OverviewI want to start out by saying that the Department of Conservation (DOC) (aka Te Papa Atawhai in Maori) does such a nice job of explaining how to enjoy the National Park on their website, that this page is really just a formailty. Please see that webpage for more in-depth analysis and maps/charts/etc. Feel free to PM me should you have any questions about organizing a trip to the park (I know it can seem overwhelming when planning a trip if you are not familiar with the area).
From DOC website (I think it spells it out well):
"Established in 1887, Tongariro was the first national park in New Zealand and the fourth in the world. It is also a dual World Heritage area, a status which recognises the park's important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features."
My favorite part about this Park is that Sir Edmind Hillary grew up not far from here and in his biography, he looks back on his early climbing days in Tongariro National Park as his fondest. Additionally, there is the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre located nearby off Hwy 48. Here you can learn all levels of mountaineering and climbing skills needed to tackle anything on the North Island and most mountains in the Southern Alps.
[img:630799:aligncenter:medium:Mount Ngauruhoe & Mount Ruapehu]
HistoryFrom Doc Website:
"In 1887 Te Heuheu Tukino IV (Horonuku), then the paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, gifted the sacred peaks to the nation. To tangata whenua (people of the land) the mountains are a vital part of their history, their whakapapa (genealogy) and legends are venerated accordingly.
Ko Tongariro te maunga Tongariro is the mountain
Ko Taupo te moana Taupo is the lake
Ko Ngati Tuwharetoa te tangata Ngati Tuwharetoa are the people
Ko Te Heuheu te tangata Te Heuheu is the man
[img:630800:aligncenter:medium:Mount Ngauruhoe - note the lava flows]It is said that their ancestor, Ngatoroirangi (the navigator and tohunga of the waka Arawa) was close to death after exploring this mountainous region. He called out to his sisters from his pacific homeland, Hawaiiki, to send him fire. The fire came but its passage left a trail of volcanic vents, from Tongatapu, through Whakaari (White Island), Rotorua and Tokaanu, before reaching Ngatoroirangi on the slopes of Tongariro.
The three andesitic volcanoes at the heart of the park - the mountains Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu form the southern limits of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Volcanic activity in the zone started about 2 million years ago and is on-going today. Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are two of the most active composite volcanoes in the world. In 1995 and again in 1996 Ruapehu has erupted in spectacular fashion sending clouds of ash and steam skyward and mantling the surrounding snow fields and forest with a thick film of ash.
It is a land of strong contrasts. Chaotic, barren lava flows, winter snowfields, hot springs and active craters can be seen side by side. Its plants too vary considerably, from alpine herbs to thick swathes of tussocks and flax, from the hardy, low-growing shrubs of the Rangipo gravel-field to dense beech forests. It is a harsh environment for plants; poor pumice soils and volcanic activity slows the development of diverse forests yet some pockets of magnificent podocarp forest can be found. They survived the eruption of Lake Taupo (1800 years ago) because they were sheltered on southwest slopes of Ruapehu.
Tongariro is home to many amazing native creatures including New Zealand's only native mammals, the short and long tailed bats. Birds you might see during daylight include North Island robins, fantails, parakeets and even a kereru (native pigeon) or two. Smaller, but no less interesting are the numerous insects that live in the park."
Getting There[img:630776:alignleft:small:Lake Rotorua][img:630803:alignleft:small:Lake Taupo]
Renting a car is suprisingly easy and driving is very straightforward on incredibly maintained roads. Kiwi's aren't know for switchbacks, but most of the roads on the North Island are impecably maintained. Remember for all the Americans, that they drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. Recommend a large rental firm such as Hertz or something similar.
From Auckland, you can take Hwy 1 south and make a connection via Hwy 3 and Hwy 4 and come straight into the park from the west at the junction of Hwy's 4 and 47.
From Wellington, take Hwy 1 north until you hit Hwy 49. from here you can enter the park from the west via Hwy 49 or continue on Hwy 1 and enter the park from the north via Hwy 46.
From Rotorua, take Hwy 30 south until you connect with Hwy 1 which will bring you through Taupo and follow to Hwy 46.
Most people enter via Whakapapa village from Hwy 48 (accessed from Hwy 4 to the west).
All roads lead to Tongariro National Park:
•Roads surround the park and lead in to key access points and the skifields.
•The main trunk railway runs through the townships of National Park and Ohakune.
•A number of daily flights operate into and out of Taupo Airport.
•Sightseeing and regular flights operate from Taupo, Turangi and Mt. Ruapehu airstrips.
•Regular bus services also run to Ohakune, National Park and Turangi.
•A variety of shuttle services run to Whakapapa from the nearby towns.
Several seasonal transport operators provide transport to some road ends in the park.
Climbing and Tramping[img:630790:alignright:small:Warnings on Mt Doom][img:630786:alignleft:small:Tongariro Crossing]
The big three mountains in the Park are Mount Ruapehu (9,173 ft / 2,796 m), Mount Ngauruhoe (7,503 ft / 2,287 m), and Mount Tongariro (6,453 ft / 1,967 m).
Really, everything start's here. Rather than bore you with mundane details of each and every "track" (hike or route) or the numerous "tramps" (overnight hikes, usually done in a hut), im just going to give you the link to all of the maps and brochures.
[img:630779:aligncenter:medium:Mount Tongariro (L) & Mount Ngauruhoe (R)]
Red TapeDon't be a try hard or a tall poppy and you'll be OK. It's New Zealand, not California! Enjoy it responsibly!
CampingMost people stay in Huts. Below are very useful links to the DOC's website that show the major huts in the area. In order to camp on your own, you should have foul weather gear and know how to dig a snow cave. Antarctic storms are brutal and come from nowhere. Rule of thumb is if there is weather on Mount Egmont, then it will be in Tongariro two hours later. See photos below.
[img:630794:aligncenter:medium:Ice on the top of Mount Tongariro][img:630782:aligncenter:medium:Mount Egmont from Mount Tongariro]
Mangahuia campsite - http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-stay/conservation-campsites-by-region/tongariro-taupo/ruapehu-area/mangahuia/
Mangawhero campsite - http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-stay/conservation-campsites-by-region/tongariro-taupo/ruapehu-area/mangawhero/
Whakapapa Motorcamp - http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-stay/conservation-campsites-by-region/tongariro-taupo/ruapehu-area/whakapapa-motorcamp/
Essential Gear & SafetyIf you going to be using the track system in the park for overnight trips fill in an intention form at the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre and remember to let them know when you have completed your trip.
[img:630798:aligncenter:medium:Weather on the top of the Crossing]
•Make sure you are properly equipped and well prepared:
•Your group should have a capable leader and everyone must carry a sleeping bag, sufficient high energy food (with some extra for emergencies), a waterproof raincoat and overtrousers, gloves, a hat, and several layers of warm (wool or fleece) clothing.
•Take suncream and sunglasses, summer or winter.
•Your group will also need a first aid kit, portable stove, fuel, cooking utensils and a map and compass (along with someone who knows how to use them).
•Boots are the recommended footwear.
•In winter specialised mountaineering equipment will also be needed.
•Please check at the visitor centre for up-to-date information on weather and track conditions.
•During and after heavy snow falls avalanches are possible. Check out the avalanche forecast before setting out on high level trips in snow conditions.
External LinksDOC Page:
National Geographic article from July 2009
NZ advertiser page:
A short film from 1951 that explains some of the history and attractions to the Park:
Visitor Strategy from DOCThe visitor strategy has emerged after a lengthy debate. It has been prepared after discussions with conservancy staff, two rounds of public comment and discussions with the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Federated Mountain Clubs, New Zealand Tourism Board, the Ministry of Commerce tourism policy group, New Zealand Tourism Industry Association and the New Zealand Conservation Authority.
The strategy explains why the areas managed by the Department have been protected and their importance as places for visitors to enjoy. It then considers five key issues:
•the protection of intrinsic natural and historic values
•fostering visits by the public
•managing tourism concessions on protected lands
•informing and educating visitors
•managing visitor safety, and risk management.
Each issue is discussed in terms of the department’s statutory requirements, its goals and guiding principles and its management response.
The five inter-related goals of the strategy are:
Goal 1 - Protection
To ensure that the intrinsic natural and historic values of areas managed by the Department are not compromised by the impacts of visitor activities and related facilities and services. (This links closely to other key department strategic initiatives such as the biodiversity action plan and the historic heritage strategy.)
Goal 2- Fostering Visits
To manage a range of recreational opportunities that provide contact with New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage; and provide a range of recreational and educational facilities and services consistent with the protection of the intrinsic natural and historic values of Department-managed areas.
Goal 3 - Managing Tourism Concessions on Protected Lands
In managing a range of recreational opportunities, to allow the private sector to provide visitor facilities and services where they do not compromise the intrinsic natural and historic values of areas managed by the Department and do not compromise the experiences or opportunities of other visitors.
Goal 4 - Informing and Educating Visitors
To share knowledge about our natural and historic heritage with visitors, to satisfy their requirements for information, deepen their understanding of this heritage and develop an awareness of the need for its conservation. (This goal operates alongside 'Conservation Connections', the Department’s public awareness strategy.)
Goal 5 - Visitor Safety
To provide visitors with facilities that are safe and are located, designed, constructed and maintained in accordance with all relevant legislation and sound building practices to meet appropriate safety standards. To raise visitor awareness of the risks present in department-managed areas and the level of skill and competence they will require to cope with these risks.
In managing the provision of facilities and services for visitors department staff need to consider a wide range of factors including:
•the natural and historic values that are being protected
•the Department’s relationship with Maori
•access to, and the recreational opportunities present in, an area
•appropriate visitor activities
•appropriate visitor facilities and services
•appropriate visitor information
•visitor and staff safety
•conflicts between visitors and different visitor activities
•the role of tourism concessions
•the Department’s relationship with communities, recreation and conservation groups and other associates.
In the past, there has been a tendency to focus solely on the provision of visitor facilities and services, ignoring many of the other factors. The visitor strategy signals a move toward a more holistic approach towards visitor services.
Contact National Office
Phone: +64 4 471 0726