Situated in the Tongariro National Park(naturally) on the North Island this walk is promoted as the best one day walk in NZ. On a good day the views are certainly fantastic and very unique as you are traversing the craters of old volcanoes, passing not so old volcanoes, seeing steam rising from the ground and walking past warm water pools. You could walk it as part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit tramp but for a more relaxed time spend 7 hours or so with a day pack taking in all the views. The walk costs nothing but transport to take you to the start and collecting you at the finish costs about 15$ p.p. from National Park village. Transport can also be arranged from further afield at Taurangi and Taupo as well as Wakapapa in the park itself. The only disadvantage is that there will probably be a hundred plus other people doing it on the same day. We tried to do this walk when we were initially in the North Island over Xmas and the New Year but the weather wasn't up to it. If you have the time, then wait for a good day, it seems pointless doing it on a bad day with no views just for the sake of it.
A view taken on our first visit to Tongariro when we planned to walk the crossing the next day but the weather changed dramatically. The prominent peak is Mt Ngauruhoe at 2291'. The track climbs the depression to the left of it to get to the south crater.
We had spent the first hour or so climbing up to the crater in thick mist, there are some soda springs just off the track on the way up and a toilet if you need it. The weather forecast said sunshine for today, then just as we were giving up hope the mist suddenly started to lift and we came out into sunshine on the crater floor. This view is looking back to Mt Ngauruhoe, there is a route up to the top if you are feeling energetic.
After the flat crossing of the crater the track climbs up to the highest point. The picture here is looking back down to the south crater with the mist still hanging about the track lower down.
A view of the red crater from the highest point.There is a poled route from here that goes up to Mt Tongariro 1967'
The descent down to the emerald lakes is very stony and loose and quite steep in places. One or two inadequately shod walkers were slipping around a bit. The emerald lakes seemed to be the popular lunch time spot and a pleasant enough spot it was.
Easy walking after the emerald lakes across the central crater with a short climb up to the blue lake sitting underneath Mt Rotopaunga 1856'. The first view here is looking back to the emerald lakes and red crater. The second view is from the ridge by the blue lake. The dark area in the middle foreground shows the extent of the lava flow after the last eruption. After the blue lake (which didn't look as blue as the emerald lakes looked emerald if you see what we mean) the track starts descending to Ketehai Hut and down into the valley. The best section is over though the long distance views are good enough on the descent. The Ketehai Hut was the next popular spot for a rest. There are some hot springs nearby but access to them is denied as they are on Maori land. Down to the car park by mid afternoon with everybody sat around waiting for their return transport, which arrived on time. A superb walk and thoroughly recommended.