This all-seasons trail explores the forested shores of Lake Taupo, with inspiring views across to the peaks of Tongariro National Park.
Skirting the shore of New Zealand’s largest lake, the Great Lake Trail features lush forest and wetlands, waterfalls, beaches and panoramic views from a series of lookouts. It is part of the NZ Cycle Trail and is easily accessed from the resort town of Taupo. The whole ride can be spread over two days, or broken into shorter sections of various lengths and difficulty. Overall, the track is smooth and flowing, but a number of moderate hill climbs make this most suitable for reasonably fit riders.
The Great Lake Trail dishes up an invigorating mix of inland forest and shoreline track across three distinct sections of trail west of Taupo.
Closest to town is the deservedly popular W2K Track that climbs up and around a bushy headland between Whangamata and Whakaipo Bays. This view-filled trail starts at the peaceful settlement of Kinloch, from where riders can ride it one way or enjoy the satisfying Headland Loop, both taking around half a day.
At Kinloch, the W2K links with the track westwards to Kawakawa Bay & Whangamata Road, with easy transport connections available from either end. This trail offers another half-day ride combining lakes and forest scenery.
The third section of trail runs between Western Bays Road & Waihora Bay, down through the Waihaha Valley and along the shore. It’s a full day’s ride with a boat pick-up required at the end, but the trail’s natural grandeur and tranquility are rich rewards.
The Great Lake Trail is 71km long in total, but an end-to-end ride of 52km can be made from Western Bays Road through to Whakaipo Bay, most commonly cycled in this west to east direction and predominantly following the lakeshore.
A mostly smooth, free-draining surface makes this trail enjoyable all year round, with winter days notable for crystal clear views of the snow-capped volcanoes.
View trail map here.
Although it can be broken into sections to suit a range of riding abilities, this trail is a Grade 3 (Intermediate) ride, most suitable for experienced mountain bikers.
The trail is well signposted but remote in parts, so riders should carry plenty of water and snacks, a basic took kit, and a cellphone (although coverage may well be patchy). They should also let someone know their intentions before they set off.
Checking the weather forecast is also essential, as is taking appropriate clothing for the conditions. Taupo’s proximity to the mountains means temperatures can drop very quickly, even in summer.
Shuttles can readily be arranged to the start point at Waihaha (54km from Taupo on Western Bays Road), and from the end at Whakaipo Bay (7km from Taupo). Chris Jolly Outdoors runs the water taxi required to bridge the shoreline between Waihora and Kawakawa Bay.
For visitors with their own transport and bicycles, Kinloch is both a logical and pleasant access point for various loops and return rides.