Waikato River Trails

The Waikato River Trails are one of the 23 Great Rides under Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail.

Status: Open

Grade: Easy (2) - Advanced (4)

Duration: 1-4 days

Total Length: 100km

The Waikato River Trails extend 100km along New Zealand’s longest river, the “Mighty Waikato”. The journey takes in five lakes, four hydro dams and a number of small towns and villages. The trails connect with the heart of the Waikato and showcase the very best of the region’s natural environment.

The trails wind along a path that encompasses the magic and beauty of native bush, exotic forest, historic landmarks, and intriguing volcanic rock formations. The trails pass through grassed farmland, open reserves, and offer boardwalks through significant wetlands, as well as expansive lake and river views.

The Waikato River Trails offer a multi-purpose walking and cycling experience through varied environments where around every corner is a new vista.  Towering dams, suspension bridges and long wandering boardwalks make memorable destinations in their own right.

Stories of the region’s rich history are sign-posted as your journey winds along the river and through some of the Waikato’s best landscapes.

The trails are an off-road mountain biking experience with a mountain-biking grade of 4, advanced.  The southern and northern ends are predominantly grade 1-2; this includes lakes Karapiro, Whakamaru and Maraetai. Lakes Waipapa and Arapuni are grades 2-3.

Riding this trail offers the opportunity to experience the wonderful hospitality of New Zealand’s farming and forestry heartland. The Waikato River Trails are close to Taupo, Tauranga, Auckland, Rotorua and Hamilton yet very far away from the noise and bustle of the city. The Waikato River Trails experience brings your senses to life as you connect with nature at its best. The Waikato River Trails experience is "living!"

Best time to ride

The best time to ride the trail is September to May. The Waikato has a temperate climate so all but the mid-winter months are ideal for riding. The trails are largely protected from the wind. 48km of the trails are already open and in use, 47km are completed but yet to be opened, and 5km are still under construction. The remaining 5km sections are at lakes Arapuni and Maraetai.

Getting there

SH1 provides key access points to both ends of the trail.  To the north, access is off SH1 onto Horahora Road, driving for 5km before reaching the Pokaiwhenua Bridge car park which is the starting point of the Karapiro Trail. And to the south, access is off SH1 onto Ongaroto Road (SH30); 50m from the turnoff brings you to the start of the Atiamuri Trail.

Trail partners

Waikato River Trails Trust, The New Zealand Cycle Trail project, Mighty River Power (Major Sponsor), South Waikato District Council (Major supporter), Waikato Regional Council and Taupo District Council.

Click here for more information, photos and maps.