Tongariro National Park is oldest national park in New Zealand and is a both a natural and cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site. We loved this park for its three active volcanos, Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe (also known as Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings). The Northern Circuit, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, is located in the National Park and takes about 3-5 days to complete. We opted to camp in Whakapapa Village and complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (the most scenic part of the Northern Circuit) and a hike to Taranaki Falls.
TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING
This hike is nearly 20 km, and goes up and over the Tongariro saddle and around the base of Mt. Doom. The terrain is a volcanic wasteland, which is the perfect setting for Mordor; however, on a sunny day, the colored volcanic sediments, lakes, and steam vents make it incredibly beautiful. We were amazed at just how vibrant the minerals in the rocks and water made this place, dispite the extreme lack of plant and animal life. The most recent eruption of Mt. Tongariro occurred in 2012, and active volcanic features can be found everywhere you look.
This is a 6.4 km walk that can be accessed from Whakapapa Village. It takes you through lush grasslands, beech forests, to a lovely waterfall, and provides some excellent views of the park’s mountains.