Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

On Walkabout On: The Final Descent of the Tongariro Crossing

After crossing through the heart of New Zealand’s Tongariro Crossing the trail opened up from the volcanic otherworld inside the volcano to providing a spectacular view looking north over the smaller Lake Rotoaira and the gigantic Lake Taupo:

2007_1110NewZealand20195

In the distance of the above photograph you can see the small volcano Mt. Tauhara which is the volcano just outside the beautiful city of Taupo. The view from the side of Mt. Tongariro is really breathtaking and quite a sight, but unfortunately it was time to start descending this massive volcano. However, before I could start the descent I had to traverse a few more areas of hazardous snow banks on the side of the mountain:

2007_1110NewZealand20190

If I would have slipped and fell off these snow banks I would have literally rolled down the mountain. The next photo makes it quite evident how steep the hillsides are:

Side of Mt. Tongariro, New Zealand

If you look closely you can see a hiker on the trail that looks like an ant compared to the massive hillsides of this spectacular volcano. As the trail switchbacked down the side of the volcano I plenty of additional opportunities to admire the view:

2007_1110NewZealand20194

Going down the side of Mt. Tongariro takes a lot longer than I thought it would because of how many switchbacks I had to traverse to go down the hillside. I could see the Ketetahi Hut in front of me, but it felt like I was never going to reach it:

2007_1110NewZealand20197

I could see a boiling geyser of steam behind the hut as well:

2007_1110NewZealand20201

However, by looking back up the mountain I can tell how far I had come from the wintry slopes of the volcano:

2007_1110NewZealand20196

After about an hour of switchbacking down the side of the mountain I finally came to the Ketetahi Hut which provides basic facilities for hikers and campers to use. I just sat down on the bench in front of the hut, ate some snacks, and admired the view looking towards the west:

2007_1110NewZealand20207

2007_1110NewZealand20204

Adjacent to the hut you can sit back and watch the bubbling steam of the Ketetahi Hot Springs that bursts to life on the side of the volcano:

2007_1110NewZealand20203

The trail down the mountain continues from the hut and passes right by the Ketetahi Hot Springs, but unfortunately the hot springs is considered private property and hikers are not allowed to visit the site. This is the closest I was able to get to take a picture of the hot springs:

2007_1110NewZealand20222

This hot spring since hot mineral laden water rushing down the side of the volcano:

2007_1110NewZealand20208

2007_1110NewZealand20216

Before long I was towards the bottom of the volcano and took one last look upwards before continuing to follow the trail into the dense forest that awaited me:

2007_1110NewZealand20225

The volcanic plains instantly stops and gives way to a thick forest that I had to descend through next:

Tongariro Crossing Forest Trail

I can only assume that the soil further up the volcano must be to rocky and unsuitable for trees compared to the lower slopes I found myself in now to explain such an instantaneous switch in vegetation. There was more than trees I had to contend with but rushing water as well:

2007_1110NewZealand20230

The roaring water through the forest had actually flooded portions of the trail that I had to skirt around which made descending down this volcano even more difficult. Another interesting note about this water is that there was signs posted along the trail warning walkers not to drink the water because of the strong mineral content in it. This is something I would notice later on during my tour of the north island is that anyone thinking about trying out local water sources need to use caution because so much of the water is filled with dangerous minerals.

The water flowing through the forest really makes quite a scenic picture near the very end of the trail:

2007_1110NewZealand20233

Finally I hit the home stretch and a flat trail for the first time since I started descending the volcano:

Tongariro Crossing Trail

At the end of the Tongariro Crossing it is literally a madhouse with the amount of backpackers sitting around partying and waiting for their respective buses to come pick them up. Plenty of loud music and beverages being shared with the youth crowd there sharing stories about their experiences in New Zealand.

My wife was waiting for me at the parking lot and she to was eager to here what my hike through the the Tongariro Crossing was like. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this day hike is indeed one of the best I have ever done and definitely the most unique. I had crossed a barren desert, climbed a live volcano, walked across an otherworldly terrain of fire and ice, and hiked through a dense rainforest all in the same hike that encompassed a total of about eight hours. Not too many hikes in the world can encompass such a variety of terrains in such a small package as the Tongariro Crossing.

Anyone visiting the north island of New Zealand would be doing themselves a great disservice by not visiting this park and allocating the time necessary to walk the Tongariro Crossing because it is absolutely spectacular and pictures do not do this place justice. This is a place that has to be seen to believed and I’m glad I had a chance to see it.

Next Posting: Driving the Volcanic Highway

Prior Posting: In the Heart of the Tongariro Crossing

Return to New Zealand Holiday Journal Archive

2 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *