New Zealand | Tongariro National Park

Fans of LOTR – we climbed Mount Doom!

Besides the fact that a lot of the battle scenes for LOTR were filmed in this national park, the Tongariro Crossing was described as the “finest one-day walk in New Zealand.” Honestly, we had low expectations (especially given the hype) – how could anything beat the beauty of the South Island?

Well, there’s a reason why LOTR was filmed here – lots of volcanic activity has made climbing certain parts of the mountain extremely dangerous. But it was this same activity – hot steam coming out from beneath our feet – that made the entire journey so surreal. Add to that snow-covered mountains and emerald pools — it was truly a great hike.

IMG_4238We had a rough morning. A long drive the night before combined with an early start to catch the first shuttle into the park = two grumpy travelers. There was also some mixup with our shuttle reservations that we made the night before (sneaking suspicion that they never went through), so the bus was completely booked. Thankfully, they allowed us to sit on the floor for the short ride to the start point. About two hours into the 9 hour hike, I started to feel a bit queesy. Luckily, we found the one and only bathroom on the entire trail – a shack in the middle of nowhere.

As far as hikes go, this was strenuous, but defintely not the hardest hike we’ve done. The first part is flat, then a short incline, then some rock scrambling, then a scree/gravel downhill, then a walk through an ice field, and then about a zillion miles of downhill switchbacks down the mountain (oddly enough, this was the worst part), through a rainforest, and finally to the other side where the shuttle came to pick up back up and take us to our car. One of the detours on the trail was to a natural hot springs. It used to be free to go to the hot springs, but I guess the property owners realized rather quickly that they could make money off of it, so they closed it off, and now there’s a complicated system of passes that need to be bought before the area can be accessed. We didn’t bother, the hike itself was amazing enough on its own.


Daybreak over the mountains. Way too early to be awake…and on a long hike…and we’ve only just begun.


mount doom


We could have been on another planet


seismic steam being released from the earth – smelled like rotten eggs




trail through the snow


We lucked out with weather again – weather can change without notice on the alpine crossing. Most days, it’s overcast, foggy, windy, and limited visibility. The day before this and the day after – the weather sucked.


never ending switchbacks


forest section at the end (or beginning, depending which way you go…I wouldn’t recommend going the forest way)


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