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Top hiking safety tips for the peak of summer

Why is the Taupo region such an amazing hiking destination?

Mount Ngauruhoe on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

"What’s not to like?!

Volcanoes in the middle of the North Island that tower above everything else!

It’s a good place to go and experience solitude.

It's very natural and volcanic.

And some of the walks are tough! Once you hiked them, you’ve got well-earned bragging rights for life!"

- Stewart Barclay 

No one knows hiking in the Tongariro National Park better than Stewart Barclay, owner of Adrift Tongariro. Known as “The Mountain Man,” Stewart traversed the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing over 1,500 times (and counting)!

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing’s highest point reaches 1,886 meters above sea level. His daily stroll to work peaks over six Auckland Sky Towers! Despite how many times he’s completed the crossing, his love for the outdoors grows every time he guides hikers up the mountain.

Experience Tongariro National Park with Adrift Tongariro and these summer specials


Known as one of the best one-day hikes in the world, hikers are attracted to the Tongariro National Park for it’s stunning volcanic landscape and scenery, however, an average of 30 to 40 people are rescued each year on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing alone. Whether you’re trekking the famous 19-kilometer walk or hiking in the Kaimanawa Forest Park, we want you to be prepared as you explore this incredible region.

With over 20 years of guiding experience, Stewart shares his essential tips so you can have the best and safest hiking adventures this summer.


What are some essential tips for visitors before hiking in Taupo during the summer?

1. The number one thing is checking the weather forecast.

Before heading out on any hike, you’ve got to check the weather forecast to see if it’ll be super-hot like it is now at 29- degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) or if it’ll be like it was with Cyclone Cody (super windy, cold, and wet).

I check three forecasts:

  • MetVuw.com provides great pictorial views of what’s happening and where over a 10-day forecast.
  • NIWA Weather is great for checking the Tongariro National Park with a detailed report for the next 3 days.
  • MetService gives a good, sea-level chart of pressure fronts and real satellite views of clouds and rain.

You can also call the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre if you ever have any questions about suitable weather conditions for any hike.

Sometimes these three resources say the same thing and sometimes they’re different. But I always go with the conservative view of the weather so that I’m prepared.

Emerald and Blue Lake on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

2. Take clothes with you that you probably won’t wear. 

It's said that in New Zealand you can experience all four seasons in one day. That especially goes for alpine environments like the Tongariro National Park. Tracks like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, or even Tama Lakes, elevate to at least 1400 meters above sea level. At such high altitudes, the weather can jump from beautiful and sunny to a 10-degree wind chill. 

Take clothing that you probably won’t use. But in case something happens you have clothing with you no matter what type of day it is (even in summer).  

So that means you must have with you: 

  • Raincoat or waterproof jacket  
  • Warm top, beanie and gloves for cooler temperatures 
  • Light, cool top for hot summer weather 
  • Sturdy footwear (hiking boots)  
  • Shorts and pant 

On a cold day, you must dress up warmly and account for the wind chill factor.

3. Pack plenty of water

Have enough water with you during your hike to stay properly hydrated during the hot summer weather. This means having 2-3 liters of water during the hike.

How can visitors stay safe and well-prepared for the rest of the hiking season?

We’re halfway through summer and experiencing La Niña which is hot, dry, windy conditions so be prepared for the heat.

That means having:

  • Sunglasses
  • Hat or head protection
  • Sunblock
  • Water (2-3 liters)

As the season gets into March, even when it’s a sunny day in town, colder spells can happen very suddenly. One day it can be 25 degrees (77 F) and tomorrow it can be 10 degrees (50 F). You must be very aware of the changing weather patterns.

Into autumn, snow starts falling on higher altitudes in the Tongariro National Park as it gets colder. From March on, we start reaching freezing levels.

Tama Lakes at Tongariro National Park

What are great beginner and intermediate tracks for visitors in the Taupo region?

I specialize in the Tongariro National Park, so some great beginner trails are:

Some great intermediate tracks in the Tongariro are the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and different tracks on Mount Ruapehu. The difference is that on Mount Tongariro the tracks are well-formed.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Taupo region is the land of living landscapes and hiking connects us to that history and each other. In your years of experience, what is your favourite hiking memory?

Easy!

I was guiding this incredible group of gentlemen around Tongariro National Park about 15 years ago. The age group was from 50 to 65 or so but the oldest member of the group was an 82-year-old man. He had a lot of experience and hiking under his belt, but I still worried about him.

We had two major hikes planned – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (6–8-hour day hike) and heaps of tramping tracks up Mount Ruapehu. I thought he wouldn’t make it 1 kilometer let alone both huge hikes.

But we were on our second hike down Mount Ruapehu, and we were sliding down a gulley. When I saw him sliding down, I thought “oh my gosh”! Thought he wouldn’t make it!

But when I looked back at him, he was sliding down with this huge smile on his face. He jumped down from the snow and laughed hysterically!

That is hands down my favourite memory from the past 20 years.


For other resources on how to properly plan for your walk with equipment recommendations and safety alerts, check out the Plan My Walk app for upcoming hiking trips in the Taupo region.

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