The Tongariro Northern Circuit winds its way around the active volcanoes Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, showcasing the spectacular volcanic terrain of the central North Island.
The walk passes through unique and stunning landscapes, including active volcanic craters, brilliant blue lakes, and glacial valleys. The sweeping views around the North Island, this is a prime position because of its high altitude. If you are a big fan of high altitudes and a sucker for good landscapes, Tongaririo Northern Circuit will tick all the boxes for you.
In addition to the beautiful landscapes, you can witness Lake Taupo to the north, the rugged Kaimanawa ranges to the east, even as far as Mount Taranaki on the west coast. Additionally, there are interesting plants and birds that emphasize the core element of nature. With its diverse range of plants and landscapes, the element of nature is seen through Tongaririo Northern Circuit. Expect to get out of breath and be mesmerised by the stunning views.
Even so, this is the perfect habitat for many of New Zealand’s native birds. For instance, you will find robin / toutouwai, fantail /piwakawaka and many exotic animals. For some, it is the first time you will come across the diversity of flora and fauna.
Overall, this location is perfect for families and loved ones as there are a range of walking options available. Besides one-day trips, you can also do overnight trips or three-four day walks around the complete circuit. Make sure you book the early on in the year to avoid fully booked seasons!
Photography by La Vacanza Travel
How to get there?
In many multi-day hiking posts, there are typically various starting positions.
For the Tongariro Northern Circuit, the starting point is called Whakapapa Village which is located roughly 100km from the southwest of Taupo, the biggest nearby city. Despite being relatively nearby from a city, you should stock up on necessities and supplies that you will need for the trail. Whilst it is certainly possible that you get to stop by somewhere close for food, this is not assured. Hence, it is best to stay prepared and ready for your adventure.
If you are coming by your own transportation, you can park your vehicles somewhere in Whakapapa village. Make sure you lock your vehicles safely and ensure that you do not leave any valuable items in your car. Know that you are leaving your car in that spot for a few days, hence, it is better to leave your valuables at home. Though New Zealand is considered a relatively safe and secure spot, you shouldn’t take advantage of this. Occasional car robberies do happen, especially on trailheads for major, and some minor, hikes. In this case, make sure you stay safe and be prepared for any consequences.
How to make a reservation for the Tongariro Northern Circuit
So you might be wondering, do you have to make a reservation for the Tongariro Northern Circuit? The answer is, perhaps.
Well, to start off, there are three main backcountry huts offering basic accommodation along the Northern Circuit: Mangatepopo, Oturere and Waihohonu. You are also welcome and encouraged to bring your own tents and camps at the designated spots near the huts. If you prefer something more personalised, bringing your own tents and camps at your designated spots will be recommended.
As a matter of fact, campsites are typically a lot cheaper and you will be able to avoid snorers in the hut (there is usually always one), but unfortunately you are only limited to using the toilets. You will not be able to use any other hut facilities which might be a problem for some people. Hence, this should be taken into consideration when figuring out the accommodation situation. Besides, you may have to bring your own cooking stove and gas if you choose to stay at a campsite rather than the hut facilities.
Whether you pick the campsite or hut option, you will still have to make bookings. This can be available via the DOC website. The reservation system for the upcoming seasons usually open around June and the spots are gone within the first few days. Be sure to stay in touch with the latest dates and to make your reservations as soon as it opens! In the case that you have not secured your spot in time, you can always hunt for cancellations as they do occur on a regular basis.
The huts usually cost around NZ$36 per person per night whilst the campsites are far cheaper, costing just around NZ$15 pp/pn. In the low seasons, bookings are not required as there are many spots available for a lower price. Even so, make sure you come prepared and bookings are still highly encouraged.
Photography by Broadening Perspectives Adventures
How many days do you need to complete the Tongariro Northern Circuit?
Usually the hike takes around 2-3 days in total. If you have lots of time to soak in the scenery you could easily add an extra day and stay in all 3 huts along the trail. We would highly recommend you to explore all the three different hikes and take a pitstop at all of the hikes just to explore the nooks and crannies of the Tongariro Northern Circuit.
If you prefer shorter hikes, it is also possible to do it in 2 days 1 night, stopping only at the Oturere hut or campsite. In this case, we would highly recommend shortening your first day and park your vehicle at the Mangetepopo car park. This makes it a lot easier to pave your way to the hiking site and will help optimise your time hiking. Besides that, you can also shuttle from the Whakapapa village to Mangatepopo carpark - this will reduce the time taken to walk / hike from your desired location and will make your first day even more fruitful!
Huts on the Tongariro Northern Circuit
In terms of the huts located on the Tongariro Northern Circuit, you are able to enjoy their many facilities such as gas stoves, wood fires and toilet paper. They are mostly in high standard with Waihohonu being particularly modern.
In short, there are three main huts located on Tongariro Northern Circuit. If you are an advanced hiker, I would highly suggest exploring all the three main huts as they are subjected to their own features.
- Waihohonu Hut
Waihohunu Hut is large with two separate wings for bunk rooms. The best part about Waihohonu hut is that it has a very large communal area with an outdoor area that is ideal for picnic.
Also, it has gas stoves and toilets supplied with toilet paper, but they are separate from the main building. Overall, it is an excellent option for families and people who wish to have an adventure in one of these huts.
- Mangatepopo Hut
This hut is very similar to the first hut. We only stopped briefly, hence, we do not have much comments about this spot. But overall, from what we’ve seen so far it has a decent size and looks relatively new. There are no communal spaces in this hut. Also, it has decent facilities that you would expect such as the gas stove and toilet papers.
More tips, the toilet is located a bit further from the hut. So that might be a slight problem for some. But in most cases, this hut acts as an ideal option if you are vacationing with family members or closed ones. If you prefer a more intimate and enclosed space, this hut will fit you just right.
- Oturere Hut
Located in the shadow of Mount Ngauruhoe and next to a waterfall, this hut is an excellent place to be. During warmer seasons, you should get up before sunrise because the view is simply remarkable. The sunset is truly one of the best we’ve seen in awhile.
This hut is specially recommended if you prefer a more cozy snuggle - which means this pretty small in space. Besides, cooking can be a very cramped affair, meaning you will have to share most of your space with other people.
Also, most of the spots in this hut is communal, which means that you will have to share the kitchen and communal area. If you are looking for an intimate snuggle, this may not be the ideal spot as you will be sharing most of the spaces with another family / individual. However, it can be a blessing as you will meet more people during your hike! To make it even more convincing, Oturere Hut has gas stoves. So even in cold and more climate weathers, you will have a cosy evening / morning.
Photography by First Light Travel
Tongariro Northern Circuit Weather & Safety
Generally, we’ve seen many comments about the Tongariro Northern Circuit having one of the craziest weathers. While it is true to some extent, this is usually not always the case.
For us, we had the privilege of hiking in some of the best seasons - but it is entirely common to have gale force winds, extreme temperature drops and snow. This makes it harder to hike. If you are planning to hike this trail, I would highly suggest paying close attention to the weather forecasts. Make sure you check the weather to pack accordingly.
What To Pack
So the next question is, what do you pack?
- Hiking backpack (waterproof)
A hiking bag is perfect to store your valuable items such as your dry clothes, electronics and others. To ensure your dry-wet bag is sealed watertight, fold down the roll top closure at least three times. When you are going for any water sport activities - kayaking, paddling, surfing, or even camping - a waterproof hiking backpack is ideal to prevent your valuable items from getting wet.
- Sleeping mat
This inflatable push sleeping mat is innovative and creative in sight. It offers comfortable cushioning and it is certainly a good choice in terms of accessibility and weight. We’ve given you the basics, now its time to decide where you’re hiking and what you need.
Photography by Best Products
Where to stay before and after the Tongariro Northern Circuit
Another question is where you can stay in the Tongariro Northern Circuit. There are many recommendations, but our pick is the one closest to the trail head. This is the most convenient option.
- Our Pick - Chateau Tongariro
So our best pick is Chateau Tongariro. You can’t miss this beautiful spot as it is located right at the starting and finishing point of the hike. This is the perfect place to rest up before and after your hike. You will also be served some delicious dishes.
- Budget - Oasis Motel
This one is a budget friendly option. This is the perfect place so far if you are looking into resting your aching legs from the hike. The rooms are comfortable and with its budget-friendly option, nothing much will go wrong. Besides that, it is relatively close to the start and end points of the hike as well. As a result, you won’t have to take a long time walking.
- Kopu Cottage Airbnb, Turangi
This Airbnb is one of the prime options for your staycation. It has a great value for what it's worth. The space is also extremely comfortable and large, with a tweak of modern design. The kitchen also had everything we needed. Overall, a great place for a short stay.
Photography by Flickr
Overall, this hidden north island multi-day hike is one of the golden adventures you will get in your lifetime.
While most people talk about South Island’s multi-day hike places, you should explore the hiking spots in the North Island as it is often underrated.
Make sure to book your spot in this hiking place and read our review to make sure you pack well and have a good adventure ahead. We highly recommend this place and hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.
Last tips, pack light and have a good time!