Here’s hoping our newest mountain biking trail becomes the country’s next NZ Great Ride.
The world-famous network of mountain biking trails in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest consists of trails suitable for nearly every age, experience and fitness level. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the nearly 200km would be enough to satisfy all types of riders.
But, what they say about builders’ houses always being under construction can be also said about trail builders in Whakarewarewa, and that has resulted in a brand new, must-ride 33km trail that offers variety, culture and views.
Whakarewarewa Forest Loop
As the name implies, the new Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is a circular route, one way, through its famous namesake forest. The forest is located just 10 minutes (by car) from Rotorua’s city centre, making it quick and easy to get to and fit around your other sightseeing activities. Of course, if you’re heading to Rotorua solely to ride, that’s perfectly fine and there are plenty of trails to delight and/or challenge you year-round!
The Forest Loop, which is mostly a Grade 2, with a bit of Grade 3, has been designed to be accessible for people of almost all ages, abilities and fitness levels. You don’t have to be a professional downhiller; as long as you’re a confident rider, you’ll find the variety of uphill, downhill and flat sections interesting, fun and fairly easy to navigate.
Riders – including those on e-bikes – are loving it.
The trail should take you between two and a half to five hours, depending on your pace and whether you’re on an e-bike.
Be sure to factor in some time to stop and take in the views at strategically built points along the way that reveal gorgeous ’gram-worthy sights. They also provide a great excuse to rehydrate and rest your legs and lungs.
If you find you’re running low on water or energy bars, you’ll be happy to know that along the trail there are three spots to purchase food and drinks, and four taps to refill water bottles, as well as three accessible toilet blocks.
The next NZ Great RideThe trail planners and builders have really outdone themselves on this one, and it’s hoped it will gain New Zealand Cycle Trails’ Great Ride status.
Story boards along the trail feature interesting stories and information on the region’s Māori culture, and you’ll be riding among iconic stands of California redwoods and geothermal features. The slightly more technical downhill sections also provide a bit more excitement than other trails in the Great Ride network.
With high quality facilities available – bike rental outlets and services, bike wash stations, shower and toilet blocks with accessibility features, and coffee and food vendors – there’s really no good reason to skip this trail.
How to get started
Similar to a roundabout, there are multiple trail entry and exit points, but it’s recommended to start at Te Pūtake o Tawa carpark or Waipa carpark as both hubs offer the facilities mentioned above, especially if you need to hire bikes. Plus, there’s plenty of parking at these two locations, making them perfect for RVs and larger groups.
Clearly marked one-way trails allow you to go with the flow, including a few detours noted (read: shortcuts!), and you’ll have mobile phone coverage throughout most of the trail, should you need it.
You'll find a bit more information here, too, regarding mobile phone coverage and a map.
Check before you rideVisitors are often unaware that Whakarewarewa Forest is a working forest, with trees being harvested or planted at various times, and heavy equipment in use. This can lead to the closure of trails, usually temporarily, so it’s important to heed all signs that indicate alternate routes must be used. Trailforks is an excellent source of information regarding closures, detours, or any other issues that riders should look out for.
The weather can also affect trails, particularly if there have been heavy rains over an extended period.
Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is a fantastic addition to the existing trail network, offering yet another way to enjoy the forest recreationally, and hopefully an opportunity to tick another NZ Great Ride off your list.
[All photos by Graeme Murray]