I’ve got a little bit of energy left after a four-day Round the Mountain hike, so after a leisurely breakfast and before our drive back to Auckland, I check out the Ridge Track.
The short Ridge Track fits the bill, offering views over Mt Ngauruhoe and the surrounding area. The clearly signposted track is easy to find, just a short distance up thr road from the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre. It’s a wide and well graded track – a pleasant change after the Round the Mountain track! No wet shoes today!
The flora gradually changes as the Ridge Track ascends, emerging from the forest and into tussock grass after 500m.
I realise later, when talking to the DOC rangers at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre, that the end of the track is marked by this lovely picnic table that sits in the middle of the track.
Located halfway up the ridge, there’s a partly-obscured view of both Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu.
Beyond the Ridge Track
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to stop half-way up the ridge, and there’s a narrow “goat track” that continues through the tussock grass. So I keep climbing up the Ridge Track. It’s worth continuing, until you reach a small rocky plateau on top of the ridge from which there are unobstructed views of both peaks.
There’s a great view of Mt Ngauruhoe to the north-east – although late afternoon would provide much better light.
To the south is the snow-capped Mt Ruapehu, surrounded by a landscape largely denuded by by debris from flank collapse and lahar deposits.
After taking a few photos, it’s back the same way through the tussock grass and onto the gravel path… late afternoon would be the best time for this short walk, but even in the morning light the photos don’t really do justice to the panoramic views fom the top of the ridge.
0.0km Trackhead near Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre (1143m asl) 0.7km Picnic table and end of formal track (1220m) 1.2km Top of ridge (1315m) 2.4km Trackhead
Accommodation in Whakapapa
There are two hotels in Whakapapa Village and a camping ground. I’ve always stayed at the Skotel Alpine Resort, which is pretty good value and very close to to the start of the trails.