By Max W, 5th January 2017
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the Tongariro National Park is one of the most famous walks in all of New Zealand, not just because of the views but for the fact that you are walking on an active volcanic area.
Because the crossing is a tiring 7 to 8 hour walk with plenty of stopping for photographic opportunities, I have always started the crossing in the morning, the earlier the better. Often I stay at accommodation in Ohakune or National Park and once I have even left from Wellington in the early hours of the day before dawn.
Although I have always started the crossing on a fine sunny morning, the weather can change very quickly and once I was up at the summit of Red Crater (highest point of the crossing) with visibility reduced to only about 10 meters (32 feet).
The walk to Soda Springs from the Mangatepopo Road car park is fairly straightforward and easy, taking about 1 hour or so. From there you climb up steps, steps and more steps. Eventually you reach South Crater before climbing to the summit of Red Crater, which can be somewhat difficult in icy conditions. Reaching this point took me about 3 hours or so.
You can start the crossing from either the Mangatepopo Road parking area at the western end of the crossing which is the closest to the accommodation at Ohakune and National Park or from the northern end at the Ketetahi parking area, which is the closest car park to Taupo.
If you want to walk all the way through the entire crossing then there are plenty of transport providers to pick you up and return you to your vehicle at the other end or at your accommodation.
Near here I have taken some nice photos of Red Crater with Mount Ngauruhoe in the background. Just a short walk from here and the Emerald Lakes come into view. This is perhaps one of the finest views in the country with the magnificent-coloured Emerald Lakes and Blue Lake in the distance.
I always enjoy skidding down the scree (loose stony terrain) to the Emerald Lakes and getting photographs at lake level before walking across to Blue Lake. From here I almost always turn back to the Mangatepopo Road car park.