Beginning at Whakapapa Doc centre Mt Ruapehu
- Note. River levels rise very quickly after heavy rain.
- Do not cross rivers when in flood.
- Whangaehu bridge now open.
- Whangaehu Valley is a lahar path.
- Annual hut pass or backcountry hut tickets required for this circuit: $15 per adult for huts and $5.00 per youth.
- Waihohonu hut is Great Walk prices.
Whakapapa to Waihohonu Hut
Time: 5 hr 30 min
The track begins at the end of 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. The lower track, to this point, takes an hour and a quarter. Alternatively, the Upper Taranaki Falls track takes you over tussock and shrubland to the same point in one 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.
Waihohonu Hut to Rangipo Hut
Time: 5 hr
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 weather is predominantly from a westerly direction.
The track passes Ohinepango Springs then traverses the eastern side of Ruapehu, past the Tukino Mountain Road, the Whangaehu River, and eventually arriving at Rangipo Hut. The hut is perched on the edge of the southern end of the desert with views of the vast Kaimanawa mountains to the east.
Rangipo Hut to Mangaehuehu Hut
Time: 5 hr 30 min
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
The gradual downhill traverse from Mangahuehu weaves through open alpine tussock country and mountain beech stands.
After an hour and a half, 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, reputedly the highest falls in Tongariro National Park. The track out to the road passes Rotokawa, an alpine tarn which features several alpine wetland species and enables spectacular views of Ruapehu on a clear day.
A second track junction indicates the Old Blyth Track (1.5 hours to the 7 km point on the Ohakune Mountain Road) on the left, or 15 minutes to continue on to Waitonga Falls carpark (the 12 km point on the Ohakune Mountain Road). There is a 3 km walk up the road to link up with the Round the Mountain track again.
Ohakune Mountain Road to Mangaturuturu Hut
Time: 1 hr 30 min
The track begins at Wanganui Corner, the 15km point on the Ohakune Mountain Road, and descends into the Makotuku Valley. It crosses over a lava ridge covered in alpine herbs and then descends into the expansive Mangaturuturu Valley via the "Cascades", where a mountain stream tumbles over a spectacular rockfall. The Cascades have a creamy white coating which is a silica deposit left on the rocks by the fast flowing stream. Take care here, as the rocks can be slippery during wet weather or icy conditions.
The Mangaturuturu Hut is situated on the valley floor. This hut is maintained jointly by the Department of Conservation and the Wanganui Tramping Club.
Mangaturuturu Hut to Whakapapiti Hut
Time: 5 hr 30 min
On leaving the Mangaturuturu Hut, the track immediately crosses the Mangaturuturu River. 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. Take care crossing the river, particularly after heavy rain. 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 previously destroyed by trampers clambering up the difficult rock face.
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. 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. The track junction just before Whakapapaiti Hut gives you the option of continuing on to Scoria Flat on the Bruce Road (1.5 hours), or turn off to the Whakapapaiti Hut (15 minutes) and on to Whakapapa Village (2.5 hours).
Whakapapaiti Hut to Whakapapa Village
Time: 2 hr 30 min
From the Whakapapaiti Hut the track continues down the valley. Fifteen minutes below the hut, the track crosses the Whakapapaiti Stream. In times of low river flow it is possible to "boulder hop" at this point. However, after heavy rain, it is often unsafe to cross. In times of high water there is the alternative route of returning via Round the Mountain top track onto the Bruce Road at Scoria Flat, 4 kms above Whakapapa Village and 1 hour 30 minutes from Whakapapaiti hut.
Approximately three quarters of an hour below the hut is the Mangahuia Track turn-off. The track to the village continues straight on. Just below this point the track starts to head in an easterly direction towards Whakapapa Village. 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 three quarters of an hour to the village.
Places to stay
There are five huts available for trampers, Waihohonu, Rangipo, Mangaehuehu, Mangaturuturu and Whakapapaiti. Passes for these huts must be purchased before commencing the trip.
Camping is prohibited within 500 metres of the tracks. Campsites have been established near each of the huts. Facilities at the huts can be used when camping.
Hut and camping fees go towards servicing and maintenance to ensure that these special backcountry facilities remain available. Please see the Department of Conservation visitor centres for further information and hut/campsite pass sales.
There will be hut wardens in the huts over the busy season to provide park and weather information.
- Protect plants and animals
- Remove rubbish
- Bury toilet waste
- Keep streams and lakes clean
- Take care with fires
- Camp carefully
- Keep to the track
- Consider others
- Respect our cultural heritage
- Enjoy your visit
- Toitu te whenua (leave the land undisturbed)
You need to book your Doc Huts