Mount Ruapehu lies in the southern part of Tongariro National Park on New Zealand’s north island. It is an outdoor playground in any season you choose. We drove up from our housesit in Wanganui on Jason’s birthday for a closer look at the beautiful snow capped mountains. We lucked out and had some of the best weather since arriving in New Zealand. Stopping at the I-site (visitors center) near the entrance, we learned that we could drive up to the parking lot of the ski field and catch a chairlift ride to the top of the mountain for some sight seeing. Yes, we did the tourist thing. Actually, it turned out this was a popular thing to do for many locals traveling around on their holiday as well. The ski area was still in motion with skiers and snowboarders getting in some last turns before the end of the season and work crews beginning their end of the year preparations.
Riding up the chairlift, we watched skiers and snowboarders pick lines through the rocks that were starting to get exposed and little waterfalls coming off of the cliffs as the warm weather melted winter away. We passed interesting signs like the one that read “if the siren sounds, will you know what to do?”. What to do, what do you mean? Oh yeah, we’re on an active volcano! It might not be a massive mountain, but it is a volcano. Mount Ruapehu is the tallest peak on the north island, rising just over 9,000 feet (or 2,800 meters) above sea level and does have that extreme lava effect if it decides to erupt.
After taking two different chairlifts up the mountain to the lodge, we walked around a bit, took some photos and basked in the mid afternoon sun. Heading back down the lift, we could see wonderful views of Mount Ngauruhoe just to the north and the snowless valley of the National Park below.
Driving down the mountain, we decided to stop at Tawhai Falls, which was a short ten minute walk off the main road. Tawhai Falls, like much of the National Park is another site from the famous Lord of The Rings movies. We didn’t see any hobbits, but the falls sure were pretty. Tongariro National Park has a lot to offer, and if you are ever in the area it is a must do.