Keen to get in on the trail action in Rotorua?
Whether you’re a beginner mountain biker, an active family or dog mum looking for great walking trails, or after a serious blood-pumping activity, the options are vast and varied.
Whānau hīkoi (family walk)The inspiration: Front pack – tick. Runner bike – tick. Nappy bags, snacks, water – tick. You’re ready! With kids of varying ages strapped to you or sprinting ahead, you need the right trail for the mammoth effort to even get to the entrance (plus a spot for a fluffy and coffee afterwards).
The trail: Mokopuna Trail. This easy hard-packed gravel multi-use track is designed specifically for energetic families on foot, runner bikes, mountain bikes, even those pushing prams. At 3.6km, it’s a decent walk, although there are many exit points to shorten it if the kids run out of steam. Passing through mature native and exotic forest in Whakarewarewa Forest (aka The Redwoods), this is a magical place for family fun. In and near the Redwoods i-SITE Visitor Information Centre, you’ll find a toilet block, water fountains and picnic tables, and a small café for coffee, drinks and delicious treats.
The view chaserThe inspiration: Being up high, looking out on the wonders of the world below is a pretty cool reason to just stop, appreciate and breathe – we need more of those moments in our life!
The trail: Te Tihi o Ruru/Summit Track on Rainbow Mountain. This dual-use track takes you up to nearly 750 metres for those Insta-worthy views. The roughly one-and-a-half-hour walk takes will fly by as you check out this active geothermal mountain, with crater lakes and beautifully coloured earth. Just under 3km later, you’ll reach the summit where 360-degree views like the one above showcase Mt Tarawera, three lakes, forests, ranges and even the volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro to the south.
The hikerThe inspiration: You’re keen to check out some pretty epic terrain while channelling your inner explorer.
The trail: Tarawera Trail. Following the shores of Lake Tarawera, this advanced tramping track has everything from water springs and bridges, to native bush and views of lakes Tarawera and Rotomahana. Spanning 15km, the finish is a relief with natural hot water pools to bathe in. Either camp the night at Hot Water Beach and tramp back out, or pre-book a water taxi back to the start.
Mountain biker - beginnerThe inspiration: It’s your moment – potentially a bit nervous, you’re ready to give this mountain biking thing a whirl. You’re keen for some sweeter, kinder trails to get a good taste of one of Rotorua’s most-loved activities.
The trails: Make your way to the Waipa carpark off State Highway 5 to the mountain bike hub entrance to 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. Before you go, download the Trailforks app for maps of the trails and lots of helpful info such as their grades, lengths, descriptions, and more.
The mountain biker - advancedThe inspiration: You’re a shredder from way back who’s arrived in Rotorua to figure out what this ‘dirt gold’ hype is all about. You want to go straight to the hardest and most technical trails Whakarewarewa has to offer.
The trails: Head to 8 Mile Gate to nab a seat on the Mountain Bike Rotorua (MBR) shuttle. Once at the top, head for Tuhoto Ariki, then on to 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.
The dog walkerThe inspiration: Your pooch needs some exercise and you want to go somewhere he/she can be off lead and really stretch those legs.
The trail: Scion dog park. This officially unofficial spot is on the “Scion side” of Longmile Road and Whakarewarewa Forest. It's kindly made available by Scion for friendly, well-behaved dogs, like Lupe the Bernese Mountain Dog above, to run off lead through their research forest. Wander through the trees and open spaces and also check out the river which your dog will love for a cool dip. The Redwoods i-SITE Visitor Information Centre has free ‘doggy do’ bags available if you forget yours.
The runnerThe inspiration: You want to get breathless and run in a beautiful, natural setting.
The trail: Blue Lake Trail. his 5.5km trail follows the shoreline of Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake), mostly encased in a beautiful forest of exotic and native trees. Undulating terrain keeps things interesting and a lake swim afterwards is perfectly refreshing. Dogs on leads are welcome to join you!
The relaxed walkerThe inspiration: You want to head out for a walk, but nothing too strenuous – casual wear will do.
The trail: Redwood Memorial Grove. How does a cruisey 30-minute hīkoi amid towering majestic California redwood trees that were planted in 1901? This 2km trail in Whakarewarewa Forest crosses a thermal waterway via boardwalk and you’ll enjoy beautiful birdsong along the way.
INSIDER TIPSThe mountain biking app Trailforks can be downloaded and will ensure you know where you are on the tails at all times.
Check out Rotorua Trails Trust online or follow them on Facebook for the latest info for all trails in Whakarewarewa Forest.
Review the map of the walking trails in Whakarewarewa Forest here (PDF), or pick up a map from one of the Rotorua i–SITE Visitor Information Centres and many cycle shops have maps available.
Don’t forget to share your photos on Instagram and tag #rotoruanz!
*Story updated and adapted from original by local mountain biking legend Gary "Gaz" Sullivan of NZO.