Rotorua has an enviable backyard – it’s here you’ll find otherworldly geothermal landscapes, 18 crystal-clear lakes, and beautiful native forests. Rotorua is also the ultimate year-round destination for mountain biking, with trails for nearly everyone in the family.
More than 200 kilometres of world-renowned mountain bike trails sweep, weave, dodge and undulate through Whakarewarewa Forest. Among them is a fantastic mix of Grade 1 and 2 trails that are perfect for first-timers keen to give mountain biking a go.
Most listed below are one-way trails, making them easier to navigate. Do keep an eye out for and slow down at intersections as they can involve other cyclists, trail dogs and/or people on foot or even horseback.
1. MokopunaMokopuna is an easy, wide, undulating trail, and a perfect track to get little kids started on bikes, including balance bikes, as you ride or run alongside them. Share with care as the two-way trail is also used by walkers and families with prams. The entry point is alongside Tītokorangi Drive, near the intersection with Tarawera Road.
2. Kid’s LoopOn the other side of the forest you’ll find Waipa car park, the OG of the mountain biking trail access points. Across the bridge and immediately to the right is a great little loop designed for riders both young and less experienced. The one-way Kid’s Loop offers easy straights, gentle undulations, curves, corners and a variety of forest coverage. It’s the perfect introduction to mountain biking and a great way to learn and practice good riding etiquette.
Despite its name, you’ll see adults on the trail too, whether first-timers or those working out the pre-ride jitters. Simply ride and re-ride until you have the confidence to move on to other Grade 1 and 2 trails nearby such as Tahi, Creek and Dipper.
3. TahiTahi, the Māori word for “one” is first out of the gate from the Waipa carpark. This is a one-way, mellow rolling trail, perfect for beginners and a great way to get the feel for shifting gears, braking, and flowing through the curves.
4. CreekFrom Tahi, you can access Creek, which gets its name from the little river it follows. This one-way trail is reasonably flat and flowing. There are short sections that ramp up to Grade 3 with a couple of chutes, but using the bypasses makes this trail more family-friendly.
5. DipperFrom both Tahi and Creek, you can access Dipper, one of the forest’s original trails. Use this iconic trail with caution: it has everything a great mountain bike trail can possibly have to make you fall in love with this activity and start buying all the gear! A one-way, mostly flat, flowing trail with good berms, Dipper is a great introduction to riding for first-timers or a warm/up down for more experienced riders. Wide tracks make it easy to pass slower riders, if you’ve got a good flow going.
If you’ve ridden a number of times, feel confident on a mountain bike, and have a few hours up your sleeve, this trail should be on your must-ride list. The 33km Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is one of the network’s newest trails, and takes advantage of beautiful views from various purpose-built look-out points.
The Loop is also New Zealand’s newest Great Ride.
This one-way trail is mostly Grade 2. There are a couple Grade 3 sections, which are walkable if they look a bit beyond your skill or confidence level.
Electric mountain bikes make it easier to keep up with your super-fit friends on the uphill bits, leaving you with enough energy at the end of the ride to enjoy a cold drink at the local pub afterwards. Be sure your bike is fully charged.
On a traditional bike, the trail takes anywhere between 2.5 and 5 hours, depending on your pace and how often you stop. If you need to cut your ride short, you can exit via other trails to get back to your starting point (just make sure they’re appropriate for your skill level, otherwise they may not actually shorten your ride time).
Where to get a bikeTurning up without a bike? Actually, not a bad idea. You can hire a great bike (it might even be better than your own!) for a single- or multi-day hire from a range of operators. A couple of them, Mountain Bike Rotorua and Planet Bike, are conveniently located near the forest. Want to see what an e-bike is all about? You can hire those too! We recommend booking in advance, to avoid disappointment.
Bringing your own bikes
If you’re bringing your own gear, a variety of Rotorua accommodation providers, from Rock Solid Backpackers to the five-star Pullman Rotorua provide free, secure bike storage for their guests. Some have bike wash stations as well. We've written more about bike-friendly accommodation options here.