A Guide to Tongariro Alpine National Park

In this blog I’ll highlight a few things to do and the best places to go from Taupo. If you didn’t know already, the area surrounding Taupo is where the majority of the Lord of The Rings trilogy was filmed in Tongariro National Park.

The Tongariro Crossing, Mount Doom, and Hobbiton are REAL places that you can visit and experience, and it is so freakin’ cool and worth the trek!

Hiking the Tongariro Crossing

The Tongariro Crossing has been labeled as the world’s greatest single day hike, one of which you’ll experience astonishing views of the volcanic peaks and the emerald and blue lakes.

The drive to Tongariro National Park is about an hour around the lake from Taupo. Any drive you take in New Zealand has breathtaking views and lots of places to stop and have a picnic or pit stop along the way.

The full Tongariro Crossing hike is 12 miles in total (point to point) and takes you up 750 meters in elevation gain with 360 views of Mt. Doom and Mt. Ruapehu, followed by a steep descent down to the thermal pools. On the way down from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, there are multiple warnings that you are in an active volcano territory and to not leave the trail.

The full hike takes anywhere between 5-8 hours depending on fitness levels, and is marked as a “strenuous” hike in terms of difficulty level. It is a point to point hike so a little effort is needed to arrange transportation to either the start or finish of the hike.

A few things to note…

One end of the Tongariro Crossing is at the Mangatepopo car park on the west side of the mountains and the other end is at Ketetahi car park, north of the mountains. For less time climbing, start from the Mangatepopo car park and end at Ketetahi.

In summer, between October and May, a four-hour time restriction is in place at the Mangatepopo Road end, meaning you will need to use one of the shuttle services if you are doing the full hike. Try to avoid the weekends, and wear layers because the weather is unpredictable!

If you want less of a trek, there are a few other ways to spend an afternoon in Tongariro National Park. These destinations are amazing if you have less time and want less intensive hiking options, but still want to see the park!

Taranaki Falls – Roundtrip this hike is 3 km out and back to the waterfall. The loop takes about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on how fast you’re walking.
To note, there is little to no shade for the first half of the hike if you start on the upper trail, so where a hat and sunscreen and bring plenty of water.

You can sit at the top of the falls, or walk to the bottom and jump in the water if you dare! It’s pretty chilly, but feels amazing on a hot day.
Take the lower trail back to finish the loop and you’ll end back in the car park in about 45 minutes.

Gollum’s Pool – This isn’t as much of a hike as it is a walk. It takes about 15 minutes to get from the car park to the pool, but it is definitely worth the stop.

There is a crystal blue waterfall and green pool cascading down the rocks. You can jump in the pool if you wish, and even have a picnic by the falls!


On your drive back to Taupo, stop off in Hobbiton. It’s a little pricey as it’s an obvious tourist trap, but it makes for some pretty cool memories (and pictures.) The main thing to know is that you cannot just waltz in to Hobbiton on your own; you have to book a tour and follow a Hobbiton guide through the set.

Prices range from $48-125 USD depending on which tour you book with and when you book it (low or high season). The ticket fee includes the bus trip, entrance into Hobbiton, a two hour guided tour through the shire, and a free pint at the Green Dragon. The tour should take around 45 minutes, then you can wander around on your own after your pint of beer.

It’s about 45 minutes out of the way if you’re coming from Tongariro Park, so plan to be back in Taupo later in the afternoon as it’ll take you about an hour and a half to drive back into town.

Jump in Lake Taupo

This lake is the largest lake in all of New Zealand, and much to my surprise – it was the warmest! Perhaps its because of its location; nestled in the middle of the north island. The temperature was absolutely perfect after a day of hiking in Tongariro National Park.

You can bike along the lake front, or park in the parking lot with your car. We were lucky enough to be staying right beside a more private entrance to the lake on Rainbow Drive, so it was just a three minute walk from our doorstep!


The Traveling Yogi

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