Your base on Mt Ruapehu

National Park walking trail

Changing landscapes of unique fauna, mountains and lakes

Taranaki Falls

The 2 hour Taranaki Falls walk is the most popular from the Skotel

The volcanic plateau

Enjoy outstanding walks from half day trips to multi-day journeys

Lava Flows

The old lava flows are a feature of many local walks

Walking Tracks

The rugged moonscape of the volcanoes is matched by the rich diversity of the flora that covers the foothills. There are many outstanding walks varying in duration from 20 minutes in the Alpine Garden to a three-day hike around the volcanoes. Most walks will take you through a changing landscape and will have you in breathless awe at views and scenery unmatched anywhere else.

Most of the short walks are on well-surfaced tracks and are suitable for the majority of Park visitors. Many of the longer routes follow poled routes only and before starting these walks all trampers are advised to check the weather forecast and track conditions.

Further information on walking options is available from the Visitor Centre in the Village together with maps of the walks. In addition you can purchase brochures from the Skotel Office as follows;

Walks in and around Tongariro National Park

This comprehensive brochure produced by the Department of Conservation is available in a convenient pocket-size version for sale in our office or at the Visitor centre for $3.00.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

This brochure describes the 3 – 4 day circuit of Mt Ngauruhoe which starts and finishes at the Skotel.  Copies are available at our office or the Visitor Centre for $1.50.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This brochure contains a map and valuable information on this unique trek.  It is available for purchase at our office or the Visitor Centre for $1.50.  A supplementary sheet with information in German or French is available on request from the office with a brochure purchase.

Short Walks

Alpine Garden Nature Walk

(15 minutes loop track)

Begins 250 metres above the Visitors Centre and is an easy track suitable for wheel chairs that provides a glimpse of the unique flora found in the Tongariro National Park.

Ridge Track

(30 to 40 minutes, return via the same track)

Begins 150 metres above the Visitor Centre. After a short climb through low beech forest, the track emerges into alpine shrub land with panoramic views of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and the surrounding landscape.

Mounds Walk

(20 minutes, return by the same track)

Begins 5km below the Skotel on State Highway 48. Debris avalanches during Ruapehu's periods of volcanic activity are believed to have formed these mounds thousands of years ago.

Tawhai Falls Walk

(20 minutes, return by the same track)

Starts 3.5 kms below the Skotel on State Highway 48. The falls, which tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow, are reached after a short stroll though mountain beech forest. Visitors, who have found Disneyland's Splash Mountain a little tame may like to canoe over these falls. Please note that hire canoes are not available for this trip.

Half Day Walks

Whakapapanui Walk

(2 hours, 6km with return via the same track or via Bruce Road)

Begins 250 metres above the Visitors Centre. Take care not to confuse the Whakapapanui and the Whakapapaiti track signs. About 10 minutes along the track the Whakapapanui walk branches to the right and heads down stream. It follows the Whakapapanui River down for 2.5 kilometres when the track returns to the road. The return can be either back along the track or up State Highway 48.

Taranaki Falls Walk

(2 hours, loop track beginning just below the Skotel)

This is an easy circuit giving a full range of bush and river scenery. The falls tumble 20 metres over the edge of a large lava flow that erupted from Mt Ruapehu 15,000 years ago. It can be walked in either direction - starting from off the road up to the Skotel or from just above the Skotel chalets.

Silica Rapids Walk

(2.5 hours, 7 kilometres return)

The track starts about 1.5 kilometres up the Bruce Road from the Skotel. After arriving at the creamy-white terraces of the Silica Rapids the track travels alongside a cascading stream. After crossing to the rapids, it follows the river down to 250 metres above the visitor centre. It can also be walked in the opposite direction.

Lake Rotopaunamu

(2 hours)

This is a loop around the lake that starts 35 kilometres from the Skotel on the side of Mt Pihanga on State Highway 47 on the way to Turangi. It includes some ancient forest that was protected from the devastation of the Taupo eruption by the shelter of Mt Pihanga.

Soda Springs

(2 hours - 6 kilometres return along the same track)

Starts at the Mangatepopo Road end and follows the Mangatepopo Stream until the springs are reached. Mt Ngauruhoe's most recent lava flows (1960’s eruptions) appear dark in contrast to the older flows that are slowly being re-vegetated.

Full Day Walks

Walks marked with an asterisk are subject to extremes of weather, particularly in the wintertime. People have died of exposure on these walks.
In winter they should not be attempted without mountaineering experience and equipment. In good weather in spring, summer and autumn they are not difficult for a fit person, but in bad weather they are hazardous in any season.

Weather conditions in the Park are changeable and, even in good weather, warm wind and waterproof clothing, food and water should be carried.

Tama Lakes

(6 hours - 17 kilometres return via the same track)

This is a continuation from the Taranaki Falls track and starts at the Skotel. Past the Taranaki falls the track crosses undulating tussock and alpine country. Tama Lakes occupy several old explosion craters on the saddle between Ruapehu and Tongariro.

*Mt Ruapehu Crater

(2672 metres - 4 to 7 hours)

If started from the top of the second chairlift it is a 4 to 5 hour return journey but from the Top of the Bruce (Iwikau Village) it is a longer and more demanding walk. It is not a marked route and weather can be very changeable. You will need to check the Visitor Centre for current route conditions, volcanic activity and weather conditions before setting out.

Ketetahi Hut

(4.5 hours, 10.5 kilometres return via the same track)

This return trip can be undertaken from 25 kms from the Skotel on State Highway 46. The track is a section of the Tongariro Crossing. High on the slopes of Mt Tongariro, the Ketetahi Hut commands magnificent views. There is no public right of access to the adjacent hot springs but there are views of the thermal areas.

*Tongariro Crossing

(7 - 8 hours, 17 kilometres one way)

This walk is often described as the best one-day walk in New Zealand and is one of the world's great walks. It provides an opportunity to experience some of most scenic areas of the park. The best direction to walk is from the Mangatepopo Road end. The route crosses the saddle between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, passes through the craters of Tongariro and the trail comes down past the Ketetahi Hut. It is not a round trip. Visitors can arrange transport at the Skotel office. See the separate section of our website for more details.

*Ngauruhoe Summit

(2287 metres -7 hours or if included as a side trip to the Tongariro Crossing 8 - 10 hours)

The route is from the saddle between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro and is accessed from the Mangatepopo Road End. The 2500 year old near perfect cone of Ngauruhoe entices many visitors to its summit. Relatively quiet since 1975 this is the parasitic cone of Tongariro, one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes. In winter, icy slopes can make this climb extremely hazardous.

*Tongariro Summit

This is a side trip from the Tongariro Crossing and will add about 1 hour to the crossing time.

Whakapapaiti Valley

(5 hours, 11 kilometres one way; 6 hours, 16 kilometres return)

An attractive walk across the face of Mt Ruapehu which is accessed at Scoria Flats - about 5 kms up the road from the Skotel. It returns to the Whakapapa Village so it can be made a round trip by walking 5 kilometres up Bruce Road. The track crosses the Whakapapaiti Stream and there is no bridge so it may not be possible to cross safely at times of high water flow.

Multi-Day Walks

Around the Volcanoes

There are several combinations of multi-day walks available in the Park using the several public huts around the mountain. The main combinations are known as the "Tongariro Northern Circuit" and "Round Ruapehu". Both are challenging trips and should be undertaken with care.

Waterproof raincoat and over-trousers, warm woolen, pile or polypropylene clothing, strong tramping boots or shoes, food and drink, sun screen and sunglasses, sunhat and a warm hat, and a first aid kit should always be carried.

In winter snow conditions ice axes and crampons may be needed. They should be carried and you should know how to use them.

The walks can be accessed from several different road ends. For the security of their cars, visitors are advised to leave their cars at Whakapapa Village and use one of the transport operators to reach their desired starting point if it is not from the Village itself.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

Beginning from the Skotel, this walk winds its way over Mt Tongariro and around Mt Ngauruhoe. It passes through unique and stunning landforms which include volcanic craters. Day trips, overnight trips or a three to four day walk around the complete circuit can be undertaken. There are four huts on the circuit, Mangatepopo, Ketetahi, Oturere and Waihohunu. Passes for these huts must be purchased before commencing the trip.

Dated passes are required during the Great Walks season from late October to early June.

Round Ruapehu

This is a four to six day tramp around Mt Ruapehu. For those seeking solitude, magnificent mountain views and a backcountry experience the walk is ideal. The track traverses a myriad of landscapes and although a greater part of the track is in an alpine environment there are no major alpine passes.

There are six huts on the circuit. One of these, the Waihohunu hut, is on the Tongariro Northern Circuit and therefore requires a dated hut pass in the Great Walks Season.

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