When Is the Best Time of Year to Cross the Tongariro?

When is the best time of the year to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

You’ve probably heard about how busy it can get. Or perhaps you’re wondering when the best weather is?

The Crossing can become extremely congested at certain times.

And it’s difficult to predict when the weather will be nice. ☀️

But this does not stop you from having an unforgettable Tongariro Crossing adventure.

All it takes is a little knowledge and planning. So let’s walk through the scenarios, and the benefits and disadvantages of each.

Summer Is The Busiest Season

Summer is the most popular season for hiking in New Zealand. Summer hiking season lasts from November to the end of April. Pre Covid, approximately 120,000 people hike the Crossing during this time.


The Benefits of Crossing in Summer

The obvious advantage of hiking in the summer is that the weather is likely to be better. This is why it is the busiest season!


Disadvantages of Crossing in Summer

The track can become congested. During the summer, it’s not unusual for the track to be visited by over 1,000 people per day.   That’s a lot of human traffic to deal with, which may put some people off.

On nice days, it’s busier, and on bad weather days, it’s quieter.  Equally, on the weekends, especially Saturdays, it’s much busier than during the week.  So a mid-week summer crossing is a great idea!

Tips for making the most of your Tongariro Crossing in summer

  • Book your hotel and car park, as well as your shuttle in advance.
  • Begin your day early!  If you, can grab a 6am shuttle from the Ketetahi Car Park.  This will help avoid the crowds.
  • Plan to be in the area for at least two days, so you have a back up day, in case bad weather means you can’t cross. This applies in winter as well!


This is an important point because every year without fail there are hundreds of people who miss out on the crossing because bad weather stopped them from walking on their chosen day. With no back up plan, they miss out.

Crossing In Winter

Winter months are July, August, September and October. In the winter, the Tongariro Crossing is cold, wet, and windy. Even on a beautiful, sunny day, the weather can change in an instant.

Benefits of Crossing In Winter

Winter offers some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking landscape views. It can be a spectacular experience because the track is covered in ice and snow.  Read more about attempting the crossing in winter here.

Disadvantages of Crossing in Winter

Due to the unpredictable weather and harsher conditions, almost all people will travel with a professional mountain guide. 

Guide companies provide all the specialist equipment, transportation, expert guidance, and expert assistance.
In winter, a guide is essential for crossing the river.  It’s not compulsory, but only the most experienced and confident hikers go it alone.

So it is strongly advisable to hire an experienced local guide even if you have a lot of experience.

This track is the subject of the most search-and-rescues in New Zealand due to its extreme terrain.
You should take extreme weather precautions when winter trekking on the Tongariro. It is susceptible to high winds and snow.

Your guide will decide whether you should attempt the crossing, and they might decide to turn around if things go wrong on the Crossing.

You will need at least three layers, and thermals under, to keep warm. It is recommended to have windproof, waterproof pants and jackets.

You will need a pair of good hiking boots. The footwear must not exceed the ankle and be made from a non-mesh material such as leather or Gore-Tex. For those difficult parts of the crossing, your tour guide will often provide crampons and a cool ice-axe.

Even though it’s winter, severe sunburns can occur on sunny days. Always bring sunscreen and lip balm.

Crossing in the Months of May, June, and October

Winter conditions such as snow and ice may or may not exist during these months (known as the “shoulder months”). 

Every year is unique, and it’s difficult to plan in advance especially if you only allow one day to do the crossing.

During these months, there is sometimes a lot of snow on the track, and sometimes there isn’t. If you are thinking about crossing during these months, you should seek expert local advice.

Best Conditions for the Crossing

We are frequently asked which months have the best weather. This is a difficult question to answer because the weather varies from year to year. Every year is unique and weather can be difficult to predict and plan for.

When is the best time of the year to complete the Tongariro Crossing?

We believe that the best time to hike the Crossing is between early and mid-November. Normally, the track is free of snow and ice. However, there is still snow around the lakes and in the craters to enjoy a spectacular view.

November has traditionally been a quieter month, but this is quickly changing.

If November is not an option, April is our second choice for the Crossing. The autumn weather is your friend, and you’ll avoid the crowds.

The Busiest Days

On any given summer day, the Tongariro Crossing can be crowded. Especially if good weather follows a period of bad weather. If beautiful weather is forecast, tourists will flock to the area. When a beautiful day arrives, there may be two or three days’ worth of tourists on the track.

Tongariro Crossing in Easter Holidays

Easter is traditionally one of the busiest weekends on the Crossing. If you do decide to do the hike over a long holiday weekend, we recommend starting as early as possible to avoid crowds. Also, make your car park booking as far in advance as possible!

How long does it take to walk up Tongariro?

The walk should take approximately 9 hours. Winter has between 9 and 11 hours of daylight so start the walk early to make it home before it gets dark. Always carry a headlamp. If conditions are unsafe or your progress is too slow, you can always turn around.

How difficult is the Tongariro Crossing to walk?

It takes approximately six to eight hours, and involves an ascent of 1,886m. Although the tracks are well-marked, there is a risk around the steeper and more slippery sections. Due to its difficult terrain and length, the Tongariro Crossing hike is moderately strenuous. Hikers should be in good physical shape.

What is the traffic like at the Tongariro Crossing?

Depending on the time of year and the weather, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be more or less crowded. During the shoulder seasons, expect up to 800 hikers per day, and up to 3,000 hikers per day during the summer.

Is it necessary to make a reservation to walk the Tongariro Crossing?

You do not need to book to hike the trail; however, because the trail does not begin and end in the same location, you will want to reserve a parking spot or shuttle service.