Scroll Down

best rate guarantee

Discovery LodgeDiscovery Lodge

Tongariro Alpine Crossing FAQ

Weather

Where can I see a Tongariro Crossing Weather Forecast?

The link below is a broad forecast for the Tongariro National Park. Be aware the weather can change very quickly in the mountains. You should always be prepared for the worst.
Tongariro National Park Weather Forecast >>
It is best to call us on 0800 122 122 for more specific information about current weather conditions for the Tongariro Crossing.

How do we know what the weather will do for the day?

The latest forecast will be available from Reception Staff the night before or when you check in. However the forecast can change overnight and for this reason we meet 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to depart and give you the latest information including our local opinion.

What happens if the weather forecast is marginal?

If the weather forecast is marginal, meaning it could possibly be dangerous to hike; we will call the weather forecasters at the Metservice and speak to them in person. They will discuss the forecast with us detailing the times at which they expect weather changes at specific altitudes on the Crossing. We will then make a decision to go or not. If we decide it is safe enough to go we will give you this information to make your own decision.

Do you cancel your transport if the weather is dangerous?

Most definitely! The main reason we cancel is high winds on Red Crater (the highest point on the Crossing). If the wind forecast is over 65km/h at 1800m during the morning and afternoon we will cancel our transport. The Red Crater high point is relatively narrow so in high winds it can be dangerous.

Is the Crossing worth walking if the weather is bad?

Yes & no. This depends on you and the type of person you are. If you are the adventurous type and go out in any weather you will enjoy this walk no matter what. Many times adventurous people have been rewarded with the weather clearing as they reach the high point displaying a magical view of the Red Crater and the Blue & Emerald Lakes surrounded by mist. If you are a fine weather hiker or don’t have all the correct equipment then best to talk to us about alternatives.

How quickly can the weather change?

Very Quickly. In the mountains here the weather can change in minutes so you need to be fully prepared. On a fine sunny day the weather can change into freezing rain with gale force winds. We will generally know if the weather pattern at the time is this changeable, however we do not compromise on the essential equipment you need to take to be safe in the mountains.

What happens if the weather turns bad while we are on the Crossing?

Keep moving. If you believe the weather is dangerous and you have not reached the Red Crater (about half way) you should turn back and give us a call and we will pick you up from the starting point at the Mangatepopo Road end. If you are past Red Crater you should proceed steadily to the pick up point at the Ketetahi Road end. Whichever direction you are walking you should keep moving and do not stop.

If the visibility is minimal can I still follow the track?

Yes. The track is well defined and has marker poles and directional signs at intersections to guide you in minimal visibility. Obviously you should not leave the track at all.

Gear

What do I need to bring?


Warm hat & sun hat
Sunscreen
Sunglasses
Gloves
Plenty of warm layers preferably wool or polyprop
Waterproof jacket and over pants
Sturdy footwear
Map
Day Pack
Packed Lunch & snacks
Minimum of 1.5 litres of water (we have natural spring water on tap here at Discovery)
Mobile Phone
What equipment is compulsory for the walk?
Waterproof jacket
Plenty of warm layers preferably wool or polyprop
Food
Water

And depending on the conditions:

Warm hat & gloves
Waterproof over pants
Sun hat
Sunscreen

What if I don’t have all of the compulsory gear?

You can hire waterproof jackets from Discovery Lodge and other gear from gear hire companies. If you do not have the compulsory gear or cannot hire it we will not transport you to the Crossing and advise you do not go by other means. This is for your own safety.

Can I walk the track in my trainers?

Yes. If you are relatively fit and healthy and have strong ankles you can do the Crossing in Trainers. If you feel you need good support over the rocky terrain, hiking boots are a must. Also, if the weather is likely to be poor it is nicer to have that extra warmth and support from hiking boots.

Can I walk in my sandals or flip-flops?

No. The terrain can be very brutal on exposed feet and if the weather changed you will be in trouble. No one likes cold feet!

Can I walk in my jeans?

No. Jeans are not comfortable enough for this distance and if they get wet you could get cold, leading to hypothermia in bad conditions. It is also difficult and uncomfortable to walk in wet jeans.

How much water do I need?

About 1.5 litres of water is the minimum. 2 litres is better. At Discovery Lodge we have fresh mountain spring water on tap so save your money and fill up your empties here.

How much food do I need?

This really depends on your appetite. You need enough sustenance to get you through 17km of mountainous terrain. A picnic lunch can be nice at Red Crater but don’t take too much. You don’t want too much extra weight for the Mangatepopo Saddle and the Red Crater climbs unless you have a well paid sherpa to carry for you.

Do I need a compass?

No. If the visibility is poor, stay on the track and follow the marker poles. A compass would be of very little use unless you have good knowledge of the terrain so you could pick the safest route off the mountain.

Do I need a map?

Yes. This is not essential but it is always very helpful to know where you are going and where you have come from.

Fitness


How fit do I need to be?

You will need to be moderately fit and healthy to have the best experience. There are two challenging climbs on the track, each taking up to one hour to complete. In saying that, we have taken people of all ages young and old, small and large, fit and not so fit. And everyone has made it home! I think knowing exactly what to expect on the Crossing and being mentally prepared for the hike is a very important part in deciding whether the hike is for you or not. If you are unsure you should talk to us at reception and we will help you decide for yourself.

Do I need to be an experienced climber?

No. The two climbs on the hike are challenging but more so for your heart, lungs and legs. The climbs are not at all technical.

What is the youngest person to have walked the track from Discovery Lodge?

5 years old. This is not to say all 5 year olds can hike the Crossing, most definitely not. If young children are walking with parents in the mountains and or the bush regularly they will most likely be leading most of the way on the Crossing. Inactive young children should not hike the Crossing.

What is the oldest person to have walked the track from Discovery Lodge?

94 years old. This is not to say all 94 year olds can hike the Crossing, most definitely not. Witnessing this was very inspirational. We did not actually take this person to the Crossing. She missed her bus and we took her home. We did have a 75 year old complete the hike with his family. When I picked him up at Ketetahi Road end his family told me he was blind! I wonder why they didn’t tell me at the start!!? We also had a couple in their 70’s climb Mt Ngauruhoe on their way over the Crossing! Also inspirational. It was his 72nd birthday. He went to university with JRR Tolkein so was most impressed to find out Mt Ngauruhoe was Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings.
My thoughts are if you have safely reached the mature years you probably know your body and it’s limits quite well and can decide for yourself, but if you need help with this let us know. We are more than happy to help.

What happens if I injure myself on the track?

If the injury means you cannot walk or move you need to dial 111 and request help. There should be many people on the track who will assist if you do not have a cell phone. If the weather allows, a helicopter will be sent to fly you off the mountain. In the mean time it is imperative you stay warm. If your injury means you can still walk give us a call on 0800 122 122 and we will arrange a later pick up if needed.

My knees are not the best, would you recommend the Crossing?

This depends on your pain threshold. Much of the 1200m descent comprises steps, some of which were designed and built for giant tourists. The knees do take a hammering on this hike, even good strong knees. Most of the time I tell people not to walk the Crossing if they suffer bad knees.

How fit do I need to be to climb Mt Ngauruhoe?

Very fit. This sidetrack takes an extra 2 to 2.5 hours so you need to keep moving steadily to catch the last bus. It is doable in the time but you don’t have the luxury of a long lunch break. The climb from the top of the Mangatepopo Saddle to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe is very steep in places, like hands and knees steep. This climb will take about 75 to 90 minutes. Best not to try this climb if you have an intimate understanding of vertigo. It takes about half an hour to come down.

The Track


Do we really need to take a bus to the start? Can we drive ourselves?

No to the first question. And yes you can drive yourself. However, 90% of people take a bus because it is the most convenient way of doing the Crossing. Let me explain. The Tongariro Crossing is a point-to-point hike starting at the Mangatepopo Road end 7km off State Highway 47. It finishes at the Ketetahi Road end 1km off State Highway 46 on the other side of Mt Tongariro. If you start at Mangatepopo end and finish at Ketetahi it can be difficult to get back to your car. There is no reliable bus service back to the Mangatepopo Road end. It is also not the safest place to park your car. There have been many cars broken into and gear stolen in the past.

What is the walking distance of the Crossing?

About 19.4km.

How long does it take to walk?

7 hours is average. This includes breaks along the way. If you walk at an average pace, say at the same pace you would walk down to the shops for some milk and bread, and made no stops, it would take you about 5 hours to complete.

What is the total climb of the Crossing?

About 800m. This is mostly conquered in two climbs, the Mangatepopo Saddle (sometimes called the Devils Staircase) and then the climb to the top of Red Crater which is the high point of the Crossing. Each climb takes up to one hour to complete.

What is the total descent of the Crossing?

About 1200m. So yes, it is true, there is more down hill than up hill on the Crossing but don’t let this fool you. It is still a tough hike.

What is the highest altitude on the track?

Red Crater at 1886m.

Do we need a guide?

No in the summer and yes in the winter. A guide can be nice in the summer if you would like commentary along the way.

What sort of terrain should I expect?

Most of the track is very civilised. DOC are putting in more boardwalks and nice steps, which we all love. I just hope handrails don’t come next! The terrain on the Mangatepopo Saddle is quite challenging and varied. It is very rocky and in some places it is quite slippery underfoot. Climbing and descending Red Crater you will also experience loose gravel. Descending Red Crater is possibly the most technically difficult part of the Crossing. It is steep and the footing is loose. Walking poles can be quite helpful on this part of the track. The remainder of the hike down to Ketetahi is straightforward although hundreds of steps could get a little monotonous if it wasn’t for the beautiful views over Lake Rotoira and surrounds.

Are there any toilets on the track?

Yes. There are toilets located at the Mangatepopo Road end (the start of the Crossing), bottom of the Mangatepopo Saddle climb, Ketetahi Hut and also at the Ketetahi Road end (the finish of the Crossing).

Is there drinking water on the track?

No. The water on the Crossing is not drinkable. You must take drinking water with you on this hike.

Which sidetrack would you recommend?

There are two sidetracks on the Crossing. The climb to Mt Ngauruhoe, and the hike to the summit of Mt Tongariro. If you are fit and you are the type of person who must reach “the top of the mountain” I would recommend Mt Ngauruhoe. The summit of Tongariro is less than 100m higher than Red Crater, the high point of the Crossing. So you don’t necessarily get a better view, just a different perspective. The view from Mt Ngauruhoe is spectacular. If you take our early bus you will be one of the first to the top. Unfortunately, when you come back down you will meet up with hundreds of other late starters. And you will see them all again at the Red Crater and the Blue and Emerald Lakes. Personally I would not climb Mt Ngauruhoe or Mt Tongariro. The highlight of the Crossing for me is Red Crater and the Lakes so I would want to get to these points and take photos before the crowds arrive. And the views from the Crossing are spectacular as well.

How long does it take to climb Mt Ngauruhoe?

This sidetrack takes an extra 2 to 2.5 hours so you need to keep moving steadily to catch the last bus. It is doable in the time but you don’t have the luxury of a long lunch break. The climb from the top of the Mangatepopo Saddle to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe is very steep in places, like hands and knees steep. This climb will take about 75 to 90 minutes. Best not to try this climb if you have an intimate understanding of vertigo. It takes about half an hour to come down.

Our Service


What sets your transport service apart from all the other Tongariro Crossing transport operators?

1. Discovery Lodge delivers you to the start of the Tongariro Crossing earlier than any other operator so you can enjoy the true splendours of being in the mountains in peace and quiet.
2. Our safety record and our experience. We have operated for 6 years without one single rescue from the Tongariro Crossing. Because I was born in this area and spend time on the tracks everyday, in all weather I have a better understanding of local conditions and can give well-informed advice to you.
3. Discovery Lodge is the closest accommodation to the Mangatepopo starting point (only 10 minutes driving) meaning you spend less time travelling in a bus and more time enjoying the mountains.
4. Discovery Lodge operates a modern air-conditioned bus for your comfort. This is particularly appreciated for the trip back to Discovery Lodge at the end of a hot summers day.

What time does the first bus leave Discovery Lodge?

5.10am. This means you start walking around 5.30am after a final brief.

Why do you start so early in the morning?

Purely for your enjoyment! Here are three great reasons to go early with Discovery Lodge. Firstly, the Tongariro Crossing has become New Zealand’s most popular one-day hike. On a nice day in the summer there can be up to 1000 people walking the track. If you start at 5.10am from Discovery Lodge you have more than a one-hour head start from the crowds. Most of the buses arrive at the start from 7.30am onwards. Secondly, during summer the sun can be very intense on the Crossing. When starting off early you are shaded from the sun until you reach the top of the Mangatepopo Saddle (the first of the two big climbs). This makes for a more comfortable hike. And thirdly, simply because this is the most beautiful time of the day! The morning twilight can be incredibly stunning driving up to the Crossing. What a great way to start the new day!

What are the major benefits of doing the Crossing from Discovery Lodge rather than from Taupo?

1. You save about 1.5 hours travel time to the start. Only 10 minutes travel time to the start from Discovery Lodge, you will feel more refreshed and relaxed ready to enjoy the Crossing in peace and quite.
2. Only 20 minutes drive home. At the end of the hike you can be back at Discovery Lodge having a refreshing cold drink from our bar while admiring the spectacular view of all three volcanoes from our deck, all while the Taupo buses are still travelling, stopping regularly to drop people off.
3. Better local knowledge of the current conditions. Because Discovery Lodge is very near the start (10 minutes drive), and because we are local people we can make much better decisions and give you better information than operators based 100km away.
4. You save money!
5. No risk! If you take a bus from Taupo to the start and decide not to walk you will be charged the full amount. If you take our bus to the start and decide not to walk for whatever reason at all, you will not be charged.
6. Personalised service. Because you are staying with us at Discovery Lodge your enjoyment and safety is of utmost importance to us. We are in the business of giving you a memorable experience of the Tongariro National Park, not just a bus ride.

Tell me again, why do you go so early?

Purely for your enjoyment! You get to walk in peace and quiet; you finish the first of the two big climbs before the sun starts to beat down on you on a sunny day. And if the weather is right you get to see a spectacular sun rise, some of the most beautiful lights anywhere in the world in my opinion.

What are the pick up times at the end of the day?

Generally, the first pick up is 1pm. Sometimes this can be earlier or later depending on weather, fitness of people and number of people. We let you know the pick up times when we drop you off at the start. You can relax in the knowledge we will give you plenty of time to hike the Crossing and we will not leave you behind. We normally have two or three pick ups spaced an hour apart.

What type of bus do you have?

A late model, air conditioned Toyota Coaster.

Can I start from Discovery at a later time?

Yes, but only when the 5.10am bus is full. We then go at 5.45am and then at 6.20am etc. If you really want to go later we can organise for you to go with another bus company.

Can I get breakfast and lunch from you?

Yes. You can order a packed breakfast and/or a packed lunch from us.

When do we find out about the weather?

5 minutes before our bus is scheduled to depart. This way you get the most up to date forecast and can make the best decision about going or not.

Can I cancel at any time?

Yes. You can cancel at any time without being charged. If you are unsure about the weather the day before it is best to book and then make the final decision just before the bus departs.

What happens if I am late to the finish?

Because we give you plenty of time this rarely happens. But if you think you will be late please call us on 0800 122 122 and let us know and we will pick you up at a later time or organise another company to drop you off at Discovery. There may be an extra charge for this.

What happens if I am late for the bus in the morning?

The bus leaves Discovery lodge at 5.10am sharp - bit like a Swiss train. If you are late you get left behind.

What is the driving time from Discovery Lodge to the start of the Crossing?

Just over 10 minutes.

What is the drive time from the finish back to Discovery Lodge?

About 25 minutes.

What happens if I don’t make it out before dark?

If the injury means you cannot walk or move you need to dial 111 and request help. There should be many people on the track who will assist if you do not have a cell phone. If the weather allows, a helicopter will be sent to fly you off the mountain. In the meantime it is imperative you stay warm. If your injury means you can still walk give us a call on 0800 122 122 and we will arrange a later pick up if needed. A charge may apply.

Do you pick up from other lodges?

No. Our bus goes direct from Discovery to the start of the Crossing. This service is owned and operated exclusively by Discovery Lodge for our guests only. Guests from other lodges are more than welcome to use our service if we have space on our bus. If you are staying somewhere else you can call us just before 9pm and check availability.

GuestCentric - Hotel website & booking technology