This steep climb up a colourful geothermal mountain rewards riders with amazing panoramic views and a thrilling technical downhill.
Built in a collaborative effort by the Department of Conservation and the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club, the Rainbow Mountain MTB Trail is a memorable loop that allows riders to explore the mountain named by Māori as Maungakakaramea – ‘mountain of coloured earth’. Although it still features steaming cliffs, this fascinating volcanic dome was much more active in the past. Cooling in recent years has encouraged regeneration of rare native vegetation such ferns and orchids, as explained in a series of information panels along the trail. This loop is defnitely a highlight for riders mountain biking in Rotorua.
From the trail car park, the upward climb to the summit follows the dual-use (walking and biking) trail, Te Tihi O Ruru. It’s a gut-busting effort, but one that’s rewarded with breathtaking 360-views of the surrounding ranges, lakes and forest. On a good day it’s even possible to see Lake Taupō and the three iconic volcanoes of Tongariro National Park.
The descent from the summit is via Te Ranga trail, a dedicated downhill cycle trail. Created by professional trail-builders, it is challenging and technical – especially near the top – but a whole load of fun… in dry conditions, at least. In fact this whole loop ride is best avoided in the wet when a slew of slippery tree roots will test the mettle of even the most proficient riders.
At the bottom riders can sooth their tense muscles in Kerosene Creek, a popular hotspot created by the geothermal activity Rotorua is famous for.
Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve is located 26 km south of Rotorua besides SH5. It can also be reached on two wheels via the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s Te Ara Ahi, a mostly paved trail that threads its way between many of Rotorua major geothermal reserves.