Crankworx Rotorua: There really is a cycle trail for everyone

If you’ve been following Red Bull TV’s coverage of the Crankworx Rotorua mountain biking competitors in action and it has inspired your inner mountain biker, Rotorua is the best place in New Zealand to let him or her out to play.
 
With nearly 200km of gold-level mountain bike trails in Whakarewarewa Forest, an official New Zealand Cycle Trail, and a number of excellent rides in between, there’s something for every fan of velocipedes.*
 

Skyline Rotorua Mountain Bike Park – the site of Crankworx Rotorua


Stats:
12km, 13 trails, mix of Grades 3 to 6 (Intermediate to Extreme)
 
Highlights: Never ride uphill again! Thanks to select Skyline Rotorua gondolas that have been specially altered, you and up to three other riders and your bikes can pile in at the base of Mt Ngongotahā and get dropped off about 530 metres up. And, as they say, it’s all downhill from there.
 
Fly down the maunga on two wheels, ride the gondola back up. Repeat.
 
Don’t have your own bike? Simply hire one from Skyline or any of the numerous bike shops in town.
 
Getting there: Head to the Skyline Rotorua terminal at 178 Fairy Springs Road and request a bike uplift pass for 1, 15 or 40 trips, or even an annual pass.
 

Te Ara Ahi Trail

Stats: 48km, mix of Grades 2 & 3 (Easy to Intermediate)
 
Highlights: Dubbed the “Thermal by Bike” trail, this Great Ride takes you from the Rotorua city centre to five of our unique geothermal landscapes and reserves. A range of tourism ventures can be accessed on the way, plus the fantastic Rainbow Mountain Loop (see next entry).
 
Divided into two sections of 30km and 18km, it’s recommended to undertake this trail in two days, camping overnight at Lake Okaro just past Waimangu Volcanic Valley, or arranging pickup for you and your bikes by Thermal Land Shuttle.  
 
Hybrid bikes will suffice for most of this trail although a mountain bike is better suited to the off-road sections and if you choose the detours into the Whakarewarewa Forest mountain bike park off SH5, or up Rainbow Mountain.
 
Getting there: The trail starts at the Prince’s Gate Archway on Queen Street, and ends at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.
 

Rainbow Mountain MTB loop

Stats: 9km loop; Grade 4 (Advanced)
 
Highlights: Enjoy crater lakes and the magically coloured earth which gives this maunga its name.
 
Three short trails on geothermally active Rainbow Mountain connect to form a loop that’s one-way only for mountain bikers. The first two sections are dual-use, so be prepared to share the track with hikers heading up or down the mountain.
 
Starting on part of Te Ara Ahi National Cycle Trail, you’ll follow an easy Grade 2 shared-use track for about 2.6km, then progress to the Grade 4, 2km steep and technical Te Tihi O Ruru/Summit Track which does what it says: takes you to the top of the maunga and rewards your climb to nearly 750 metres with 360-degree views of Mount Tarawera, three lakes, forests, ranges and even the volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro to the south.
 
From here, enjoy 2.4km of exhilarating and challenging downhill run on Te Ranga Track which ends at Kerosene Creek and re-joins Te Ara Ahi. This section of Grade 4 trail is for mountain bikers only.
 
Getting there: Ride Te Ara Ahi Cycle Trail from the Rotorua city centre, or drive to the carpark at the foot of the mountain along SH5.
 

Western Ōkataina Walkway

Stats: 22.5km, Grade 3 (Intermediate)
 
Highlights: This shared-use track through the Lake Ōkataina Scenic Reserve is an old forestry road so it’s generally wide and well formed.
 
Enjoy stunning native bush and, if you take the 1.3km side track up to Whakapounakau Trig and Rangitoto Peak, you’ll have amazing views of lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti from the vantage point at 758 metres.
 
This track can be ridden in either direction but we recommend starting from the car park at Millar Road at Lake Ōkāreka so you can enjoy the exhilarating downhill ride from the trig and all the way into the Outdoor Education Centre.
 
Getting there: Start at Millar Road on Lake Ōkāreka, about 11km from Rotorua.
 

Whakarewarewa Forest

Stats: Nearly 200km of trails, mix of Grades 1 to 6 (Easiest to Extreme)
 
Highlights: Looking at the map of Whakarewarewa Forest’s mountain biking trails on Trailforks you might think it resembles a bowl of colourful spaghetti – that’s how amazing the network of countless trails is (and why it’s a great idea to log on to Trailforks before you start, or carry a map).
 
The gold-level trails in this world-renowned mountain biking mecca wind through native and exotic forest, along forestry roads, uphill and down. Some offer gorgeous views from high points, and others provide soothing shaded glens alongside babbling creeks. 
 
Getting there: Choose from three locations: Waipa State Mill Road off State Highway 5; Nursery Road off Longmile Road; Putake o Tawa off Tarawera Road.
 

Whakarewarewa Forest Loop Trail

Stats: 35km, Grade 3 (Intermediate)
 
Highlights: Scenic route: tick. A full-day, non-technical ride: tick. Plenty of great stopping points along the way: another tick.
 
This new trail is great for many reasons, and we’re hoping it becomes the next New Zealand Cycle Trails’ Great Ride.
 
The ride takes in views of three lakes and different types of forest, and story boards along the trail feature stories and information on the region’s Māori culture.
 
The trail is accessible for people of most ages and fitness levels. Riders – including those on e-bikes – are loving it. You don’t have to be an expert rider; as long as you’re a confident rider, you’ll find the variety of uphill, downhill and flat sections interesting and fun to navigate.
 
If you find you’re running low on water or energy bars, there are three spots along the way to purchase food and drinks and refill water bottles. There are also three accessible toilet blocks.
 
It’s suggested to ride the trail clockwise, and please note that some segments of the trail are one-way only, so keep an eye out for and obey the signs, for everyone’s safety.
 
Getting there: We recommend starting from the Waipa mountain bike hub trail entrance off State Highway 5 just a few minutes south of Rotorua. Here you’ll find all the amenities you’d want, including rental bikes and retail store, café, toilets and showers, bike washing station and a large carpark.

 

*A few notes
Please note that on shared-use trails you’re likely to encounter walkers and trampers, even the occasional dog or horse where they’re permitted. Share with kindness and consideration, and review this brief blog on mountain biking etiquette.
 
Choose tracks that match your skills, fitness and experience, and familiarise yourself with the mountain biking track grades. Most tracks are more difficult when wet. Avoid riding in the mud and rain as this damages the trails.
 
If you’re riding solo, always tell someone your plans: location and trail/s, start time and expected finish time. Carry water and a charged mobile phone.
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