When we first started planning our trip to New Zealand we planned on spending the entire trip in the South Island, aside from flying in and out of Auckland. Then we learned about the Tongariro Crossing. After reading about the hike we decided to switch our plans up a bit and spend a few days in the North Island doing the day hike and exploring Rotorua and Taupo. Before going I read a few blog posts to really get an idea for how in shape you had to be and what kind of weather I should be prepared for (always terrified of being cold!). Now that we’ve completed the hike, it’s time to pass on our experience and knowledge.

The hike is a crossing, meaning you start from one side and hike to the other. You can start from either side but I recommend parking at the Ketetahi Car Park and then taking the shuttle to the other side of the mountain – instead of starting the hike on the same side that you parked – so that when you finish the hike you can head straight to you car and leave as soon as you’d like instead of waiting for the shuttle to take you back to where you parked. The car park usually fills up rather early but there are additional parking lots and plenty of people parked along the road as well. We used Tongariro Crossing Shuttles and everything worked out fine.

So how long did it really take?

First off, we’re both in good shape – we work out 5-6 times a week and hike throughout the year. I’m sure there are plenty of people in better shape than we were and many who were worse off, so the amount of time it’ll take you is definitely dependent on your level of fitness as well as the amount of times you to stop to take photos, eat, and just take in the amazing scenery. Here was our schedule that day:

4:45am: Wake up in Taupo, get ready, grab our backpacks, and head out a little after 5am.

6:10am: Arrive at the carpark. See a shuttle bus loading up and jump on without checking in. NOT what you are supposed to do.

6:25am: Our shuttle is full so we leave a few minutes early. Our shuttle was stopped on the way due to the fact that we never checked in and are not accounted for, but thankfully since we were registered and paid for they just had to confirm us and we were on our way again.

7am: Start the hike. It’s a Saturday and in the middle of Christmas and New Years so there are A LOT of people. The hike takes approximately 6 hours. That includes many stops for photos, a bathroom break, a full sit down and enjoy a sandwich stop, and hiking about 14 miles. I know the hike says 19.4km which translates into 12 miles, but both of our GPS were closer to 14 miles by the end. Part of that probably had to do with parking at that farther car park which adds some extra steps to your day!

2:30pm: By mid-afternoon we were back in Taupo and spent the afternoon soothing our muscles in the jacuzzi and enjoying a sunny summer day in New Zealand.

What do I wear?

We did this hike spack dab in the middle of summer and it was cold. And hot. Windy. Sunny. So be prepared. I’m also always cold until I’m hot take my advice with a grain of salt. Here’s what I wore throughout the day:

  • Salomon Hiking Shoe – you don’t need crazy hiking boots for this hike but I like to have a designated hiking shoe versus just using tennis shoes. This hike could be done in tennis shoes if that’s all you had (and assuming you aren’t doing this when there is snow on the ground).
  • Lululemon Crop Leggings – Lululemon makes my favorite go-to workout pants but the bottom line is, I’d recommend some pants. People were wearing shorts but the majority of the time we were hiking I was colder than I was hot and I never felt like I needed to be wearing shorts (of course, check the weather!)
  • A workout tank – again, whatever your favorite workout tank is – it did get warm enough at some points for me to go sleeveless!
  • A long sleeve shirt – whether it’s a smartwool base layer or a Nike workout top, you’ll want some layers. I actually had on two long sleeve shirts for part of the hike!
  • A mid-layer jacket or fleece. I wore this North Face jacket and it was perfect. If you wear something without a hood I recommend bringing a warm hat – the wind got brutal at times and I was happy for the hood and warm ears!
  • Lightweight wool socks – Potentially not necessary, but since I was wearing cropped Lulus, it was nice to be able to pull up the socks so that my legs were fully covered.
  • A baseball/trucker hat. This is obviously a preference thing, but it was a very sunny day when we hiked and the sun is brutal in New Zealand – just another way to protect your face!

What do I bring?

Snacks. Water. Camera. And a backpack to carry it all. It’s really that simple. The hike isn’t technical at all so no need for fancy equipment, although some people were using trekking poles which I’m sure might be nice on some parts of the hike.

Other than that I’d just bring your favorite hiking snacks – anything to give you the energy to keep on going! Energy bars (Quest Bars and ONE Bars are our favorites), trail mix, and jerky all work for us. I also brought a sandwich which I devoured halfway through the hike (Toby didn’t need his until after we finished!).

Water-wise I had a 2L camelback and Toby had 3L and that was plenty for us – especially since it wasn’t too warm of a day.

Last but not least, a camera! (or your phone!). There are so many cool shots to take during the hike (as you’re probably noticing in this blog) plus of course just having the record that you completed it! Pictures or it didn’t happen, right?

And if you’re looking for a new daypack to take on these types of hikes, we like the REI Flash 22 Pack.

If you’re planning on hiking the trail any other time of year than smack dab in the middle of summer you may be in for some colder temperatures and definitely some snow depending on the time of year – so make sure to check the weather before you go! Happy Hiking!

To learn more about our 12 days in New Zealand, click here.

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I've had a love for writing pretty much since I learned to write. My love for travel grew once I visited Europe in High School, lived in Italy in college, and really took off after a trip to Bali in 2009. Since then I've made it a goal to visit at least one country per year - sometimes a challenging feat when you have limited vacation time, income, and you want to see your family on the other side of the country. But, I've made it happen (in 2015 I visited 5 new countries!) so hopefully I can inspire you to get out there and travel too!