Coming to Rotorua to play on your bike? Great! Let’s make a plan.
Is there a mountain biking season?We’re often asked when it’s best to come riding in Rotorua. Two words: any time!
Seriously, Rotorua is 100% a year-round riding destination. It can be slightly cold in winter but when the sun’s peeping out at you even just a little bit, that’s your indication it’s a perfect day for blat on the bike! Dress for the season (easy-to-remove layers you can stuff into your backpack or camelback work a treat), although you’ll see many locals wearing shorts no matter the conditions.
Rain can happen any time, however, the volcanic dirt gold we’re blessed with is quick to drain, so even immediately after a good drenching, the trails are rideable.
Pick your trailsFirstly, download the Bible of all trails that is the Trailforks app for an excellent map of the trails in Whakarewarewa Forest. There’s heaps of helpful info for every individual trail, such as the grade, length, description, whether they’re suitable for electric mountain bikes, and more.
Here you’ll also see the most up-to-date info in regards to trail condition, any closures or detours, or other details riders should be aware of, as Whakarewarewa is a working forest, after all. We highly recommend reviewing the app or website before every ride, and riders must obey signage at all times.
Beginners welcome!Veteran mountain bikers LOVE to see new riders giving it a go and hope you’ll absolutely fall in love with the sport like the thousands of riders before them.
Make your way to the Waipa carpark off State Highway 5 to the mountain bike hub entrance at Whakarewarewa Forest. Park here, then saddle up and start with the Kid’s Loop track. Yes, we’re serious! It’s a great, gentle warm up to get you comfortable and shake off the first-ride jitters. From here, follow Creek Track and finish with Dipper. This hour-long (plus breaks, if needed) loop consists of Grade 1 and 2 trails, and is sure to have you grinning like crazy when you return, hungry for more.
You must check out the network’s newest trail, Whakarewarewa Forest Loop. The Loop is the first of its kind in that it’s comprised of 33kms of ups and downs, runs, flats, berms and hairpins which also takes advantage of beautiful views from various purpose-built look-out points, as above.
This one is mostly a Grade 2 ride. There are a couple Grade 3 sections, which are walkable if they look a bit beyond your skill or confidence level. It is a one-way trail, but be aware it intersects other trails so keep an eye out for other riders and even their trail dogs. E-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.
The trail takes anywhere between 2.5 and 5 hours, depending on your pace and how often you stop. E-bikes take less time, of course, and 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).
We know that you know some of the biggest and best professional downhill mountain biking races are held in our forest. #IYKYK
If you’re keen to head straight to the hardest and most technical trails Whakarewarewa has to offer, Head to 8 Mile Gate to nab a seat on the Mountain Bike Rotorua to shuttle to the top. Once at the top, head for Tuhoto Ariki, then on to Black Diamond-rated Hatu Patu, followed by a climb up to Kung Fu Walrus. From up here, it’s about 1.4km – all downhill. Get your pedal on to make it back to the shuttle and do it all again! Trails range from Grades 4 to 5 with the loop generally taking under 2 hours.
There are so many other trails – about 200 km’s worth – so, study the Trailforks map, talk to locals, and make a plan. There’s no reason for you to go home well rested!
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.
Where to restEven the most hard-core riders need to sleep, and thankfully, picking accommodation is generally easy. In and around Rotorua, it won’t take much effort to find holiday parks or cabins, hotels, backpackers, boutique lodges, B&Bs and the 5-star Pullman Rotorua hotel. There's something to suit every budget and every sized group.
Many places, like Pullman, Jet Park Hotel Rotorua, Rock Solid Backpackers, and others have bike storage (some also have bike washing stations) for mountain bikes. Just ask when you book.
Where to eat or top up the chilly binThere are supermarkets in the town centre of course, and a huge selection of eateries throughout the city. Check out Eat Streat for nearly a dozen restaurant options plus Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour in one city block.
Fun without your bike
If you need to give your legs a break, there are plenty of other things to do and see in New Zealand’s original tourism destination.
Be sure to visit one of our famous geothermal attractions – Te Puia or Waimangu Volcanic Valley (pictured above) – allowing at least a couple of hours for these uniquely Rotorua experiences. Or go for a steamy soak to soothe any achy bits in one of the many hot pools.
If you’re up for more adventure activities, zipline through an ancient forest with Rotorua Canopy Tours, or see our famous forest from a different vantage point with Redwoods Treewalk.
Scream and laugh your way down the side of Mt Ngongotahā via luge at Skyline Rotorua or via giant inflatable ball at ZORB. Drive a full-race go kart at Off Road NZ or raft over the world’s tallest commercially rafted waterfall.
Whether you choose to enjoy Rotorua on a bike or another way, or a combination of both, you’re going to love it!