Tongariro River Trail

After sailing SV Avalon down the eastern coast of New Zealand, from Opua (in Bay of Islands) to Marsden Cove Marina, I bid farewell to the skipper and admiral, and headed south by bus to explore the Central Plateau of the North Island.

The Central Plateau is a heavily volcanic region, with some great hikes through amazing terrain. The most famous of the hikes is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

From Marsden Cove Marina, I took a bus down to Auckland, and then another bus toward Lake Taupo. I passed through the town of Taupo, continued along the east side of the large lake, and stopped at the town of Turangi at the southern end of the lake. Here, I stepped off the bus, and checked into the Tongariro Bridge Motel on the edge of town.

That afternoon, I made the short walk to the iSite tourist office in the town center to get information about local hikes, upcoming weather, and specifically, details about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Good weather is a crucial element of a safe and comfortable hike across the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I had booked three consecutive nights at the Tongariro Bridge Motel, in hopes that one of the days would bring decent weather. (I actually had planned in my itinerary to wait for as long as 5 days for good weather, but I only booked 3 days initially at the motel.) Upon my arrival in Turangi, it was pouring down rain, so I figured I wouldn’t be going immediately.

I waited overnight to see if the weather would improve. The next morning, the forecast update at 6:00am didn’t bring great news. Clear in the morning, but thundershowers in the afternoon. Not good for the Alpine Crossing. I decided to wait.

But, based on the forecast, I had a few hours of nice weather in the morning. The iSite office had suggested the nearby Tongariro River Trail as a good half-day hike. This is a 15-km loop around a section of the river. The walk is mostly flat. I figured it would be a good warmup for the Alpine Crossing. I grabbed some water and snacks, and set out from my motel. (The trail was basically just across the street!)

The trail was well-maintained, well-marked, and easy-going. Highlights include crossing two narrow suspension bridges, and relaxing on a bench watching the fly fishermen. I was slightly disappointed that for a lot of the hike you aren’t actually on (or even in sight of) the river.  

I think this is because the river is famous for fly-fishing.  It’s probably not a good idea for hikers to be stomping by as fishermen are trying to catch elusive trout.  So the River Trail is set back from the river.  Occasionally, there are lightly trodden paths down to the river for the anglers.  

The hike is pleasant enough though, and it started across the street from my motel in Turing.  So it was very convenient.

I completed the walk in a few hours, getting back to my motel before the thundershowers hit. I hunkered down in the restaurant and pub, checking the weather for the next day. It was looking good.

Friday morning I set out on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing…

Setting out on the Tongariro River Trail.

Setting out on the Tongariro River Trail.

The trail follows the river bank, but a lot of the trail is tucked into the dense trees on either side of the bank.

The trail follows the river bank, but a lot of the trail is tucked into the dense trees on either side of the bank.

One of two suspension bridges to cross.

One of two suspension bridges to cross.

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This fly fisherman caught a fish soon after I took this photo.  He was excited, and hollered over asking me if I’d caught the catch on film.

This fly fisherman caught a fish soon after I took this photo. He was excited, and hollered over asking me if I’d caught the catch on film.