Trail lowdown: Walkers and runners find their perfect match in Rotorua

Whether you’re looking for a solid workout or to just chill out in nature – no matter if you’re solo or have the family in tow – there are loads of running, walking and biking options to enjoy in Rotorua.

With hundreds of kilometres of off-road walking/running tracks, there’s a heap of options in Rotorua to choose from and they’re all free. Let us help you pick the perfect path.

The runner

The inspiration:
Your goal is to get breathless and run in nature.
The trail: Blue Lake Track – a 5.5km-long moderately easy track following the shoreline surrounded by exotic and native trees. Undulating terrain keeps things interesting and a swim afterwards is perfectly refreshing. Your dog, on lead, is welcome to join you. Reward yourself afterwards with an ice cream treat from Blue Lake TOP 10 Holiday Park across the road.

Where to start: Take Tarawera Road all the way to Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake), just under 7km from the start of the road. You can begin your walk from anywhere but it’s probably easiest to find the trail if you start at the beach and walk counter-clockwise.

The family walkers

The inspiration: backpack, runner bike, snacks, water – you’re ready. With kids of varying ages strapped to you or sprinting ahead, the right trail must reward all of you just for the mammoth effort to even get to the entrance (perhaps that will include a spot for a fluffy and coffee afterwards).
The trail: Mokopuna Trail in Whakarewarewa Forest – this easy, hard-packed gravel track is designed specifically for families. At 3.6km, it’s a decent one-hour walk (biking is welcome too on this Grade 1 trail perfect for beginners), but there are exit points to shorten it if the kids run out of steam.  
Where to start: Head down Tītokorangi Drive (formerly Longmile Road) to the Redwoods i-SITE Visitor and Information Centre. Grab a free map and follow the colour-coded trail markers. You’ll find toilets, water fountains, picnic tables, and a café at the visitor centre, as well.

The relaxed walker

The inspiration: Longing to head out for a walk, but nothing too strenuous – casual wear will do.
The trail: How does a cheeky 3-minute rendezvous through the Redwood Memorial Grove in Whakarewarewa Forest sound? Covering 2km, you’ll see majestic 117-year-old California redwood trees, a thermal waterway and hear beautiful birdsong.
Where to start: Follow the instructions above for the family walkers.

The view chaser

The inspiration:
Being up high and looking out over the world below is a pretty cool reason to just stop and breathe – we need more of those moments in our life.
The trail: Rainbow Mountain – the 2.8km track takes an average of 1.5 hours by foot (mountain bikes are allowed one way) to reach the summit where 360-degree views show off Mount Tarawera, three lakes, forests, mountain ranges and even the volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro to the south. BONUS: have your camera ready for the crater lakes and beautifully coloured earth.
Where to start: Starting on State Highway 5 (SH5), head 26km south of Rotorua (the Rotorua-Taupō highway). Just past the SH38 turnoff, slow down to find the car park for the walking tracks on the left side of the road.

The dog walker

The inspiration: Your pooch needs some exercise and you want to go somewhere he/she can be off the lead. Grab some doggy-do bags and drinking water.
The trail: Whakarewarewa Dog Park – the area across the road from Whakarewarewa Forest public park is made available by Scion for dogs to run off lead. Wander through the trees and open spaces and also check out the river which your dog will love for a cool dip. Please clean up after your dog; the Redwoods Visitor Centre just down the road has free ‘doggy do’ bags available if you forgot yours.
Where to start: Follow the instructions above for the family walkers, or park in any of the designated parking spots on the right-hand side of Tītokorangi Drive (formerly Longmile Road). The dog park is on this side of the street.

The experienced hiker

The 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 through beautiful native bush also provides views of lakes Tarawera and Rotomahana. Spanning 15km one way, the finish offers relief for tired muscles in the natural hot water pools along the shore. For those who are moderately fit, the walk takes around 4-5 hours one way. About 5km in, there’s a great picnic spot with lake access for a refreshing swim, and toilets.
Where to start: Approximately 11km from the start of Tarawera Road you’ll find Te Wairoa car park on your right (if you pass Buried Village of Te Wairoa, you’ve gone a bit too far). Park here and follow the signs to the trail. To return, either camp the night at Hot Water Beach and tramp back out, or return to the start via water taxi (camping and taxiing must be booked in advance).

For more, check out these 10 wonderful walks in Rotorua

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