TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING: SHUTTLE OPTIONS
Parking, Transport and Shuttle Options
New Zealand’s famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, is a one-way hike, starting and ending in different locations – so you need to arrange shuttles/transport, otherwise you’ll be stuck trying to work out how to get back to your accommodation!
- The crossing starts at Mangatepopo car park
- The crossing ends at the Ketetahi car park
This means you will need to organise transport from one end of the track back to your car at the other.
Or you’ll need to organise return transport from your accommodation or township, whether it’s Taupo, Turangi, National Park., Ohakune or Whakapapa. But this is more expensive as you have to pay for two shuttle rides.
Best Option for Transport: Park at Ketetahi
The best thing to do is to book a spot for your car at the Ketetahi Car Park and grab one of the included shuttles to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike at Mangatepopo.
When you book a spot in the car park, your shuttle to the start of the crossing is included, so it’s super easy.
This is a secure car park which is checked hourly by a security service and also has a video camera with remote access – so your car will be safe.
When you get to the end of the track, you simply walk another 10 minutes back to the car park, where your vehicle awaits, and you can drive off at your leisure.
It’s worth noting you don’t need to book to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing itself – which is one of the reasons it is such a popular hike in New Zealand for both overseas tourists and locals alike.
Ketetahi Car Park Reviews
Cost of the Ketetahi Car Park
It costs $35 per person for the car park and shuttle, and if you are booking online a booking needs to be for at least two people.
Note that bookings are essential and it’s best to secure your spot well in advance of your crossing – remember that up to 3,000 people per day can be on the crossing in peak times…
The car park closes at 7pm, which is ample time to get back.
What’s great is that full refunds are given if bad weather means you can’t do the crossing.
Parking at Ketetahi is also the cheapest option as you are only paying for a one way shuttle, instead of a return trip.
Stay in Control of Your Day
Using the Ketetahi car park means you are fully in control of your transport at the end of the day.
You can rest assured that your car will be waiting for you when it’s time to leave – and you don’t have to wait around for another shuttle service.
Booking online means there is full contact tracing and contactless operations, which is important with Covid-19 considerations in New Zealand.
Parking at Mangatepopo for the Crossing?
Mangatepopo car park is at the start of the Tongariro Crossing, but parking here is NOT an option.
This is because there is a 4 hour time limit on the car park, meaning it’s impossible to park, then go hiking and get a shuttle back to your car park. The walk will take you at least 6 hours.
You can only really park here if you are going to do a short section of the hike, then turn around and head back.
The time limit was introduced by the New Zealand Department of Conservation who manage the parking spot, to deal with large crowd numbers on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
This is why, if you are driving, Ketetahi is the easy option.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing Shuttle from your Accommodation
There are return shuttle services that will pick you up from your Tongariro Alpine Crossing accommodation.
The big problem with this option is that at the end of your walk you inevitably end up waiting for your shuttle service, as they run on fixed schedules – which may be different from your schedules.
It’s impossible to predict exactly when you will finish the 19km walk, hence the need for shuttle operators to use rigid schedules to operate transport.
It can also be stressful knowing you’ve got to finish before the last Tongariro Alpine Crossing shuttle leaves!
But, if you miss your shuttle you could end up waiting hour(s) for the next one – it’s far better to have your car at the Ketetahi car park, so you have control over your day when the walk ends.
Return Shuttles from your base town to the Tongariro Crossing
If you are staying in any of the below locations, you will be able to book a return local shuttle service to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
- Tongariro National Park
The Problem With Return Shuttles
The thing with return shuttles is that you don’t have as much control as when you use your own car.
You will need to know your shuttle pick up times/schedules at the end of the crossing. This will determine how long you’ll have to wait at the end of the crossing.
Imagine yourself, after a long day of hiking what is regarded as the best one day hike in New Zealand. You’ve seen the Emerald Lakes, Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Tongariro and other amazing sites.
You finish your journey and eagerly anticipate getting on that bus to take you home – but then over an hour passes by without any pickup in sight – because their schedule is not your schedule!
When it comes to using return shuttles for the crossing the fact is there are a lot of moving parts to consider, which is why driving to the Ketetahi end of the track is the most simple option.
Driving from Taupo to the Tongariro National Park
Driving from Taupo takes approximately 1 hour to Tongariro National Park. If you drive, your best option is to leave your car at the Ketetahi car park in the morning, then jump on the shuttle which will drive you to the beginning point of the crossing.
When you complete the crossing you can simply go back to your car and drive back to Taupo. Easy!
Tongariro Crossing Shuttle from Taupo, Turangi, etc...
You can also use shuttles to get to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and back, with a Taupo return shuttle if you prefer to avoid the drive. You can arrange transport through the Taupō i-SITE or Turangi i-SITE.
Some operators will also pick you up from your Taupo accommodation. Bear in mind that with this option, you will be on a bus for at least an hour each way from Taupo.
Likewise with Turangi, there will be plenty of shuttle options available for the Tongariro Crossing.
But for the sake of control and convenience, a one way shuttle from Ketetahi car park is your best bet!