Ruapehu Travel Guide
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Famous for its volcanoes and for being the main skiing area on the North Island, Mount Ruapehu is at the south end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, and is 40 kilometres from Lake Taupo.
Volcanic activity - and frequent minor eruptions - doesn’t stop the area from being a popular place to enjoy the snow and superb trails.
There are two commercial ski fields in the region, which has the country’s largest ski area, Whakapapa (on the north) and Turoa (south). It also has the North Island’s only glaciers, 18 in all, and all of them small. The ski season is typically in June to October.
Both Whakapapa and Turoa cater splendidly to skiers and snowboarders of all levels, with Whakapapa’s renowned Happy Valley area (maybe the country’s best for beginners) just across from a tubing spot, The Sliding Zone. For those up for a challenge Turoa offers no fewer than 25 black and black diamond runs.
Besides its ski slopes, Ruapehu is also famous for its trails, including its two contributions to the New Zealand Cycle Trail Network - Mountains to The Sea and the Timber Trail. The latter is more suited to families, with hills that aren’t too steep, though with exciting suspension bridges (the longest is 141 metres long). It is focussed on the Pureora Forest.
Many say that 42 Traverse is the finest mountain biking trail in the country, though it is not for the faint-hearted. The challenging 46 kilometre-long trail starts at Kapoors Road, Taurewa, and goes through State Forest 42. The estimated four to seven-hour journey, mostly on four-wheel drive tracks, also includes a pub at the end for those in need of post-ride refreshment.
In terms of walking trails, Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the best ways to see the World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park. It begins in the Mangatepopo Valley, and offers panoramic views stretching as far as Mount Taranaki on a good day.
June, the beginning of the ski season, also includes two yearly events: the Ohakune Mountain Mardi Gras carnival and the Annual Winter Fashion Show.
The nearest airport to Ruapehu is Taupo Airport, serviced by Air New Zealand, which flies to and from Auckland and Wellington.