If you are planning on doing a North Island road trip, I suggest stopping in Taupō. A few friends of mine, and myself, decided that we wanted to do the Tongariro Crossing about a month ago so we rented a car and got a little B&B. I didn’t think much of Taupō as I hadn’t really heard much about it but it is beautiful here (like most of NZ really).
We arrived in Taupō on Sunday and went to our Bed & Breakfast with Mo, Michael and their little daughter Poppy (who is adorable!). It costs $29/night and is completely worth it. The family is amazingly friendly and helpful! They told us a myriad of things that we could do while we were there.
We had planned on doing the Crossing on Monday but it turned out that there were 70km winds so the hike was cancelled. Luckily we had planned to spend 2 days in Taupō for this exact reason. We figured that whatever day we didn’t do the Crossing we would explore some things around Taupō.
Our Bed & Breakfast people suggested that we hike up Mt. Tauhara. It was a good hike that was pretty steep but decently short as it only takes around an hour to an hour and a half to get to the top. The top provides amazing views of the Taupō area! We decided hike this around lunch and had a little picnic at the top. Be prepared for a lot of wind up there! Here is a website that tells you a little more about it.
After we had our lunch we went to grab our swimsuits to go walk to Huka Falls and the natural spa park. We started with the walk to Huka Falls even though you pass the spa pools on the way in. It isn’t a challenging or long walk, though it does have some uphill stretches. It took us around 40 minutes in and 40 minutes out. You get to view the Waikato River the whole time, which is such a pretty river! And seeing the falls at the end is definitely worth it. Approximately 200,000 liters of water flow from it every second!
On your way back to your car you will walk over a bridge near the beginning of the walk that will probably have people underneath. This is where the natural spa pools empty into the river. There are quite a few of pools, but we decided to get in here first because we were hot from the walk and didn’t want fully warm water right away. It turned out to be the perfect temperature for a start and we slowly worked our way up to the hotter pools. It was a really good relaxing time! I highly suggest doing this as it’s completely free.
On Tuesday we were able to do the long awaited, 19.4 km, Tongariro Crossing! We read up a lot on this hike because we had heard many different things about it. Some people said it was dangerous and others said it was fine. Most people online said you just need to bring proper equipment as the weather on the Crossing can change from bright sunshine to cold, wet, and windy in a snap. I suggest you read this equipment list to prepare. Luckily we had wonderful weather – bright and sunny the whole way and only a bit of wind!
The hike starts off as a flat(er) walk to the base of Mt. Ngauruhoe. That’s when the “Devil’s Staircase” begins as you’re basically walking up small flights of stairs for an hour. The views from the top are amazing though! At the top of the stairs there is an option to summit Mt. Ngauruhoe (or for you Lord of the Rings fans, Mt. Doom!). ONLY do this if you found Devil’s Staircase easy and you’re prepared for an extremely dangerous hike! After Devil’s Staircase there is a flat, 10 minute walk to the base of Red Canyon, where you begin another difficult ascent. However, it’s much shorter than the stairs! The views there are literally everywhere. Take plenty of photos!
It’s common to eat lunch on the rim of Red Crater, which is what we did. There is a side trek you can do to hike to the summit of Mt. Tongariro (1.5 hour return). We just continued with the Crossing. When you reach the highest peak (6,188 ft.) you have magnificent views of the sacred Emerald Pools! Then you begin a strong descent – take this part slow as I watched many people fall because the ground is very loose. At the bottom you have about 3 hours left of the Crossing. There is a small incline to the largest of the pools and then you begin a windy path that eventually (feels like it takes forever) descends to the Ketetahi Car Park (with a few inclines here and there).
We felt very accomplished when we finished and I suggest that if you are into day hiking you do the Crossing as it’s an iconic hike in NZ and one of the best!