Tongariro Alpine Crossing

South of Lake Taupo, a giant lake formed by a volcano about 27000 years ago, lies Tongariro National Park, home to Mt. Ngauruhoe AKA “Mt. Doom”. Considering its size and symmetrical conical shape, Peter Jackson decided this particular mountain should be used as the basis for Mordor’s volcano.


As a day trip from Taupo, we undertook the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a 19.4km trek lauded as one of the best day-hikes in New Zealand. The hike starts out easily enough, winding through marshy hills, but then suddenly gets serious with a climb up the side of Mt. Ngauruhoe and then into a large crater.

Not quite “the Dead Marshes”.
Jean LeCastor working his way up Mt. Ngauruhoe.

The walk through the crater is almost eerily flat. The day was rather foggy and grey, so we had to continuously check behind us to see if the summit of Mt. Doom would reveal itself.

Walking through the South Crater felt more like a hazy desert than a volcano.
Mt. Doom became much less intimidating when the rainbow showed up.

Climbing higher, we arrived at the highest point of the hike with a view of The Red Crater. With the barren rocky terrain, it was easy to see how this site would have been used to represent Mordor.

The Red Crater

Shortly after beginning the descent, one arrives at the Emerald Lakes and is treated to views of the rocky plains below.



Leaving the volcanic terrain, the hike then transitions back into bushy vegetation and eventually through a lush forest with lahar warnings. Unaware of what a lahar was, and whether or not it could chase us, we continued quickly to the end as advised.


Aching from the climb, our only other day in Taupo was spent relaxing, including a visit to the local hot springs to soothe our legs. This was also the day of the tragedy in Christchurch. It has been frustrating to reflect and accept that this disgusting hatred can exist anywhere. However, the immediate showing of love and support from the country  and the response of the prime minister have been hopeful.

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