The Whakarewarewa Forest Loop mountain biking trail was always constructed with the intention to become a New Zealand Cycle Trail Great Ride.
The news that the new mountain biking trail has indeed been added to the Ngā Haerenga Great Rides network was celebrated by many at a ceremony on Friday, 6 May.
The 33km mountain bike trail takes riders through some of the iconic features that Rotorua mountain biking is renowned for: fun trails, Māori culture, towering California redwood trees, geothermal activity and stunning views.
Being mostly a Grade 2 track, with a couple of Grade 3 sections mixed in, the Loop was designed to be accessible for people of almost all ages and fitness levels, as long as they’re confident riders. The trail showcases Rotorua mountain biking to people who may not have had the opportunity to experience these iconic features that previously existed only on more advanced trails.
During the ceremony at the new forest hub off Tarawera Road, Te Pūtake o Tawa, Tourism and Economic and Regional Development Minister Nash officially opened the trail and announced its Great Ride status.
“The Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is a fantastic trail that offers a great off-road mountain biking experience. Not only does it deliver in terms of a high-quality physical ride, it offers a taste of Māori culture, geothermal features and iconic Redwoods, with spectacular views over several lakes,” he said.
He noted that with cycling experiencing a boom in popularity, the creation of new a Great Ride is another drawcard for international tourists, particularly as New Zealand welcomes back travellers from Australia and key Northern Hemisphere markets.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said seeing the Minister back in Rotorua shows how important tourism and the visitor industry is to our city.
“This is one of the first tourism announcements since the borders have reopened and demonstrates how things are changing and moving forward.
“Our destination management plan helps to keep the Rotorua brand fresh, and projects like the Forest Loop ensure that Rotorua remains a top mountain biking destination, a destination of choice for all manuhiri, and one that they want to keep coming back to.”
Funding the Whakarewarewa Forest Development projectIn 2018, Rotorua Lakes Council received match funding of $7.09 million from the Provincial Growth Fund, administered by Kānoa, to complete the development. To date, this has included the upgrade of Tītokorangi Drive (formerly Long Mile Road); construction of Te Pūtake o Tawa; development of the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop; cultural foundation elements that work to connect the past and present, tradition and innovation, tāngata whenua and manuhiri; and work that is currently underway to improve the cycling connection between the forest and the city.
Council is also working with tāngata whenua to create an app for the forest which will tell the stories of the land and its people as riders make their way around the loop. It will also operate as a way-finding tool.
It’s in our DNAMountain biking, trail walking and running in Whakarewarewa Forest is part of Rotorua’s DNA.
Since the late 1980s, Rotorua Lakes Council has worked alongside the landowners, iwi representatives and users (who form the more recently established Rotorua Trails Trust), to strategically develop and leverage these unique natural assets.
The trails attract an estimated 230,000 people for mountain biking and up to 800,000 other visitors each year. The Whakarewarewa Forest Development has provided the infrastructure necessary to support the continued enjoyment of this asset for all visitors, and take advantage of the economic, social, cultural and environmental potential the asset provides to our region.
Learn more about riding the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop HERE.
For more information on the Whakarewarewa Forest Development project, visit visiontoaction.nz.