From this summit the trail winds in fast and thrilling fashion into the long-deserted Mangapurua Valley, dotted with overgrown pioneer farm remnants including mossy fence posts and wizened fruit trees. Vying for attention are the valley’s natural features, including lofty bluffs and rocky ravines. The riding is generally flat and pretty sweet all the way through to the Bridge to Nowhere, spanning Mangapurua Stream.
A striking sight set amidst dense forest, this concrete bridge was completed in 1936, just six years before the last farmer abandoned the valley. Its elegant form inspires much admiration and the clicking of cameras, while the story it tells is one of hope, hardship and broken dreams – and the awesome power of nature.
A winding 20-minute descent reaches the trail’s end at Mangaparua Landing, on the banks of the Whanganui River. The return to civilisation requires a 32km jet boat or kayak trip down to Pipiriki – an essential and highly memorable adventure. Riders wanting deeper immersion in the national park can break their river journey overnight on at the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge, a charming spot with homespun hospitality.
At Pipiriki, riders can be collected by shuttle or continue along the Mountains to Sea cycle trail on the picturesque River Road heading to Whanganui, passing many fascinating Māori and pioneer historic sites.
All transport and accommodation must be booked in advance. Local mountain biking operators offer shuttles to and from the trail, bike hire and guided tours, plus information on the latest trail conditions.
In the dry, the trail’s smooth, papa clay surface is a dream to ride: swift yet grippy. In the wet and after rain, it can destroy both bike and soul, covering every surface and clogging moving parts to grinding halt. The trail is best tackled from spring to autumn but can be ridden at other times after long spells of decent weather.