The first eruptions of Ngauruhoe are thought to have occurred only 2,500 years ago. Explosive and violent pyroclastic or ash eruptions took place in January and March 1974 and February 1975. The major eruption which took place on 19 February 1975 sent an eruption plume up to a height of 13 kilometres above the crater. During May 1954 a series of ash and lava eruptions began which became renown for the largest amount of lava observed in New Zealand in recent times. In February 1949 lava flowed over the lowest part of the crater rim down the north west side into the Mangatepopo Valley. In July 1870 the crater of Ngauruhoe filled with lava which spilled down the northwestern sides of Ngauruhoe.
Mt Ngaurahoe doubled as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.