New Zealand is home to some of the most amazing and spectacular hikes (including the multiday treks) in the world. With stunning landscapes and breathtaking trails, it tops among all the other trails. I have not done too many of hikes or treks in New Zealand but one of the most amazing hikes I have done so far is at Tongariro National Park. Even though the most famous walk in the national park is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the Tama lakes walk / hike (for the Lower Tama and Upper Tama lakes) is equally beautiful and provides the same stunning landscapes throughout.
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About Tongariro National Park
Formed in the year 1894, Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in the North Island of New Zealand. Having dual UNESCO world heritage status (one for its Maori culture and the other for its natural features), the Tongariro national park has multiple active volcanic mountains like Mount Ruapehu (2797 meters), Mount Ngauruhoe (2291 meters) and Mount Tongariro (1968 meters).
Do you love road trips? Then read 3 Days Road Trip in North Island.
The Tongariro National Park is home for the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a one day hike of 20 kilometres (return). The national park also has some of the other beautiful one day walks, to name a few, Mount Ngauruhoe summit climb, Mount Ruapehu crater climb, and many more. Complete list of walks can be found on New Zealand’s Department of Conservation website.
How to get to Tongariro National Park?
- Driving – The best and easiest way to travel in New Zealand is by driving. You have plenty of car rental agencies such as Jucy Rentals New Zealand where you can hire cars or campervans for the duration you want to do the road trips for. The national park is around 330 kilometres from Auckland and the journey by road takes about 4 hours one way.
- Public transport – There are buses, operated by Great Journeys New Zealand and Auckland Transport, that travel between Auckland and Ohakune.
About Tama Lakes Walk
The walk that my friend and I did was the Tama Lakes Walk, as we had run out of time to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is a 6 hours return walk with medium difficulty level. The stopping points of the walk are the Lower Tama Lake and the Upper Tama Lake. After you reach the Upper Tama Lake, you start heading back towards the visitor centre.
Tip: Even in summers, ensure you carry a heavy warm jacket as it can get chilly and windy.
Details of the Tama Lakes walk
There are two paths to reach the lakes:
- First is through the volcanic rocks unformed path and the second is through the waterfalls. We decided to take the first path.
- Second is through the rugged terrains of the national park with volcanic rocks and small streams of water.
Hiking statistics of the first path:
- Total distance: 18 kilometres return.
- Total time taken: 6 hours.
- Grade: Medium.
- Type of hike: Return.
- Starting and ending points: Tongariro National Park visitor centre.
Note: North Island in New Zealand has Great North Walks that take the hikers through various sections and areas of North Island. They are multiday treks and they are gorgeous. I have just done only one of those walks which is the Lake Waikaremoana Track and I cannot stress enough as to how beautiful the track is.
The views of the Tama Lakes Walk is something to die for. We took lots and lots of pictures of the two volcanic mountains: Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe, that are visible throughout the trail.
Tip: Ensure you carry lunch as the walk requires one whole day. My friend is a very good and experienced hiker and she suggested that carrying boiled eggs are a good option.
After about 3 hours, we reached the Lower Tama Lake and the effort of the walk totally paid off. The views of the lake was so refreshing and beautiful.
We then decided to head to the Upper Tama Lake. The walk to the lake was steep and was on the loose gravel mud path, which makes it slippery and difficult. And as people had mentioned to us, Upper Tama Lake was even more spectacular than the Lower Tama Lake.
Since it was getting dark, we decided to head back but the return route that we took was through the waterfalls. The path had few steps and mostly in the bushes.
The sunset along the way was very pretty and colorful. And the last 30 minutes of our walk was the highlight of our walk where we walked under the Milky Way and that was the memorable moment of my day.
Tip: Ensure the hiking shoes that you wear are strong and durable, the path is muddy, slippery and wet.
Where to stay near Tongariro National Park?
There are plenty of accommodation options near the Tongariro National Park. They cater for all kinds of travelers and tourists ranging from budgeted travelers to luxury travelers. Some of the recommendations that I can provide are:
Safety for solo female hikers
New Zealand is one of the safest countries for solo hikers, including the female hikers. People are nice and there are no predators on the islands. Even though we hiked in the dark towards the end of the trail, we were not worried about stepping on any spiders or snakes. It was totally safe.
However, like any other trail in the world, ensure to let someone know about your hiking plans and be careful at night.
In a nutshell, the Tama Lakes walk is one of the best and beautiful walks I have ever done. The hike with mind-boggling and astounding views of the volcanic mountains are something that should be on every hiker’s bucket list. I would definitely go back to the national park, but this time to complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
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