1-4 Days 104 KM

Highlights

  • Lake and river views
  • Ecological regeneration
  • Interesting hydro dams

Proximity

Grade 3-4

Intermediate - Advanced

Go with the flow of the mighty Waikato River as this Great Ride of New Zealand passes through fascinating hydropower dams and tranquil lakes.

 

Waikato River Trails, New Zealand

Traversing the rural heartland in the centre of the North Island, the Waikato River Trails(opens in new window) wind through forests, wetlands and recreation reserves. Among many memorable sights are volcanic outcrops, a gorge, hydropower stations and suspension bridges.  

Flourishing native birdlife(opens in new window) and vegetation speak to the local community’s aroha (love) of te awa (the river), and a desire to see it thrive. Five trails, from intermediate to advanced, offer a chance to immerse yourself in this special and historically significant part of the North Island. 

Ride experience

Stretching for more than 100 kilometres (km), this Great Ride follows the riverside most of the way and is split into five sections; each named after the lakes created by hydro dams built between 1924 and 1966. Interpretation panels dotted along the trail tell their fascinating stories. 

The trail offers various riding experiences – from intermediate (grade 3) to advanced (grade 4), on terrain ranging from smooth and gently undulating to steeper and more rugged. There are plenty of places to move on and off the trail, making it easy to choose a ride to suit your fitness level and holiday plans. 

The full trail can be ridden in either direction, with accommodation options on the trail or close by. A series of recreation reserves offer tranquil camping on the riverside. 

There are plenty of short, easy rides to be enjoyed. Arapuni to Lake Karapiro is popular for its historic pedestrian bridge, power station and regenerating wetlands.  

Another memorable option combines the Whakamaru(opens in new window) and Maraetai(opens in new window) sections which features some flowing, forest riding and the dramatic rocky knob named Mt Pohaturoa. 

Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails Official Website

A detailed description of Waikato River Trails, including maps and more information, can be found here:

Waikato River Trails(opens in new window)

Need to know

  • While most of Waikato River Trails is wide and smooth, some more challenging sections are best suited for reasonably fit riders with offroad riding experience. The full trail is generally completed from south to north, following the river downstream – but it isn’t all downhill!  
  • The trail is well signposted and passes through a series of riverside settlements, including Arapuni(opens in new window), Mangakino, Whakamaru (opens in new window)and Atiamuri – where refreshments and other services are available. 
  • Toilets are located at convenient intervals, and there’s cell phone coverage almost all the way. 
  • The region’s temperate climate means you can cycle the trail year round, although parts of it can get muddy in the winter months. 
  • The trails are located conveniently close to State Highway 1 and the popular tourist towns of Rotorua and Taupō where you can continue your riding.  

Transport & tours

Alongside Lake Karapiro, Riverside Adventures Waikato(opens in new window) offers bike hire and shuttles and can sort out your accommodation needs, and there’s also bike hire at the welcoming Rhubarb Cafe(opens in new window) alongside the trail in Arapuni. Shuttles are also provided by Mangakino Shuttle Services(opens in new window), while River Riders(opens in new window) also offers e-bike and bike racks hire for the wider Waikato River Trails as well as accommodation and shuttles. 

Accommodation

For cycle-friendly accommodation right on the trail, check out Lake Maraetai Lodge(opens in new window) in Mangakino. There are five road-accessible riverside camps along the route, and other options dotted around the surrounding countryside.  

The towns of Cambridge, Putaruru and Taupō are also nearby. Accommodation providers partnered with the trail are listed on the Great Rides of New Zealand(opens in new window) and Waikato River Trails websites. 

Useful links

Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails(opens in new window) 

Waikato River Trails(opens in new window)

Waikato NZ(opens in new window)

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