Rotorua- Te Ara Ahi, – Thermal by Bike
Distance 47km Time 1-2 Days Grades 2-3 ( Easy-Intermediate)
This trail transport ridersthrough unique geothermal sites, active with geysers and bubbling mud-pools. Highlights include cultural shows (Maori) bush walks and the lure of long soaks in soothing hot pools.
This trail is humming with interesting attractions both on and off the bike; so don’t expect to average more than 5km an hour( except if you are on an E-Bike). The first day, you could just ride to Waimangu Volcanic Valley and back or continue to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, where you could camp or get a shuttle back to Rotorua.
Stage 1: Rotorua to Waimangu Volcanic Valley
30km, 3-4 hours, Grade 2 (Easy)
From the Lake Rotorua i-Site on Arawa Street, ride east on Queens Drive to Princes Gate Archway where the trail starts. There is an art gallery and museum with lots of parking. Carefully follow blue trail markers past the Polynesian Spa and the end of Amohau Place then through the Sulphur Bay section of the trail. You are heading for Sala Street, and can take the scenic route or the direct route.-the signposted scenic route is longer but much more interesting. Just before Sala Street, the trail goes under highway 5 and then weaves through trees beside a stream. When you are about 6km out of town you will pass a few shops at the entrance to the Whakawarewa Maori Village and thermal area. It’s only $30 fora guided tour of this fascinating thermal region. From Whakawarewa Village, the trail continues south past Te Puia , another much larger cultural centre, and onto a new off road track that leads through Hemo Gorge to the Whakarewarewa Mountain Bike Car-parking area. There is a cool cafe nestled in a area throbbing with bike culture,You could easily get diverted into the 130-km maze of mountain bike tracks here or just kick with a flat white and enjoy the vibe. From the park entrance, head towards Highway 5 , a stone throws away, and you will pick up a concrete cycle path that glides south beside the highway to Taupo. It’s easy cycling for several kilometres before you nip onto Highland Loop Road. This soon brings you back to a separate cycle path and the leads you away from the highway to Waimangu Road. A few kilometers along this road, you will reach the entrance to Wainangu Volcanic Valley.There is a great cafe and various walks and tours available here at one of the most impressive thermal areas on the trail. From this geothermal area, backtrack to Rotorua ( mostly downhill) or ride on stage 2 and the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.
Stage 2: Waimangu Volcanic Valley to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools
17-21km, 2-3 hours, Grade 3 ( Intermediate)
From Waimangu, continue along Waimangu Road, past Lake Okara picnic area, to a T-Intersection at Highway 38.Cross the Highway and pick up a off-road path that leads around Rainbow Mountain (Maungakakamea) to Waiotapu. You can detoor 2km off to Te Ranga ( Kerosene Creek), which is popular for its Free hot pools. At Waiotapu, where there is an old Kiwi pub ( with accommodation), or visit www.bnblive.com, a petrol station and a cafe/store attched to a honey factory. Ride west of the pub along Waikite Valley Road for 6km to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. Open 10am to 9pm daily with cafe and camping. From Waikiti Valley Thermal Pools you have three choices: 1) Ride back the way you came, 2) Arrange for a shuttle to take you back to Rotorua, 3) Loop back to Rotorua via a quiet back roads and the cycle trail (29km).
Loop return to Rotorua: Head southwest along Waikiti Valley Road for 500 metres, then turn right onto Corbett Road. After 4km turn right to stay on Corbett Road, Then 2.5km later( at the bottom of the hill) turn hard right onto Tumunui Road, Ride 9km to Highway 5, carefully cross the highway and follow the Te Ara Ahi cycle trail back to Rotorua (12 kms)
Fact File: Overview The First two-thirds of this ride, from Rotorua to Waitapu hot pools is mostly off roadand packed full of features, the rest is all on raod, although quiet country roads, with fewer points of interest.
How to get there: The trail starts in Rotorua, Buses and Air New Zealand travel there daily. For shuttles contact Mountain Bike Rotorua 0800 682 768 www.mtbrotorua.co.nz
Riding surface: You name it, this trailhas it all, Cycle paths, ans lanes, sealed and gravel roads, boardwalks, even some mountain bike tracks
Special considerations: You will need a mountain bike for a few kilometers around Rainbow Mountain to Waiotapu. Alternatively, just ride on the highway shoulder.
Special features: the geothermal activity is what makes this ride so special. mudpools, geysers, steaming hillsides and hot pools that yu can soak in travel website www.nzcycletrail.com
Support Services: All geothermal areas are well established with a wide range of amenaties such as cafes, souvenir shops, toilets and bike storage facilities. Most good motels/bnbs provide free bike storage visit www.bnblive.com Transport around the trail Thermal Land Shuttle 0800 894 287 www.thermalshuttle.co.nz
Rotorua accommodation www.bnblive.com and for tours www.rotoruanz.com
Whakarewarewa Cafe and bike hire 0800 682 768
Rotorua E-Bike Hire Sportx 0800 400 900 or www.sportx.nz
Waimangu Volcanic Valley Cafe,Tours 07 366 6317 www.waimangu.com
Waiotapu Food and accommodation Waiotapu Tavern ( meals and cheap accommodation) 07 366 6640 www.waiotaputavern.co.nz Waiotapu Thermal pools only 2km away
Waikiti Valley Thermal Pools great hot pools and camping 07 333 1861 www,hotpools,co.nz
Whakarewarewa Forest ****-MTB
5 km southeast of Rotorua
“Rated as one of the Top 10 Mountain Bike Rides in New Zealand by www.rearpatrol.com USA.”
“Rotorua has been identified as one of the world’s cycling hotspots by Velogear”, check out on Velogear Ride Advisor, Australia’s #1 Cycling Guide
Grades 1-6 , Time 1 hour to 2 days Distance up to 130km.
Track conditions: 70-80% single track, 20-30% forestry roads.
Described as the ‘Disneyland of mountain Biking; Whakarewarewa (aka The Redwoods) contains some of the best purpose-built mountain bike trails in New Zealand. There are lots of facilties at the trail head, and enough trails weaving through the forest to keep you entertained for a weekend or more. Rotorua has good cafes, shops, bike shops, cultural centres and thermal pools to relax in after a great ride as well as a huge selection of well priced accommodation. Check out accommodation at www.bnblive.com .
How to get there: Head out of Rotorua towards Taupo ( there are cycle lanes beside the road).After 1km, just on the edge of Rotorua and at the far end of the large Te Puia car park, you will find the Hemo Gorge track signposted ( it is part of the Te Ara Ahi Trail above). This track is grade2 and leads to a large field on the far side of the main mountain bike car park beside Waipa State Mill Road. This entrance to the Redwoods has a cafe, shops, toilets and skills area.
Route: The trail map shows all the forestry roads and mountain bike tracks.Every track is signposted at the start and finish, and grade from 1-6 on the signposts and the trail map. The sheer number of possibilities can be bewildering.Here are some suggestions for starting off, but remember, this is a production forest, and from time to time tracks will be closed for logging. For fun, easy single tracks close to the main car park, head out on Tahi Trail, blast along all of the Creek Track( there are a couple of signposted easy/hard options: ( take the easy option). Turn left at end of Creek Track to ride up to the map at the junction of Radio Hut Road and Nursery Road. At the end of Challenge Roadside go left onto Pohaturoa Road for 200 metres, then right into Dipper.Ride all of Dipper, then rocket home on the second part of Tahi Trail. That 12km ride should take 1-1.5 hours.
For experienced riders, there is a 25-km loop consisting of grade 2-4 tracks. Start with Tahi Trail and Creek Track again.Then go right into Nursery Road and into Mad If You Don’t. Hang a left at the end, beside the water tanks and head along Puarenga the Hill Road to the shuttle pick-up point where there is a map and water fountain. Go left onto Pipeline Road, then left again into Nice Road, and right into Sweet & Sour. When you hit Red Tank Road, go left into Dragon Tail, then left into Red Tank Road again, right onto Wash Road, left onto Spruce Road, then dive into LionTrail. At the end of Lion Trail, head up Katore Road to a viewpoint for a rest before heading down Corridor followed by Tokorangi. This will merge with Turkish Delight, which takes you to Radio Hut Road. At the end of Turkish Delight, turn left, the right to go up to Challenge. At the end, head left down Pohaturoa Road fro 200 metres, then right into Dipper, which becomes the Tahi Trail. At the end, go 30 metres up the road and finish off with Rosebank. If you for some crazy reason only have One day in Rotorua, we recommend you extend the 25-km loop above by adding on the legendary Tuhoto Ariki, Hatu Patu and Spit Enz. There’s lots more to list here, including some advanced downhill tracks, While most of the area is covered in exotic production forest, the epic Tutoto Ariki delves deep into some fantastic, New Zealand native forest.
Notes: There is mapboard at the car park and several key intersections around the forest. The most difficult sections of trails are marked with ‘XXX’ signs. Southstar Shuttle Services provides $10-per-trip shuttle rides to the main downhill tracks ( or $40 for a six-trip pass-see wwww.southstaradventures.com . Also visit riderotorua.com/trails.php for lastest trail info. Pick up a trail map from the shop at the mountain bike car park, i-site, visitors centre on Long Mile Road or any bike shop in Rotorua.
Western Okataina Walkway**MTB
3km northwest of Rotorua
Grade 4 Time 3-4.5 hours Distance up to 27 km return
This adventurous trip is about as old-school as mountain biking gets. It follows vintage forestry roads, which have worn into challenging and highly scenic ride,mostly native forest . Nothing has been groomed, so the tracks is rough in places, with many challenges created by nature’s hand. Prepare for the unpredictable.
Track conditions: 70% single track, 30% forestry roads
How to get there: from the eastern outskirts of Rotorua head southeast on Tarawera Road, turn left onto Okareka Loop Road, and then left again onto Millar Road. The seal ends after 1.3km, where you will see a small car parking area on the left at rhe start of the track ( its signposted)
Route: From the small car parkng area on Millar Road, check out the signboard before heading into the forest on what was clearly once a significant road. It is easy enough to begin with(on a dry day); the odd bog and rut soon become the norm as the walkway becomes a challenging uphill single track. There are a few significant descents on the way up to a track fork, 11km from the car park. From here you have two choices. You can take the right fork to drop steeply for 4km to the end of the walkway near an education centre, which is not much fun. Instead we recommend doing what most do: ride the single track along the left forkup to the signposted trig 2.5km away for some great views and then fly back the way you rode up. There is a 35m descent before climbing up to the trig at 758m elevation.It’s a great destination withgreat views , and overall downhill ride back to your car is a lot of fun. But be aware; roots and ruts will jump out at you on the descent. The climb takes 2-3 hours to the trig and the descent back the same way takes 1-1.5 hours.
Notes: There is another car parking area 1.3km before the start of the track at the turn-off to a DOC camping ground area.The other end of the track starts from the Okataina Education Centre, but we do not recommend it as it is too steep.
Rainbow Mountain*** MTB
25 km South of Rotorua
Grade 4+ Time 1-2 hours Distance 10km
A mountain bike track has been built all the way down the side of Rainbow Mountain and it rocks. The Climb is a challenge to die for, the viewsfrom the top are unbeatable and the descentis awesome. There is even a soak in a thermal streamwaiting at the bottom. A great ride on the Focus Sam2 electric MTB.
Track conditions 100% single track, climb approx 330metres
How to get there: Head ou of Rotorua towards Taupo on Highway 5 for 25 km.There is a small car parking area beside the highway on your left. It has shelters and a mapboard.
Route: Ride under the shelter that hosts the mapboard, and up a steep climb called Te Tihi O Ruru, It mellows out a bit before reaching a left turn, where you should follow the signs to the Summit. It starts out grade 3, and becomes grade 5. You will suffer, if you try to ride the whole climb without a break.It is technical and cardiocascularly challenging beyond most mortals without a MTB E-Bike. ie like a Focus Jam2 Plus or equivalent. When you reach a gravel 4WD track, turn left and followit the 30 metres, before turning left again into a little single track that leads to the top, 100 metres away.At the top there is a trig and repeater station ( plenty to shelter behind if it windy). On a fine day the views of the region are worth every calorie you just burned. Now for the descent! The downhill is called Te Ranga Trail. It’s a grade 4 and starts just 200 metres from the top( only 10 metres down from where you met the gravel road on the way up). HOT TIP: do not ride down the step narrow track right atthe top( hopefully it’s overgrown by now). it’s too risky. The top third of Te Rangi Trail is superb hand-built track-technical and fun. The you hit the gravel for 10 metres before riding into the machine built section( it’s signposted). This section is fast and flowy with potential for some air if your willing. The trail ends at a shelter and toilet at the Te Ranga ( Kerosene Creek) car park. The hot springs are only 50metres away on a walking track.They are Free, and at times, overly popular. From there you just head right and rode the gravel road, and highway back to Rainbow Mountain car park. It is 3km away and takes 10 minutes to ride. Youcan also ride back on the Te Ara Ahi Trail if you have more time.
Notes: Best ridden when dry.
95km southeast of Rotorua
Grade 4 Time 1 day(overnight option) Distance 35km
If iconic New Zealander Barry Crump had been into mountain biking, the Moerangi track in Whirinaki Forest would have been his favourite ride. Passing through 35km of remote native forest, with three traditional tramping huts en route, It’s real iconic New Zealand experience at its best.
Track conditions: 100% single track.
Maps: NZTopo50 BG38 Wairapukao and BG39 Ruatahuna
How to get there: The track is 95km southeast of Rotorua, via Highway 5 then 38 on the way to Waiharemoana . The best option transport is to park your car to Whirinaki Forest Holidays and have them drive you to and from the road ends, which are 37km apart. This way your car will be safe. visit www.whirinakiforestholidays.co.nz for their details, for shuttle from Taupo, contact Tread Routes www.treadroutes.co.nz. Alternatively,drive or ride 30km east from Minginui Village to the end of Okahu Road ( grid reference 315 123) Okahu road is a narrow gravel road with native forest on both sides.
Route: This is one the longest continuous native forest rides in New Zealand and passes three tramping huts along the way. There is approx 1000m of climbing to do, not for the faint hearted best with an Electric MTB Bike like the Focus Sam2 E-Bike . From the end of Okahu Road, rideup the valley to Skip Hut( Whangatawhia). this will takeabout 1 hour. Overthe following 1-2 hours, the track leads you over a 700-m saddle and down to Rogers Hut ( Te Wairoa). From there, head up beside Moerangi Stream to Moerangi Hut (1-2 hours). The hut is 500 metres of the main track. Turn left,just before a big bridge. After visiting the hot and signing the hut book, go back to the main track, cross the bridge and continue climbingto a 900-m high point beside Moerangi. There is alookout/picnic area 100 metres before the highpoint. From there, it is mostly downhill to River Road.Please watch out for some deep slips! We had to walk across a couple. This is the final stage which takes 2-3 hours and ends in amazing podocarp forest, which is very popular with walkers/trampers. the track then takes you on to River Road, 7km from Minginui village.
Notes: you can ride this track fromeither direction, but if you start from Okahu Road you have less climbing and finishe with a long downhill – Wow take it easy on the track, and be prepared for trampers around any corner. No accidents please in such a remote location as mobile coverage will be minimal (may be Spark).
Whirinaki Mountain Bike Track**
95km southeast of Rotorua
A mixture of old forestry roads and purpose built single MTB track
Grade 3- Time 1.5-3 hours Distance up 16km
Track conditions: 60% single track, 40% old forestry road
How to get there: this track starts from south of Minginui village.( see above Moerangi Track for directions to the village)As you approach Minginui, veer right to stay on Minginui Road, right again onto Old Te Whaiti Road,cross the river and turn left onto Old Fort Road( there’s a picnic area and mapboard at the end).
Route: There are short and long loop options, with information panels along the way. The loops are signposted in an anticlockwise direction. From the car park, follow the mountain bike signs, climbing gently into the forest. After several minutes, turn right to begin the first loop. This becomes 104 track, which comes out at Okurapoto Road. Turn left to complete the short loop or right for the longer ride back via Tangitu Track. Both options finish with a same lovely single track.
Notes: Minginui village, near the road end, has no shops or accommodation However there is accommodation and shuttle service close by at Whirinaki Forest Holiday 07 366 3235 www.whirinakiholidays.co.nz. For further accommodation in Rotorua visit www.bnblive.com The nearest shops to the track are at Murupara,35 km away.