Ride the Sky Waka gondola

The Sky Waka gondola operates during the summer between December - April & during winter, June - October (weather permitting).

Begin at the base station, in the Whakapapa plaza, and ride the Sky Waka gondola into the clouds, passing waterfalls and ancient lava flows on your way to incredible heights of 2020m above sea level. On the 1.8km journey, the Sky Waka gondola offers panoramic views of the volcanic landscape from floor to ceiling, with views out to neighbouring peaks Mt Ngāuruhoe and Mt Tongariro, and on a fine day, far out west to Mt Taranaki.

The Sky ‘Waka’, which translates as ‘voyaging canoe’ in Te Reo Māori, is made up of 48 cabins, each of which can accommodate up to ten passengers in relative luxury, including leather seats. The climb of 390m takes about 12 minutes to complete in summer, as we slow the line down to allow you to settle in, unwind, and take in the spectacular views of Mt Ruapehu.


At 2020m, guests are welcomed to the architecturally awarded, Knoll Ridge Chalet, where dining experiences include an extensive buffet lunch at the Knoll Ridge Chalet’s Pinnacles restaurant, and a café style offering at the Pātaka cafe. The buffet lunch comprises a variety of dishes, locally sourced where possible, from antipasti to main-style, slow-roasted and poached, meat and seafood, to a dessert station, and decadent cheese board.

Reserve a table for your Pinnacles lunch


Without the snow, Mount Ruapehu is a fascinating mix of rock, pumice, scoria, and sand. Explore on foot, with three walks well marked by our team to help you navigate through the rocky formations. Good walking or hiking shoes are recommended.

Waterfalls Decent: descend the same path as ancient lava flows and lahars from the top of the Sky Waka Gondola, past stunning waterfalls, rugged volcanic terrain, and incredible views of the Central Plateau. Duration: 1-2 hours (descent).

Skyline Walk: described as one of the best short walks in the Tongariro National Park, the Skyline Walk takes you from the top of the Sky Waka gondola (2020m) to the Skyline Ridge (2300m), with views out to Mt Ngauruhoe, Lake Taupō, and beyond. Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours (return) 

Meads Wall: the Meads Wall is a short ten-minute walk from the bottom of the Rangatira Chairlift at the Whakapapa ski field. It leads to a Lord of the Rings movie location as well as some spectacular rock climbing. Duration: 20 minutes (return)


  • All facilities are weather dependent. It is recommended that guests check this report page to ensure facilities are running. Also keep an eye on the temperature gauge – this should give you an indication on how to dress appropriately for our alpine environment.

  • Patience and good hiking shoes are recommended on all walks. It is important that you are prepared for the alpine environment at Mt Ruapehu, including packing water and sunscreen. Let someone know where you are headed and we recommend this simple and easy tool to plan your trip.