You don’t need me to tell you how to do the Tongariro Crossing. There are 100’s, if not 1000’s of posts already out there.

What this post will talk about is some of the things I’d like to have known in advance.

tongariro crossing trail

Token Tongariro Crossing photo

It’s not that I had a shit experience on the human equivalent of an ant trail as the constant views throughout the day evaporate any negative feelings simmering inside you. If they don’t, you probably need to take take a chill pill.

Anyhow, knowing these five things before you head to one of NZ’s best day trips may just having you thinking to yourself, “I’m glad Jub wrote about that.”

National Park Is An Actual Town

national park kiwi

Loved this monument National Park

national park fish n chips

…and like any good NZ town, there’s a fish and chip shop

Over the years there have been several moments where I’ve been close to doing the Tongariro Crossing. This had led me into looking into where you can stay the night before on several occasions. The three options that kept come up were Ohakune, Turangi, and National Park. Umm…National Park?

For some reason, I assumed National Park was referring to a place in a national park surrounded by forest where you can stay in huts etc.


There are hotels, hostels, pub, restaurant, gas station, small supermarket, and of course a fish and chip shop. Everything a small town needs. This is where I ended up staying Piper’s Lodge as it’s the closest town to the main starting point of the Tongariro Crossing and lots of shuttles depart from the town to the track.

Quick Facts About National Park:

  • Named so due to its proximity to Tongariro National Park
  • Permanent population 174 (2013 census)
  • Originally called Waimarino (calm waters)

The Toilet Queue After The Blue Lake Is Crazy Busy – Hold On!

tongariro crossing toilet queue

This was a 20+ minute waiting time for the toilet

After struggling to the highest point of Tongariro Alpine Crossing, most people tend to start having lunch around the Emerald Lakes and Blue Lake. The first toilet stop is a couple hundred metres past the Blue Lake, and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out what the queue here is like.

On the day we walked the track (early November), the toilet queue was just over 25 minutes long. The next toilet stop is another 2.5km away and the queue was a lot shorter. You can see the toilet stops along the track here.

The Last Section Of The Walk Is Sneaky Long!

tongariro crossing switchbacks

This is not too long after the Blue Lake. It feels like you’re on a labyrinth of switchbacks.

Just after Blue Lake toilet stop, you’ll see a view similar to the above. You’ll feel like you’re on the home stretch at this point in time. You definitely aren’t. You’ve still got 8km to go. It is pretty much all down from this point on, but it certainly drags on. I certainly wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Brianne and I had a great laugh at one picnic table that had a sign saying how long was left to go on the hike (45 minutes I think). Everyone coming around the corner and reading the sign would give out a big sigh haha.

There’s No Obvious Turn Off For Mt. Doom

looking towards mount doom

Next time I’ll go up there!

I’ve never watched Lord of the Rings, but have definitely heard about Mt. Doom and how it’s possible to scale to the summit as an additional side trip to the crossing.

I must say I was a bit naive in this sense and didn’t click that one of the peaks we were walking past was Mount Doom. Naievity got me again when I didn’t register that Mount Doom is actually called Mount Ngauruhoe. So the sign at the turn off is for Ngauruhoe, not Doom!

And out of all the people who walk the trail every day, only a few make the mission to get to the summit of Mt Doom. Therefore it pays to pay attention to the signs, otherwise, you’ll continue your journey on the ant trail.

Not Catching The First Shuttle Leaves You Surrounded By Humans

cars at the tongariro crossing

The early bird beats the worm etc.

We took the shuttle bus leaving Pipers Lodge (our accommodation) at 7 am. This was great as I wasn’t too keen on waking up super early. But in hindsight, we should have left earlier as it is “the early bird beats the worm” on the crossing. When we arrived at the car park, a bunch of other shuttles and vans were and we were in the middle of the trail. It’d be great to get to the head of the pack by catching the first shuttle with the added benefit of having fewer people in your photo. Most of the buses are flexible in their pickup times so you get to hangout on the mountain longer without hustling to get back to the last bus departure (they tell you all the details on the way there).

There you go. If any of these tips made you think ‘oh that’s useful’, then my job here is done. Enjoy your Tongariro Crossing journey and tag me on Instagram (@tikitouringkiwi) on your photos and stories.

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tongariro crossing guide