Mount Ngauruhoe summit climb
3 hr return from South Crater; 6-7 hr return from Mangatepopo parking area
6 km return from South Crater; 19 km return from Mangatepopo parking area
The near perfect volcanic cone of Mt Ngauruhoe entices many visitors to its summit. It is 2287 m high and last erupted in 1975. Mt Ngauruhoe found recent fame as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings film.
This parasitic cone of Mt Tongariro is one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes.
Follow the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track up the Mangatepopo Valley to the saddle between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro (up to 2 hr). A signposted poled route leads to the foot of a ridge near the centre of Mt Ngauruhoe. From here the route is not marked - it's up to you where you climb.
Ngauruhoe northern flank showing the rock ridge.
You can follow the rock ridge or on either side of it directly up toward the summit. Beyond the ridge, cross over the band of red rock to reach the outer crater gully.
Be aware of falling rocks dislodged by others on the steep slopes above - people have been hit by them before.
From here you can climb to the highest point on the outer crater rim (to the left) or to the top of the inner crater rim (to the right). There are steam vents on the outer rim.
You can walk around the rims, but take care - they are rugged rock, narrow in places and with steep drops. Avoid entering the inner crater area, where volcanic fumaroles (steam vents) emit overpowering gases.
Descend via the red scoria, then on the loose scree to either side of the ridge.
Take care not to gather too much speed, it is easy to trip and there is a long way to fall - and many sharp rocks to hit!
The climb begins with the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track from Mangatepopo parking area, at the end of Mangatepopo Road, off of State Highway 47.
The actual climb begins from the South Crater, where there is a signpost for Ngauruhoe Summit.
The summit climb is an optional side trip from the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Plan and prepare
Hiker at Ngauruhoe summit
- Good fitness is required to climb Ngauruhoe. It is steep with a rugged loose rock surface.
- There is no marked track to the summit, so you need clear weather to do it. It is not safe to climb the mountain in poor visibility, strong wind or high avalanche risk.
- The climb is very steep (about 30°). The surface is loose rock and stones (scree). Beware of falling rocks above and below you - people have been hit by falling rocks.
- Summer weather can be cold - snowfall, icy surfaces and sub-zero temperatures, heavy rain and strong wind, are all possible - be prepared.
- Altitude / elevation gain - you gain about 650 m in altitude from the South Crater to the summit, and about 1160 m from Mangatepopo parking area to the summit
Ngauruhoe in winter
- Climbing and backcountry skiing are popular on Ngauruhoe in winter, for skilled and equipped people.
- Alpine equipment and experience using it are essential for climbing the mountain when it's covered in snow/ice - icy conditions can make climbing very dangerous on the steep slopes.
- As in summer time, clear visibility is required as there is no marked route.
Check the weather forecast for Tongariro National Park on the MetService website before you go.
Clothing and equipment
- Sturdy hiking boots are essential. Trainers are not suitable - you definitely need ankle support!
- Plenty of water
- Warm base layer clothing and a rain jacket are essential
- Alpine and avalanche equipment in winter
Ngauruhoe on the GNS Science website