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