Mount Ruapehu has long been a playground for snow-seekers during winter. But now that the Sky Waka gondola is here, we’ve seen crowds flock to Mount Ruapehu in summer too.
The opening of the Sky Waka gondola has transformed Mount Ruapehu into one of summer’s hottest destinations within Tongariro National Park. This $25 million feat of construction has given us easy access to Mount Ruapehu’s walking tracks and eateries that were once difficult to get to.
There was plenty of hype when the Sky Waka first opened in July 2019 and we weren’t disappointed when we rode the gondola for the first time.
The floor to ceiling windows has given us the perfect photo opportunities as we look out onto the vast landscape of Tongariro National Park.
And the Italian-designed leather seats give the gondola a luxury feel as we glide up Whakapapa ski-field.
Needless to say, Sky Waka has exceeded our expectations.
What to do on Mount Ruapheu in summer
Right now, we’re focussing on all the amazing things we can do on Mount Ruapehu in summer and, thanks to the Sky Waka, we can easily do them all.
A ride in the Sky Waka is an experience in itself
You don’t have to be an avid adventurer to find a reason to visit Mount Ruapehu in summer. A ride in the Sky Waka is an experience in itself.
In fact, many visitors to Mount Ruapehu have come just to enjoy a stylish ride to 2,020 metres above sea level. The Sky Waka travels at a speed of around six metres per second which means you’ll reach the Knoll Ridge Chalet, the gondola’s exit point, in a matter of minutes.
While its efficiency is second to none, the Sky Waka allows plenty of time to appreciate the view. As you glide above ancient lava flows, waterfalls and rocky volcanic formations, you’ll get to see the detailed landscape of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngaruahoe.
During winter, the snow covers most of the mountain’s features so taking a trip up Mount Ruapehu in summer lets you see the mountain as you’ve never seen it before.
So what’s next when you reach the top?
You can take in the scenery and then head back down or you can venture on to discover the variety of things to do on Mount Ruapehu in summer.
Enjoy a meal at one of Mount Ruapehu’s eateries
The Sky Waka stops at the Knoll Ridge Chalet, a multi-story eatery with a range of options to choose from. During summer, the Pinnacles Restaurant and Four Peaks Alley are open for either a quick snack or a fine dining experience.
Four Peaks Alley
This grab-and-go style eatery is great for visitors who come to Mount Ruapehu in summer for adventure purposes. Here you can stop and grab a quick bite of sushi before venturing out onto one of the many walking tracks yet still have the option to sit down and take your time. The sushi is fresh and ready to eat.
No need to wait for something delicious to eat here!
If you want to make the most of your time on Mount Ruapehu in summer, we highly recommend a visit to the Pinnacles Restaurant. Here you can unwind with a fresh, seasonal meal amidst panoramic views of the pinnacles and the valley below.
The Pinnacles offers a buffet-style menu that changes daily based on seasonal produce. A buffet lunch and afternoon tea is available all week while the buffet dinner service is only available on Fridays and Saturdays.
Discover one of Mount Ruapehu’s walking tracks
This short walk begins after leaving the Sky Waka at its exit point. From here you’ll follow the marked route to 2,300 metres above sea level. From here you’ll enjoy views of Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park and even Lake Taupo.
While you will need a good level of fitness, this walk is very achievable and takes around 2.5-3 hours to complete.
Another great short walk, the Waterfalls Descent takes you from the top of the Sky Waka right down the mountain to the base area. This walk descends the whole way, making it an easy track to follow. However, trekkers need to be careful of loose scoria in the summertime.
You’ll pass through the rugged terrain of this active volcano and see ancient lava flows and stunning waterfalls along the way. This is a 1-2 hour descent on a well-marked track.
Lord of the Rings fans unite! The Meads Wall track will take you through several areas of Mount Ruapehu where the scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers were filmed. Trek this easy 15-minute walk from Whakapapa’s base area before catching the Sky Waka up the mountain.
Ruapehu Crater Climb
Unlike the previous tracks mentioned, this walk is only for fit, experienced and well-equipped hikers. This is an unmarked track so hikers need to be very capable of navigating their way through alpine terrain. You have the option to begin the Ruapehu Crater Climb from the top of the Sky Waka, shaving off two hours of the total hike. If you choose to do it this way, the full walk will take you five hours.
The Sky Waka gondola brought so much excitement to Tongariro National Park when it first opened last winter and we’re happy to see it’s still very much an attraction in summer too!
As we look out onto the volcanic zone from The Park Hotel, we know that it won’t be long before the mountains will be blanketed in snow. While we absolutely love winter, we also appreciate seeing how detailed the landscape is during summer.
We’re located only 15 minutes’ drive to Whakapapa ski field, allowing our guests to really make the most of their time in Tongariro National Park. There’s no need to spend your holiday in the car, our central location means you have easy access to all adventures in the area when you stay with us.
There are still plenty of summer days ahead of us so head to Tongariro National Park and see Mount Ruapehu in summer.
When you return after your Mount Ruapehu adventure, we’ll be happy to have you in our on-site Spiral Restaurant and Bar where you can enjoy a meal and reflect on your day on the mountain.
We’re lucky to live in this incredible part of New Zealand. Call us today to book your accommodation and come and see what all the fuss is about.