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Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Transport: A Practical Guide

Tourism NZ Camilla Rutherford

Planning your transport and accommodation for the Tongariro Crossing.

New Zealand’s iconic volcano hike is on the must-do list of any adventurous traveller exploring the country. Although the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a free day hike, there’s a few logistics (and costs) to figure out before embarking on the 19.4km journey. First, the track is a one way track, starting in a different location to where it finishes. This means that you will either need to organise transport from one end of the track to the other or organise transport from your accommodation. Secondly, because the track takes an average of 8 hours to complete, you’ll need to find accommodation close to the Tongariro Crossing for before and after your hike. To help you work out all the finer details, we’ve put together this practical guide to the Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Transport!

There are other things to take into consideration when planning a hike on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, from what to pack to when to hike the trail. Find out more about the track information, facilities and a packing list over in our Guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

When to hike the Tongariro Crossing

The Tongariro Crossing takes hikers into an alpine environment. For that reason, most transport operators will only be open during the “summer” hiking season (i.e. when there is no or little snow on the track). Nevertheless, a winter experience can be extremely rewarding but should only be attempted with a guide.

  • December to February – This is the summer season in New Zealand and a time when you’re almost guaranteed no snow on the Tongariro Crossing. It’s a generally safe time to do a freedom hike (without a guide) of the Tongariro Crossing. Nevertheless, still check weather reports and with your chosen transport service closer to your chosen walking date to see if the weather conditions are safe.
  • March to May and September to November – Snow conditions on the Tongariro Crossing change year-on-year during the spring and autumn season. Transport services will operate in autumn (March to May) until snow covers the mountains. They will reopen during spring, which could be anywhere between September to November, only when the snow is reduced to a safe level for freedom hiking.
  • June to August – This is the winter season in New Zealand. The Tongariro Crossing will be in snowy winter conditions and should only be attempted with the appropriate knowledge and gear. For that reason, it’s best to do the Tongariro Crossing in winter with a guide.
Active Outdoor Adventures

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Where to stay

There are six main towns and villages either in or on the edge of the Tongariro National Park. All the towns listed below have accommodation providers that work closely with Tongariro Crossing transport services, so shuttles can pick you up from or close to your accommodation. Plus, your accommodation provider can give you updated weather reports indicating whether it is safe to tackle the crossing or not.

Taupo

1h20min (92km) from the Mangatepopo Car Park
1 hour (74km) from the Ketetahi Car Park

The main tourist centre  of the region, Taupo is a popular base for the Tongariro Crossing especially if you have other Taupo activities on your bucket list. It’s also the furthest of the “Tongariro Crossing” towns from the Crossing so be prepared for an early morning shuttle or drive to the start of the track.

Turangi

39 minutes (43km) from the Mangatepapa Car Park
20 minutes (25km) from the Ketetahi Car Park

The closest “larger” town with all the essential shops and services to the Tongariro Crossing is Turangi. Turangi is a great base to stay if you want to do some white water rafting, mountain biking, fishing and some other short hikes in the area, as well as stock up on supplies before moving on with your travels.

National Park Village

21 minutes (19km) from the Mangatepopo Car Park
25 minutes (33km) from the Ketetahi Car Park

Right on the edge of the Tongariro National Park, the small village of National Park is an ideal stay for primarily doing the Tongariro Crossing, accessing the Mt Ruapehu ski fields in winter, as well as other walks in the national park. National Park Village has a convenience store, a couple of cafes, a couple of bars/restaurants and a gas station.

Whakapapa Village

20 minutes (16km) from the Mangatepopo Car Park
24 minutes (30km) from the Ketetahi Car Park

At the base of Mt Ruapehu (the largest volcano in New Zealand), Whakapapa Village is the closest settlement to the Tongariro Crossing. You can start the Tongariro Circuit (Great Walk) right from the village itself, which connects to the Crossing, or use one of the many shuttle services. The village has an information centre, public toilets, a small convenience store at the holiday park, one cafe and a couple of restaurants.

Ohakune

45 minutes (54km) from the Mangatepopo Car Park
49 minutes (68km) from the Ketetahi Car Park

South of the Tongariro Crossing and Mt Ruapehu, Ohakune is another fantastic option to base yourself for the Crossing. In winter, the town is the closest to the Turoa Ski Field, while in summer it’s popular for bike trails and the Whanganui Journey Great Walk. The town is well serviced with a wealth of eateries, bars, accommodations, gas stations and a supermarket.

backpackerguide.nz

Accommodation Transport for the TOngariro Crossing

Round Trips for your Accommodation to the Tongariro Crossing

There are a number of shuttle services that can pick you up at your accommodation doorstep (or close) and transport you to the Mangatepopo end of the hike, pick you up at the Ketetahi Car Park at the end of the walk, then transport you back to your accommodation.

Taupo
  • Tongariro Expeditions
  • Adventure HQ
  • Adventure Shuttles
Turangi
National Park Village
  • Tongariro Crossing Shuttles
  • Plateau Shuttles
  • YHA National Park Backpackers (Tongariro Volcanic Adventures)
Whakapapa Village
  • Roam
  • Tongariro Crossing Shuttles

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Winter Transport

To hike the Tongariro Crossing in winter, winter hiking gear like crampons and ice axes are essential, as is a knowledge of winter alpine environments. For this reason, it is recommended that you do a guided hike of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter. Guide will supply you with the gear you need, as well as transport to and from your accommodation. Winter guiding is available with:

  • Adrift
  • Tongariro Guided Walks
  • Tongariro Expeditions
  • Adventure Outdoors
  • YHA National Park Backpackers (Tongariro Volcanic Adventures)
  • Walking Legends

Tourism NZ Paul Abbitt

Where to park your car for the Tongariro Crossing

The cheapest transport options for the Tongariro Crossing is to park your car at one end of the track and take a one way shuttle either to or from the other end of the track. While the two ends of the Tongariro Crossing track are called the “Mangatepopo Car Park” and “Ketetahi Car Park”, there is a 4-hour parking restriction on using the Mangatepopo Car Park between Labour Day in October (last week of October) and April 30. On the other end, the Ketetahi Car Park fills up quickly so it is advised to use alternative car parks. Here are your options.

Ketetahi Car Park

Down Ketetahi Car Park Road, just off State Highway 46 Lake Rotoaira Road.

There are several one way shuttle services that can transport you from this car park to the Mangatepopo Car Park so that you are hiking back towards your car. This car park fills up quickly though so make sure you know you can park there early (we’re talking 5-6am in summer) before booking your shuttle.

  • Tongariro Crossing Shuttles
  • Mountain Shuttles
  • Tongariro Expeditions
  • Turangi Alpine Shuttles
  • Adventure HQ
Mountain Shuttle Security Day Car Park

Along State Highway 46 Lake Rotoaira Road.

Mountain Shuttle, located moments away from the Ketetahi Car Park, has a Security Car Park and runs a shuttle service to the Mangatepopo Car Park.

Crossroads Park and Ride

State Highway 47, opposite the turn off to State Highway 46 Lake Rotoaira Road.

Crossroads is situated 5 minutes drive away from the Ketetahi Car Park along the main road (there’s a big sign, you can’t miss it)! They offer shuttles to the Mangatepopo Car Park and will pick you up at the Ketetahi Car Park at the end of your hike to take you back to the car park.

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