Mount Tongariro is a compound volcano in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of the North Island of New Zealand. It is located 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the southwest of Lake Taupo, and is the northernmost of the three active volcanoes that dominate the landscape of the central North Island. The volcanic massif, often referred to as simply Tongariro, has a height of 1,978 metres (6,490 ft). It first erupted 275,000 years ago. The volcano consists of at least 12 cones.
Ngauruhoe, while often regarded as a separate mountain, is geologically a cone of Tongariro. It is also the most active vent, having erupted more than 70 times since 1839, the last episode in 1973 to 1975. Activity has also been recorded at other vents in recent history. Red Crater last erupted ash in 1926 and contains active fumaroles. Te Māri Craters had a hydrothermal eruption in August 2012 (see below), previously erupting in 1897.
There are many explosion craters on the massif; water has filled some of these to form the Blue Lake and the Emerald Lakes. Andesitic eruptions tend to form steep stratovolcanoes, including mountains such as Tongariro. The local geology and climate tend to lend the Tongariro volcanic centre snowfall in the winter (with commercial ski-fields at neighbouring Mount Ruapehu), while in the mid to late summer, the mountains can be bare. Of all North Island regions, the Volcanic Plateau is closest to having a continental climate.
Mount Tongariro is in the Tongariro National Park, New Zealand's first national park and one of the earliest in the World. It was set aside (literally "made sacred") in 1887 by Te Heuheu Tukino IV (Horonuku), paramount chief of the Māori Ngati Tuwharetoa iwi and made a national park in order to preserve its natural beauty. The park also includes the peaks of Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, both of which lie to the southwest of Tongariro. The national park is a dual World Heritage Site for its outstanding natural and intangible cultural values. The popular hiking route called Tongariro Alpine Crossing passes between Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. Mount Tongariro and its surroundings are also one of the several locations which Peter Jackson chose to shoot the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.