- You can walk the Round the Mountain Track in either direction; here we describe it going clockwise. Consider recent or forecast rainfall in choosing your route, given the unbridged river crossings.
- You can also do a part of the track over 2 or 3 days, for example between Whakapapa Village and Ohakune Mountain Road on either the western or eastern side of Ruapehu. There are shuttle services available.
Places to stay
There are six huts with campsites available on the Round the Mountain Track: Waihohonu, Rangipo, Mangaehuehu, Blyth, Mangaturuturu and Whakapapaiti.
Waihohonu Hut and Campsite require advance booking in the Great Walks season. Outside the Great Walks season, it is first come, first served. Other huts and campsites are first come, first served all year.
Camping outside the designated campsites is allowed in the National Park,except:
- Within 500 m of the Tongariro Northern Circuit Track, which includes the track between Whakapapa and Waihohonu Hut
- Within 200 m of the Round the Mountain Track
Whakapapa Village to Waihohonu Hut
Time: 5 hr 30 min
Distance: 14.3 km
The track begins along Ngauruhoe Place, 100 metres below Whakapapa Visitor Centre. There are two options. The Lower Taranaki Falls Track crosses tussock and shrubland before following the Wairere Stream through mountain beech forest to the base of Taranaki Falls. On leaving the falls, the track climbs a set of steps and brings you to the junction with the Upper Taranaki Falls Track (1 hour 25 minutes to this point). Alternatively, the Upper Taranaki Falls track takes you over tussock and shrubland to the same point in 1 hour.
After leaving the Taranaki Falls Track, it is a further 2 hours to Tama Saddle and Tama Lakes junction. From here a side trip can be made to the Tama Lakes. Tama Saddle is exposed and conditions can be windy in bad weather.
From Tama Saddle the track gradually descends for 2.5 hours down the Waihohonu Stream to Waihohonu Hut. A side trip can be made from the Round the Mountain track to the historic Waihohonu Hut, about 10 minutes before you reach the new Waihohonu Hut.
Side trip: Tama Lakes
Time: 20 min return to Lower Tama from the junction, 1.5 hr return to Upper Tama from the junction.
Tama Lakes, two infilled explosion craters, are named after Tamatea, the high chief of the Takitimu Canoe, who explored the area six centuries ago.
The lower lake (at 1200 m), is 10 minutes from the junction. Volcanic debris is slowly washing in and filling the crater. The upper lake (at 1314 m) is a further 40 minutes up a steep ridge. This beautiful lake is reputed to be very deep.
Side trip: Historic Waihohonu Hut
Time: 20 min return from the new Waihohonu Hut, 10 min return from the Round the Mountain Track, 3 hr (6.3 km) return from Desert Road (State Highway 1)
Built in 1903/04, this was the first hut built in Tongariro National Park. It's the oldest example of a typical early two-room mountain hut in New Zealand. Historic Waihohonu Hut
Waihohonu Hut to Rangipo Hut
Time: 5 hr
Distance: 12.5 km
The track from Waihohonu Hut to Rangipo Hut is in one of the most unique areas in the park. It is the only true desert landscape in the North Island, and as such, features vast plains of wind sculptured sands and volcanic rock. The Rangipo Desert is dryer than most areas in Tongariro National Park as it is sited in the rain shadow to the east of Mt Ruapehu.
The track passes Ohinepango Springs then traverses the eastern side of Ruapehu, past the Tukino Mountain Road, the Whangaehu River, eventually arriving at Rangipo Hut. The hut is perched on the southern edge of the desert with views east to the Kaimanawa mountains.
Side trip: Ohinepango Springs
Time: 1 hr return from new Waihohonu Hut, 5 min return from Round the Mountain Track
Crystal clear cold water bubbles up from beneath the old lava flow and discharges at an enormous rate into the Ohinepango Stream.
The springs are signposted on the Round the Mountain Track heading towards Rangipo Hut.
Rangipo Hut to Mangaehuehu Hut
Time: 5 hr 30 min
Distance: 8.5 km
The trip from Rangipo to Mangaehuehu is an undulating traverse. It leaves the desertlands of Rangipo, re-entering the mountain beech forest on the southern flanks of Mt Ruapehu. A feature of this section of track is crossing the awesome Waihianoa Gorge which cuts a path down the mountain into Karioi Forest.
Mangaehuehu Hut to Ohakune Mountain Road
Time: 3 hr
Distance: 8.9 km
The gradual downhill traverse from Mangahuehu weaves through open alpine tussock country and mountain beech stands.
After 1 hour 30 minutes, a track junction gives walkers the option of a side trip to Blyth Hut (1 hour return) or continuing out to the Ohakune Mountain Road. About 20 minutes past the track junction are the Waitonga Falls (39 m), reputedly the highest falls in Tongariro National Park. The track out to the road passes Rotokawa, an alpine tarn featuring several alpine wetland species and spectacular views of Ruapehu on a clear day.
A second junction indicates the Old Blyth Track (1 hour 30 minutes to the 7 kilometre point on the Ohakune Mountain Road) on the left, or 15 minutes to continue on to Waitonga Falls carpark (the 11 kilometre point on the Ohakune Mountain Road). Walk 3 kilometres up the road to link up with the next section of Round the Mountain Track.
Side trip: Blyth Hut
Time: 1 hr return from the junction east of Waitonga Falls
Access Blyth Hut from the junction just east of Waitonga Falls on the Round the Mountain Track.
Following a gentle climb through mountain beech forest, you emerge out into the open, from where the hut is a short climb above the headwaters of the Mangateitei Stream. The hut site features expansive views of the mountain and the countryside to the south.
Ohakune Mountain Road to Mangaturuturu Hut
Time: 1 hr 30 min
Distance: 3 km
The track begins 3 kilometres further up the road from the exit of Mangaehuehu Hut and Waitonga Falls track (15 kilometres from Ohakune township).
Follow the track down into the Makotuku Valley, then cross a lava ridge covered in alpine herbs.
The track then descends into the expansive Mangaturuturu Valley via the Cascades, where a mountain stream tumbles over a spectacular rockfall. The rocks are coated with a creamy-coloured silica deposit left behind by the fast flowing stream. Caution: the rocks can be slippery during wet or icy conditions.
Mangaturuturu Hut, situated on the valley floor, is maintained jointly by the Department of Conservation and the Wanganui Tramping Club.
Mangaturuturu Hut to Whakapapaiti Hut
Time: 5 hr 30 min
Distance: 10.3 km
Shortly after leaving the hut, the track crosses the Mangaturuturu River. Caution: It may not be possible to cross safely when the river is high during or following rain. The river bed was scoured out in 1975 by a lahar (volcanic mud flow), thus the sides of the river are devoid of established vegetation.
A climb out of the valley brings you to Lake Surprise, a shallow alpine tarn. The staircase that climbs up from Lake Surprise onto the ridge above, was constructed to protect the fragile alpine environment.
The traverse to Whakapapaiti features two magnificent river valleys, the Manganui-o-te-Ao and the Makatote. These rivers merge in the Ruatiti Valley then flow into the Whanganui River to the sea. This part of the track features views of Hauhungatahi, a conical peak to the northwest of Ruapehu, as well as spectacular waterfalls tumbling off lava bluffs in the Whakapapaiti Valley.
At the junction just before Whakapapaiti Hut, you have the option of continuing on to Scoria Flat on the Bruce Road (1 hour 30 minutes), or turning off to Whakapapaiti Hut (15 minutes) and on to Whakapapa Village (2 hours 30 minutes).
Whakapapaiti Hut to Whakapapa Village
Time: 2 hr 30 min
Distance: 8.7 km
From the Whakapapaiti Hut the track continues down the valley. 15 minutes below the hut it crosses Whakapapaiti River. When the river flow is low, you can boulder hop across - but after rain it is not possible to cross safely. You can avoid the main river crossing, and exit along the top return route to the Bruce Road at Scoria Flat, 5 km above Whakapapa Village.
About 45 minutes below the hut the Mangahuia Track branches off to the left (to Mangahuia Campsite and SH47). The track to the village continues straight on then veers east. Interesting features of this area are the groves of kaikawaka and cabbage trees amongst the beech forest.
From here the track undulates for a number of easy climbs and descents before joining the well formed Silica Rapids Track, for the last 45 minutes to Whakapapa Village.