The first activities in the young Tongariro National Park were the construction of tourist huts at the beginning of the 20th century. But it was not before opening of the railway in 1908 and the building of roads in the 1930s that a significant number of people visited the park. The second Tongariro National Park Act, in 1922, started some active conservation efforts, but it was not until 1931 that the first permanent park ranger began work. Road construction into Whakapapa valley had already begun in the 1920s. The first ski hut was built in 1923 at an elevation of 1770m, thereafter a road, and, in 1938, a ski lift in the area. This early tourist development explains the rather uncommon existence of a permanently inhabited village and fully developed ski area within a national park. The hotel Chateau Tongariro, which is still the centre of Whakapapa today, was established in 1929.
In the early 20th century, park administrators introduced heather to the park, for grouse hunting. Grouse were never actually introduced, but the heather is sprawling, threatening the ecological system and endemic plants of the park. Efforts are being made to control the plant's spread, however complete eradication seems unlikely.