Mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest can be one of the best days on your bike you will ever have.
That may be a bold statement, but that’s what visitors tell us when they've tagged along with a couple locals for a ride in the Redwoods.
But what if you’re hitting the network of nearly 200km of trails on your own? How do you know which trails will suit you, or which ones to link up for a great circuit?
It’s OK to ask for directionsIf you want to ride like a local, simply start with a map! Get one at one the several bike shops around town, one of our two i-SITE Visitor Information Centres, or the Waipa mountain bike car park.
Get your head around the lay of the land. The Rotorua forest has a high, curving spine along its eastern side. The main entrance at Waipa, off State Highway 5 just south of town, is at the base of a sloping bowl that leads to that spine, 400 metres above. A slew of trails occupies the flat part of the bowl; roads or trails climb the sides; and trails drop back down from various points along the top edge.
There are also entrances to the forest at Longmile Road, easily accessed via trails from town, and at Te Putake o Tawa, recently opened on the far side of the spine from Waipa.
Most rides will mean a decent climb to get a good downhill run. A mid-level rider with a bit of fitness can get to a high point in half an hour or so, and easily do it a couple of times in a day.
What kind of rider are you?
Now we need to figure out which local you want to ride like. If you’re newish to mountain biking, start by reviewing the grading system used to define the trails. Ride Rotorua also describes all of the trails, as well as Trailforks.
Grades 2 & 3 / Green & Blue Tracks / Easy and Intermediate
Starting at Waipa, pedal out to Tahi. Follow that to Creek Track, then decide whether to pedal to the top or take a shuttle. Dawdling up The Wash, Direct Road, and Frontal Lobotomy under pedal power will take a bit longer than riding Mad If You Don’t and then taking Hill Road to the shuttle stop, and the bus to the top.
Corners back to the bottom is a great run. Eagle vs Shark is a fast-flow trail to the far side of the forest. From there riders can turn right towards Lake Tikitapu and take Feeder Grade 2 or Feeder Grade 3 to Tangaroa-mihi and on around the south side of the forest to finish down the cycleway Te Ara Ahi back to Waipa. Or you can turn left after Eagle vs Shark and head back along Black House Loop to Apumoana. At the top of that cruisey climb, you can ride forestry roads to the lower half of Corners, and then home.
A bit more ambitious? Ride Yellow Brick Road, up Sandy Skid Road, and head up to Pondy Elevator. There’s no easy way up here, but grin and bear it. Take Moerangi Road and Time Warp to the best view in Rotorua, and the long, long downhill of Split Enz, Pondy New, Roller Coaster, and on to more trails home.
Pressed for time? Start at Longmile Road, take Katore Road, back down Tokorangi, Turkish Delight, and Challenge.
Grades 4 & 5 / Dark Blue & Black Diamond Tracks / Advanced and Expert
Reckon you know what you’re about? Get yourself to the top, up the road past the shuttle stop. Then take on the natural splendour of Tuhoto Ariki, or Tihi o Tawa. Pedal up to Kung Fu Walrus or Te Ahi Manawa, and return via Taura. Back at the top you could drop down the first part of Eagle, link over to Whāki, climb Apumoana and descend Hot X Buns.
The options really are endless. As soon as you stitch together three decent loops, we unofficially dub you a local!
*Content supplied by local mountain bike legend Gary “Gaz” Sullivan of NZO.