A normal itinerary is five days. A four day itinerary involves one tough 'double-day'.
November - May
Winter hiking is possible. The track isn't permanently snowbound during winter, but the likelihood of heavy snowfall, severe weather, and white out conditions, make this a summer only track for most hikers.
◼ Whakapapa - Waihohonu Hut
◼ Waihohonu Hut - Rangipo Hut
◼ Rangipo Hut - Mangaehuehu Hut
◼ Mangaehuehu Hut - Mangaturuturu Hut
◼ Mangaturuturu Hut - Whakapapa
The Round the Mountain Track circumnavigates Mt Ruapehu, the North Island's tallest peak. A tough undertaking across rugged terrain. The landscape is volcanic, corse, and rock strewn. The track crosses sterilized desert, deep cut river valleys, tussock fields, and beech forest.
The track more or less sticks to a steady altitude around the flanks of the mountain. It's not an alpine route and during summer there is no likelihood of snow effecting the track.
One of the track's attractions is the fact that Mt Ruapehu happens to be an active volcano. There's an element of excitement and danger associated with hiking on a volcano. There's nothing to be paranoid about, but a tiny risk exists, and we mention it because if you're a nervous person, realize that the risk feels a bit more significant when you're actually there on the mountain.
The main volcanic hazard for hikers on the Round the Mountain Track are lahar paths. Check out DOC's website 'Volcanic risk in Tongariro National Park'.
There are six huts along the track. If tenting is your thing, camping is permitted at all of the huts.
Because it is also part of the 'Northern Circuit', Waihohonu Hut (and campsite) must be pre booked during the 'great walk' season, October through April. You can do so online or in person at any DOC Visitor Centre. Note that Waihohonu Hut is likely to book out during peak summer hiking season.
Waihohonu Hut 28 bunks - $32
Waihohonu Campsite - $14
Other huts on the track are classified 'serviced huts' paid for on arrival with hut tickets. No booking, they operate on a first in basis.
$15 per adult ($5 for campers).
Rangipo Hut (20 bunks)
Mangaehuehu Hut (18 bunks)
Blyth Hut (20 bunks)
Mangaturuturu Hut (10 bunks)
Whakapapaiti Hut (18 bunks)
The track has two potential start points, Ohakune Mountain Road and Whakapapa village (plus access tracks leading out to State Highway 1).
If starting from Ohakune, you'll need to arrange transport to the track, which is about 15-18 kilometers from Ohakune, on Ohakune Mountain Road. Arrange transport the day before at the Ruapehu (Ohakune) i-SITE information centre. There is no scheduled service. For advanced planning, web the following companies; Matai Shuttles, Dempseys Transport.
Whakapapa is logistically the easier place to start the track. The track starts from the centre of the village. For public transport warriors, Naked Bus connects Whakapapa to Ohakune and Taupo daily. For drivers, there's free overnight car parking at Whakapapa (but no overnight freedom camping in the public car park - there's a commercial campground about twenty metres away).
There's a small supermarket in Ohakune. Whakapapa offers nothing in the way of shopping or groceries. Whakapapa starters should stock up before leaving a major centre.
DOC's Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre is located at Whakapapa village. There's also a DOC visitor centre at Ohakune.
LINZ Topo50 (1:50,000 scale) maps are the best topographical maps available.
You can download maps for free and print them yourself. If you'd prefer to purchase hard copies, the national chain stores 'Hunting & Fishing' and 'Bivouac Outdoor' carry the best stock (Bivouac offer international shipping from their online store). Topographical maps may be available for sale at the DOC visitor centers, but don't bank on it.