At 1400-meters visitors can view the impressive sight of jets of super-heated steam being expelled from the Ketatahi Springs which have produced a myriad of colours in the surrounding rocks. The walk comes to an end on the northern side of Mount Tongariro.

The best time to visit the area is during the summer, from December to March, but due to the quickly changing climate in the area it is preferable to allow a couple of days leeway for the trek so the guides can choose the best moment to depart. Walking Legends provide transport from the National Park area and provide everything visitors need including a delicious lunch and snacks, celebration drinks at the end, raincoats, walking sticks and daypacks, trail map. Stout walking boots are a must as the terrain is rugged with sharp stones and loose scree.

Walking Legends also offers a superb range of longer multi-day hikes through the Tongariro area and other guided hikes of New Zealand’s Great Walks around Lake Waikaremoana and the Coromandel Peninsula. Visitors wishing to experience any of these great tours should hire a rental car in Auckland and start exploring.