• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    12.1 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3674.5 Feet

Easy Parking

An all season one of a kind trek that will take you past pristine alpine lakes, volcanoes, and unique New Zealand landscapes all in about 20km! It takes you through Craters, untouched lakes, heaps of volcanic activity, and more!

To anyone who has seen The Lord of the Rings then you will have a little extra incentive for going on this one of a kind trek through Mordor (Northern New Zealand in reality). The backdrop for a good portion of the trek showcases the mighty Mt. Ngaurauhoe, also referred to as Mt. Doom. Yes, you read that right, this is the volcano used in the movies as Mt. Doom and as soon you catch first sight of this impressive landmark a couple miles in, you will soon realize why it was chosen.

From the car park within Mangatepopo Valley you begin on mostly flat, well paved trail that will gradually increase as you go. There are not really any extreme elevation gains until a little later in the hike, so for the experienced hiker the first few miles are a walk in the park. From Mangatepopo Valley you will walk this valley for about 1-2 hours depending on your ability, until you eventually reach your first stop off Soda Springs. This area is recognizable by its large amount of dissolved minerals and volcanic rock with its beautiful saturated colors.

From Soda Springs the trek will take you out towards the South Crater. This is where the trek begins to climb in elevation so strap up those boots and be ready for the real hiking fun to begin just after Soda Springs. An ancient "red crater" can be observed along this path, you will smell the potent smell of sulphur from the geothermal activity around the area, it is a volcano after all! 

As soon as you are done admiring the Red Crater it's time to push on along the poled route for a side trip (optional) up to the summit of Mt Tongariro, the elevation gain from this is no more than 100m up and should only take another 1-2 hours as the route itself follows along an undulating rocky ridge, and in all honesty the trek up looks a lot more intense than it really is! The views from the top are hard to put into words, but rest assured it's well worth the effort to the top of the mountain!

Once you have come back down from Mount Tongariro (or Red Crater whichever section you have chosen), you will make your way to the Emerald Lakes. You will learn quickly why they are called the Emerald Lakes, as the shining green color of the lakes along with the geothermal steam surrounding it from the underground volcanic activity. From Red Crater to the Emerald Lakes will only take about 10-20 minutes.

The next leg of the trip will be a little more taxing, as it takes about another 1-2 hours to reach. From Emerald Lake you will head off to Ketetahi shelter, along this section you will come across the sacred blue lake, this lake is Tapu, it is not to be swam in or messed with in anyway as it is an ancient Maari site and should be treated as such. In this area you will find quite a bit of evidence of the recent volcanic eruptions.

Last but certainly not least you begin the loop back from Ketetahi shelter to Ketetahi parking area. This is a fairly long stretch of ground to cover and should take you around 1-2 hours in total to complete as it gives you a gradual descend through a more forested section that perfectly meets with the volcanic line. At the end of the hike there is the option for a short hike to a waterfall. 

Pack List

  • Hiking Boots
  • Trekking Poles
  • 2 Liters of Water
  • Microspikes or crampons (winter)
  • Packable food
  • Sunglasses
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

Truly have never seen anything like this! Like a mix of The Enchantments and a barren wasteland! I recommend starting around 11 or 12, if you can, to avoid the crowds. The downhill is really long and monotonous when you descend from blue lake, so yeah that part kinda sucked but otherwise one of my favorite hikes ever!

25 days ago
25 days ago

Amazing scenery!! Lots of people on the track at all times so can be a bit crowded and some people can be competitive and pushy but it’s still an amazing accomplishment and so pleased I made it!!

2 months ago
2 months ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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