The Tongariro National Park is a true paradise for walkers, trampers, and nature appreciators alike. It is home to the mountains of Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, the great mountains of the central North Island’s volcanic plateau. You can walk through stunning alpine landscape shaped by lava flows.
Mt Ruapehu offers the largest ski fields in New Zealand during winter, but in summer it takes on an incredible moon like landscape. Travel on the Sky Waka gondola to New Zealand’s highest eateries, The Knoll Ridge Chalet, located at approx 2010 metres with impressive views, then explore the area at your own leisure. The multi-storey eatery features something for everyone, from a quick grab and go snack to a brand new menu of contemporary cuisine, all overlooking the wonder that is Tongariro National Park.
Popular Walks Include:
- Lake Rotopounamu, 2 hour loop
- Meads Wall, 30 min return
- Mounds Walk, 20 min return
- Ridge Track, 40 min return
- Skyline,1 1/2 hour return
- Silica Rapids,3 hour return
- Tawhai Falls, 20 min return
- Tama Lakes, 6 hour return
- Taranaki Falls, 2 hour loop
- Taurewa Track, 3 hour loop
- Tupapakurua Falls Track, 5 hour return
- Whakapapa Nature Walk, 15 min loop
- Whakapapaiti Valley, 5 hours one way
- Whakapapanui Walk, 2 hour return
- Northern Circuit, 3 day loop
- Round the Mountain, 6 day loop
Pukeonake on the Volcanic Plateau
Described elsewhere as “a gentle walk to the top of Pukeonake suitable for families with children aged 6 up”, the gentleness – and time taken (30-60 minutes) – depends on whether, water has scoured sections out of the track, or caused slips.
To get there, go north on SH 4 and turn right onto SH 47. Turn off at Mangatepopo Rd (which is where the Tongariro Crossing starts) and stop on the right, about 50 m short of the road-end carpark. Behind the barren space (unmarked) where you park your car, the rather rough and wild track leads you towards your goal – Pukeonake. Keep your eyes open for where the walk track veers uphill to your left, as track damage can make this section easy to miss.
At 1225 m, Pukeonake is the Plateau’s lowest crater. Overlooking the flat lands to the west, it’s a small scoria cone – just a baby at the edge of the Plateau. After less than an hour’s walk to the top, you will be overlooked by Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. These giants are still active volcanoes; little Pukeonake is inactive but has its own magic.
Its broad shallow crater holds myriads of tiny plant life – native and exotic – and is a great place to linger and eat your lunch while you admire the three big volcanoes on one side and the flatter landforms on the other.
Ohinetonga Track at Owhango
This is variously described as a 2-3 hour loop walk, a 2-hour walk, and a 1.5 hour walk. The 3-hour option allows plenty of time for photography, lunch, dips in the chilly river pools, and generally enjoying the area. And if you think you’ve found beautiful red orchids under the trees, you probably haven’t – it’s stinkhorn (Aseroe rubra), with a very pretty but evil-smelling fungal fruiting body that attracts flies with its filling of brown goo, so they will pick up and spread its spores.
The track, which is mainly excellent, with only short narrow steep sections, goes through stands of magnificent native trees. Sometimes you are alongside the river and other times deep in a primeval forest, on one of the best bush walks in Aotearoa-New Zealand. A short boardwalk crosses the water-lilied Ohinetonga lagoon, after which the track crosses the road, leading through more forest (on a rougher steeper track) and back to the carpark.