Things to see and do from National Park Village, Tongariro National Park and Whanganui National Park.
National Park Village borders the World Heritage Tongariro National Park to the east and the Whanganui National Park, to the west. National Park Village is located near the base of Mt Ruapehu, at the intersection of SH4 & SH47 on the volcanic plateau. The area is arguably most famous for the Tongariro Crossing, Mount Ruapehu ski area and for filming of Lord of the Rings, however there are many other reason to come visit this historic area.
History and Heritage
Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, located in the central North Island. It has been acknowledged by UNESCO as one of the 25 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites.
The active volcanic mountains Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro are located in the centre of the park. There are a number of Māori religious sites within the park, such as one at the grave to Te Heuheu Herekeikei. The summits of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are tapu (sacred).
The remoteness and resistance by Maori made this area one of the last to be settled in New Zealand. The first major European influences came in the 1840's with missionaries on the southern reaches of the Whanganui River. The completion of the Main Trunk railway in 1908 improved access to markets for the logging, sawmilling, farming and horticulture industries.
Faced with towering mountains, steep hillsides, and deep ravines near the high plateau in the centre of the North Island, the builders of the Main Trunk Railway displayed remarkable skill in overcoming the many difficulties. Southbound trains from Taumaranui climb 636 metres in only 52 kilometers to National Park, the steepest gradient being 1 in 50, as on the last eleven miles where the famous Raurimu Spiral is located.
Whakapapa Ski Area
New Zealands largest, most developed ski area. Within the 600 acre boundary, there are a myriad of options that cater for beginners right through to advanced skiers out to challenge their limits. The off piste skiing at Whakapapa is also superb. Whakapapa Ski Area is located on the northwestern slopes of Mt Ruapehu and on a clear day has spectacular views across the central North Island. Popular annual events at Whakapapa include the G Force Mini X Games, Pepsi Fireworks Spectacular, and the Mt Ruapehu Spring Festival.
Turoa Ski Area
Turoa's terrain is nature's answer tot he perfect terrain park. the Alpine Meadow is a gentle, sheltered haven for the first time, while on the upper mountain, tricky chutes and steeps abound to challenge the expert. The wide, open slopes of Turoa provide plenty of great cruising, and the formed Terrain Park give riders a specially designed area to practice their tricks. Popular annual events at Turoa include the Mardi Gras Big Air, Spring Festival, and the Peak to the Powderkeg multisport race.
Crater Walk on Mt Ruapehu
New Zealand's most accessible live volcano. Local guides take daily trips to the top of Mt Ruapehu to see the world famous Crater Lake. You get to an altitude of 2,670 meters. From the top you get a fantastic view of the Crater Lake, nearby Mt Ngauruhoe, and on a clear day you can see Lake Taupo and both costs.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is described as one of the best one-day hikes in New Zealand. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing trek takes you from alpine meadows to mountain summit with stunning volcanic features along the way. On the Tongariro Apline Crossing you will walk across a lunar landscape of craters, scattered pumice, active volcanoes, mountain springs, lava flows, emerald lakes, piles of scoria and statue-like mounds of volcanic desert. It will take about 8-9 hours to allow time for photos and any sidetracks, the summit of Mt Tongariro is 1967m and Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom, for all the Lord of the Rings fans) at 2287m above sea level.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing Track Transport leaves daily, weather permitting, from National Park Village. Your accommodation host will arrange for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Transport Shuttle to pick you up and deliver you back at the end of the day. In winter the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Track Transport will arranged a guide, crampons and an ice axe, if you want to experience a true apline adventure.
The Whanganui River
The Whanganui River winds its way from the mountains to the Tasman Sea and is part of New Zealand's Great Walks network. Today this remote river provides a wilderness haven for unique outdoor adventure. Very few places in the world can take you a canoe on a river for several days totally cut off from the pressures of civilisation. People of all fitness levels and ages can experience the Whanganui Journey.
Early Maori cultivated the sheltered terraces and built elaborate eel weirs along river channels where eels and lamprey were known to converge. Every bend of the river had kaitiaki (guardian), which controlled the mauri (life force) of that place.
The river is of special and spiritual importance for Māori, who also refer to it as Te awa tupua - it was the home for a large proportion of Māori villages in pre-European times. As such, it is regarded as taonga, a special treasure.
Mount Ruapehu is an active stratovolcano at the southern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. It is beside National Park Village, 23 kilometres northeast of Ohakune and 40 kilometres southwest of the southern shore of Lake Taupo. The North Island's major skifields and only glaciers are on its slopes.
Ruapehu is one of the world's most active volcanoes and the largest active volcano in New Zealand. It is the highest point in the North Island and includes three major peaks: Tahurangi (2,797 m), Te Heuheu (2,755 m) and Paretetaitonga (2,751 m). The deep, active crater is between the peaks and fills with a crater lake between major eruptions.
Mount Ngauruhoe is an active stratovolcano in New Zealand. It is the youngest vent in the Tongariro volcanic complex on the Central Plateau of the North Island, and first erupted about 2,500 years ago. Although seen by most as a volcano in its own right, it is technically a secondary cone of Mount Tongariro.
The volcano lies between the active volcanoes of Mount Tongariro to the north and Mount Ruapehu to the south, to the west of the Rangipo Desert 25 kilometres to the south of the southern shore of Lake Taupo.
It erupted 45 times in the 20th century, making it one of the world's most active volcanoes in that period. It last erupted in 1975.
In the early 2000s Mount Ngauruhoe was used for the fictional 'Mount Doom' in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (see below).
Lord of the Rings
The Volcanic Plateau was home to the most sinister of The Lord of the Rings locales; Mordor the strong hold of the dark lord Sauron. Mordor is a great volcanic plateau filled with geologic wonders known as Gorgoroth. Much of Frodo and Sam’s journey into the land of Sauron was filmed on and around the Volcanic Plateau in the Tongariro National Park. The jagged volcanic rock formations and eerie barren landscapes were ideally suited to Mordor’s hissing wasteland. The maze of razorsharp rocks, cliffs and ravines of the Emyn Muil is located behind Aorangi Lodge up the Bruce road on Mt Ruapehu.
Ithilien camp was filmed near the Mangawhero Falls. Travel south to Turoa Mountain Road. The track begins from a car park on the Ohakune Mountain Road, 13 kilometers past the DOC visitor centre. This is a lovely 5 to 10 minute return walk to a beautiful waterfall. Not far below the bush line, the beech forest is stunted because of the rugged climate. Spectacular icicles form around the falls in winter.
National Park Village
The Emerald Lakes (Tongariro Crossing)
Whakapapa Ski Field - Mount Ruapehu
Turoa Ski Field - Mount Ruapehu
View from Whakapapa at Ruapehu
Volcanic Rocks near Mt. Ngauruhoe
Emerald Lakes (Tongariro Alpine Crossing)