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Getting Here and Around
The approach from the north is along Highway 4 on the park's western side; turn off at National Park for Whakapapa and the northern ski slopes. Coming from the south turn off State Highway 1 at Waiouru for Ohakune. From Taupo to the park, follow State Highway 1 south and turn off at Turangi onto State Highway 47. The roads are generally good. Around the national park, snow and ice can be a problem in the winter.
It's difficult to reach Tongariro National Park by public transportation, though there is a daily summer InterCity–Newmans bus service (mid-October–April) between Taupo, Whakapapa Village, and the village of National Park; the trip takes around 1½ hours.
The Tranz Scenic Overlander, which connects Auckland and Wellington, stops at National Park village and Ohakune Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from May to December and daily from December to April. Note: These times can vary and need to be checked locally. The journey from Wellington passes over five high viaducts. The train from Auckland goes around the remarkable Raurimu Spiral, where the track rises 660 feet in a stretch only 6 km (3½ mi) long.
For helpful hiking and skiing advice, stop off at the Whakapapa Visitor Centre. This is the best place to buy maps and guides, including the Department of Conservation park map—essential for hikers—and individual local-walk leaflets. Check the seismograph in the office that records the seismic activity from the mountain. If it starts trembling, at least you'll have a head start. Whakapapa Village, on the north side of Ruapehu, is the only settlement within the park with services and is the jump-off point for the Whakapapa ski slopes. The second ski area is Turoa, and its closest town is Ohakune, which is just beyond the southern boundary of the park—take Highway 49, which runs between Highways 1 and 4. Although ski season is the busiest time of year, these towns keep their doors open for hikers and other travelers when the snow melts.
The Department of Conservation's Web site includes a good rundown on Tongariro National Park. There's also a Ruapehu promotion site, with events listings, snow conditions, and more.
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