A mountain of fun open all year round.
Familiar to most as New Zealand’s largest ski area, Whakapapa has a world of unforgettable experiences to offer to alpine-lovers all year round. Home to New Zealand’s highest cafe, amazing volcanic walks and Mt Ruapehu’s Crater Lake Hike; Whakapapa Alpine Anytime offers an unparalleled experience of the dual world heritage status Tongariro National Park.
As the warmer weather brings us into summer, Mt Ruapehu’s white coat recedes to reveal the rugged alpine landscape of the magnificent mountain, an active volcano that is the highest point in the North Island. The volcanic rocks glow a magnificent orange in the sunlight. Virtually unrecognisable to snow-lovers, each ridge, valley and gulley shows off thousands of years of historic lava flows, lahar paths and volcanic activity. The raw beauty of a World Heritage National Park and the alpine terrain of the North Island’s highest peak make for one of the country’s most adventurous playgrounds. Wild as it may sound; Mt Ruapehu is easily visited and is a safe and spectacular way to become acquainted with the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park.
What better way to take in the sights of the Tongariro National Park than from the deck of the architecturally award-winning Knoll Ridge Café. At 2,020 metres above sea level it’s the highest cafe in New Zealand with views you never imagined possible - that is until you see it! The giant north facing glass face of the cafe boasts the most spectacular view of the Pinnacles, which are geologically the oldest part of the mountain. This spectacularly sharp ridge belies the reality of Ruapehu’s volcanic origins.
For those of us that aren’t sold on the idea of hiking up to 2,020 metres above sea level, there is a fantastic scenic chairlift ride option to transport you to the top. Put your feet up on the brand new Rangatira Express chairlift followed by the Waterfall Express chairlift and enjoy the ride over ancient lava flows and rugged volcanic terrain. Take in the scenic wonders of the volcanic landscape, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro to the east and, on a stunning clear day, Mt Taranaki to the west.
A cultural gem, the rich history of Mt Ruapehu is best explored on a journey to the top – to Mt Ruapehu’s Crater Lake. The unformed route up Ruapehu to the crater is not marked, and is in high altitude terrain - the crater lake lookout point is at 2672 m. Visiting the Crater Lake will be one of the most memorable experiences you’ll ever have and we recommend going with a guide. A safety and mountaineering guide with Ngati Hikairo cultural knowledge will guide you up the mountain, share stories and point out cultural point of interest along the way. Often overlooked in preference to the Tongariro Crossing, it’s been described as the best one day walk in New Zealand. Guided Crater Lake walks are led at an easy pace, so there’s plenty of time for rest breaks and informative talks.
For the early part of summer you can even play in the snow! Snow play is only available for a limited time as snow conditions allow. Make sure you call ahead to avoid any disappointment.