Enter mountain biking heaven amongst towering redwoods and lush native bush – and discover why Rotorua is up there with the world’s best.
Known simply as ‘The Redwoods’, the 5600-hectare Whakarewarewa Forest is a mountain biking mecca, and the envy of other mountain bike hubs not only throughout New Zealand, but the world. Red Bull TV even claims that ‘when we die and go to mountain bike heaven, there’s a good chance it will probably look like Rotorua.’ It is also one of the reasons Rotorua was awarded gold-level ride centre status by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) – one of only six centres in the world.
The epi centre of mountain biking in Rotorua, the Redwoods are located just south of central city, and comprises lush native bush, stands of towering Californian Redwoods, and other exotic trees. Threaded through it is more than 160 km of expertly constructed single-track and forestry roads traversing volcanic, free-draining soil that ensures awesome riding, all year round.
There are rides to suit every ability, with the gently undulating mountain biking trails around the forest’s lower reaches perfect for families, first-timers and those just looking for a leisurely cruise, while hardcore downhill junkies and freestylers can go for broke around the steeper, trickier trails.
The most popular access point to the Redwoods is the highly sociable Mountain Bike Hub on Waipa State Mill Road. As well as changing rooms and showers, there’s trail information, bike hire, advice and a cafe for fuelling up on snacks and strong espresso. The Redwoods Visitor Centre on Long Mile Road also stocks maps and guides, including the ‘Manky’ – a rather swanky map on a hanky that riders can conveniently stuff in their pockets, proceeds from which go towards trail maintenance. Ride Rotorua has useful trail descriptions as does the TrailMapps: Rotorua mobile app.
Guided tours are a great way to explore the Redwoods, with the benefit of local knowledge and the bonus of a story or two. Shuttles are also available to ferry riders up to the start of the downhill tracks. It’s well worth getting into the forest’s upper reaches, one way or another, for the broad vistas over Rotorua’s pretty lakes, geothermal areas and the scarred volcanic domes and fissures of Mt Tarawera.