Where is it?: Mangatepopo Hut, Tongariro National Park North side. Track option 1: 1.3km walk: A 30minute drive from Turangi, 10mins from Whakapapa. This hut is near the west end of the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing track, and shares the carpark. Track option 2: 8km walk to hut from Whakapapa. Track option 3: 17km walk to hut via TAC (not with kids under 12).
The Tramp: There are many ways to get to Mangatepopo Hut. The shortest is a 20-30 minute walk from the main TAC carpark (with toilets and maps at the carpark). This track is wide, gravelled, very minimal altitude change, perhaps 10 formed stairs. Good views of the surrounding mountains, a small river along side. No concerns with the preschooler. There are modern DoC toilets 15mins in to the walk. The hut is 200m down a well sign posted side track. Another longer option is to walk in from Whakapapa. This is approx 8km and is less maintained but well marked. This track is exposed to weather, perhaps avoid this one in strong wind with kids. There is not much elevation gain and is mostly easy footing apart from where water has eroded the track. (My 8 year old would be fine).
The Hut: Mangatepopo Hut sleeps 20 in two separate dorms, with the kitchen/ dining in the middle. The hut has a gas fire at the centre in winter, with a sturdy removable guard. The kitchen has a sink with pump tap, room for a few people to cook at once and plumbed gas hobs ONLY in peak season. Two dining tables. A large deck out front with a portion roofed for boot storage. Picnic tables outside. There is a small Rangers dorm also. The hut is sturdy but a little drafty through the main door and gas vents. The bedrooms have platform slat bunks; dorm 1: 3/3 and a single bed. Dorm 2: 3/3, 3/3, and a single bed. Check under the beds before you leave! Surrounding the hut is tussock, there are designated paths through and around the tenting area. They ask that you do not tread/ play on the plants as it’s a very fragile ecosystem. The land slopes off toward the river (inaccessible without walking on tussock, but a toddler may wander off down there) Two well-made long drops a 30m gravelled walk from the hut with hand washing sink. Take your own toilet paper.
Good to know: The views up to the mountains are amazing, especially at dusk and dawn. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing track carries on up the mountain and is well formed. Once you’ve climbed a few sets of stairs the drop to the river to your left becomes significant and you’d want to watch kiddies. After this rise it flattens out for a while and is less hazardous, the landscape is very different. Worth a look. This hut is bookable in peak season but is quite popular. You must remember the “shelter from the storm” law here as this hut is on an alpine track. In winter it’s very family friendly, being so accessible. Nice having doors on the dorm rooms. A large window/fire escape over the single bed in each dorm.
Visited by: (who and when). Visited by Jen with daughters (10yrs and 8yrs) and Tasha and her boys (10yrs and 8 yrs) and Craig and his son (4yrs) in the July school holidays. There was snow around the hut in small patches and the puddles were frozen, as was the kitchen tap.