Ruapehu Mile Higher ClubIntermediate - Experienced
Submitted by Jonathan Drake
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Front country - easily accessible
Native bushRiversideOpen tussock/grasslandsOpen ridges/topsVolcanic
Intermediate - Experienced
Not Suitable (Slow)
Fastest Known Times (FKTs)
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This route will take you from Whakapapa Village to summits of Ruapehu. It is a combination of alpine valley trail, parts of Bruce Road between Whakapapa and Iwikau villages, marked trail from Iwikau to near the top of Whakapapa Skifield, and unmarked trail to the summits. The recommended route direction puts more of the road running on downhill meaning less time on the road and more time on the trails! The track entrance is opposite the Fire Station, a couple of hundred metres up the road from The Chateau. Head west on Lower Silica Rapids Track you before a large bridge crossing of Waikare Stream. Here Silica Rapids Upper Track, which you’ll be returning down much later in the day, is on your left.
Continue ahead on Whakapapiti Valley Track out onto boardwalk at the edge of a plateau from where you get the first stunning views of Ruapehu above you and continue into Whakapapaiti Valley. A continuous but gentle climb takes you up the valley, with one crossing of the Whakapapaiti Stream – this should be about knee height in summer but can be higher after rain. Eventually you will arrive at Whakapapaiti Hut, where there are basic toilet facilities – although the water here is not recommended for drinking.
Passing Whakapapaiti Hut you quickly reach the Round the Mountain Track which you will take to your left and onto a zig-zag climb to plateau where the track will then lead you to Bruce Road. Follow Bruce Road up to the ski village. There is the potential for a toilet and water stop here, if you have access to one of the Ski Lodges – a potential summer accommodation option! Continue onto the marked trails alongside the skifield pylons to just below the top gondola station, also a good place to refill water and use the facilities.
As the Ruapehu summit plateau is wide and circled with a number of summits, there are a couple of options at this point. You can continue to follow the marked trail below the gondola house to Tukino peak as per the GPX and map, this starts along the path that Ruapehu Alpine Lifts have signposted as “Sky Walk”. This is the most direct climb. An alternate route to Dome Summit starts above the gondola and is described in one of the links included. This will take you to a more central position above the summit plateau and crater lake.
Note that the final part of the GPX trace is a straight line that approximates the approach to Tukino Peak but shouldn’t be followed precisely. The trail from the upper Gondola house is initially marked with orange blazed steel poles for much of the climb. Eventually the marked trail runs out and you are following a rough trail towards the peaks you can now see above you. Leftmost and above is Te Heu Heu and to the right slightly Tukino. Take care to follow the trail outline and other’s footprints where possible. Some of our group made the mistake of approaching Te Heu Heu directly and ended up rock climbing but followed carefully the trail naturally angles across on a simple hike up to Tukino – and then you emerge on top of the world at 2700 metres!
Head back down carefully to follow the track as it’s easy to run the wrong way down a ridgeline and face a long climb back up. Other than that you are retracing your steps back down to Bruce Road.
Continue down Bruce Road until you reach the Silica Rapids track on your left, then follow that back to your starting point.
Make Up of Run
Untracked / Route only: 5%
Technical Single Track: 10%
Moderate Single Track: 20%
Easy Single Track: 50%
Sealed Road: 15%
The following trails overlap with this run to some degree. You may wish to combine them but please note that to qualify for FKTs on these runs you should record a separate Strava activity for each
The trail head is opposite the Whakapapa Fire Station, about 500m up the road from The Chateau.
Street parking is available in the immediate vicinity.
Take care to follow the marker poles on the trails, particularly from above Iwikau village. When the marker poles run out, the trail outline is rough but can be followed with care. There is one place where one small rock climb is required, but otherwise careful hiking is all that is needed - or you have gone off track.
Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, Short-sleeved thermal top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Windproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Map, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions), Gaiters.
Water is available on tap at the top gondola station, along with toilet facilities. While there is water on tap at Whakapapaiti Hut this isn't recommended for drinking without boiling.
This route should only be attempted in summer and in good conditions.
Ruapehu is both a high mountain, and a volcano so there are risks related to alpine conditions and weather as well as of eruption. Check safety and weather advisories in advance.
Post run indulgence
Pihanga Cafe & T-Bar
Inside Chateau Tongariro, Whakapapa Village
Handy for a pizza or quick meal and drink
Tussock Bar & Restaurant
A good bar for drinks and or meal and that all important post-run debrief!
- Blog Posts and Articles
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See other runs nearby:
Round Ruapehu (RTM Track)
Taranaki Falls & Tama Lakes
Tongariro Northern Circuit
Ketetahi Carpark Time Trial
Taranaki Falls Beauty
Sash and Door Trail
Silica Rapids trail
The Great Pinnacle