- Ohakune Mountain Rd to Mangaehuehu Hut, 4hr; to Rangipo Hut, 5-6hr; to Waihohonu Hut, 5hr; to Whakapapa, 5-6hr; to Whakapapaiti Hut, 2.5-3hr; to Mangaturuturu Hut, 5-6hr; to Ohakune Mountain Rd, 2hr
- Mangaehuehu Hut and Whakapapiti Hut ($15, 18 bunks), Rangipo Hut ($15, 20 bunks), Waihohonu Hut ($36, 29 bunks), Mangaturuturu Hut ($15, 10 bunks)
- From Ohakune Mountain Road and multiple other points
This trip usually takes 4-5 days.
From the Ohakune Mountain Road, the track climbs briefly before sidling through mountain beech forest and across the subalpine wetlands of Rotokawa. Viewed from a footbridge, the 38m Waitonga Falls plunge in a diagonal. Beyond, the track sidles eastwards, crossing several of the many streams that radiate from Ruapehu’s flanks. The last half of the first day traverses above the bushline to end at Mangaehuehu Hut.
The track then weaves in and out of beech copses, across innumerable streams, before bending north-east towards the Rangipo Desert. A prominent ridge at 1500m overlooks one of the mountain’s largest valleys, the Wahianoa. It can be a bleak, exposed place in the and requires a tiresome climb at the far side.
After about five or six hours you reach Rangipo Hut. Situated at nearly 1600m, it is the highest on the circuit and faces east, with views over the Desert Road and Kaimanawa Ranges.
From the hut, the track bends northward over more open terrain, following a long succession of snow poles. A footbridge spans a small gorge in the Whangaehu. The track crosses the Tukino vehicle track, and gradually drops altitude to enter open beech forest before reaching Waihohonu Hut. The hut has huge, volcano-framing windows, large bunkrooms, solar lighting and hot water.
The track overlaps with the Tongariro Northern Circuit, and heads westwards towards Whakapapa. Poles lead up the Waihohonu Valley, soon emerging from beech forest into open landscapes once again. Mt Ngauruhoe comes to dominate the view to the north, while two long ridges – Pinnacle and Waihohonu – rise to the northern ramparts of Ruapehu.
The track descends to Taranaki Falls, a horsetail-shaped plume of water that cascades over a lava bluff. Trampers face a choice of tracks to Whakapapa: the lower track takes longer but offers more shelter in forest, while the more exposed upper track is faster.
From the village, the track enters forest, crosses Waikare Stream on a footbridge, then sidles south-west to the banks of the Whakapapaiti Stream, where it swings south-east. The first ford of the stream is bridged, but not the second, reached about 30 minutes before Whakapapaiti Hut.
From the hut, the route climbs briefly, then heads south sidling across exposed rocky terrain, riven by numerous streams. The track descends towards Lake Surprise, lying in a scoop just above the bushline. Beyond, a series of boardwalks and stairs descend to the Mangaturuturu River – difficult to ford in flood.
A short climb leads to Mangaturuturu Hut, the best-situated and most aesthetically pleasing of the tramp.
The walk to Ohakune Mountain Road climbs steadily but is over in 2hr.