Whakarewarewa Forest - The Redwoods

Just five minutes from downtown Rotorua, a beautiful forest awaits you.

Known to locals as ‘The Redwoods’, the 5600ha Whakarewarewa Forest is a perfect playground for horse riders, mountain bikers, walkers and hikers with magnificent stands of towering native and exotic trees.

Amateurs to experts from across the country and around the globe agree mountain biking doesn’t come any better, with free access to a plethora of scenic, continually evolving forest trails. 

The unbeatable blend of riding surfaces, topography and scenery cater for all skill and fitness levels with more than 70 trails ranging from Grades 2 (beginner) through to Grade 6 (expert) levels.

Explore Rotoruas Redwood Forest
Ride Rotorua Redwoods
Treewalk Rotorua Redwoods

For those on foot, there are an array of hiking and running trails from short easy circuits to full day hikes which start off in the majestic Redwood Grove. Going further afield will take hikers through a diverse range of native plants and exotic trees, leading to spectacular views of Rotorua.

The Rotorua region has over 100,000 hectares of native bush and planted forest used daily for commercial and recreational purposes.

For more information, maps and guide books, visit the Redwoods Visitor Centre on Long Mile Rd. 

A history of the whakarewarewa forest

Established in 1901 as an experiment to test the suitability of different native and exotic forest species for commercial planting, Whakarewarewa is home to a large number of native plant species as well as giant Californian Redwoods.

Today it’s known as a walking, running, horse riding and mountain biking destination.


PRE 1886 - 1980
MTBiking in Redwood Forest

PRE 1886
The land where the Whakarewarewa Forest now stands was bare of trees, except for a small area of native bush capping the highest hills above the Blue Lake. Like most of the land in the vicinity of Rotorua it was covered in flax, fern, tussock and shrubs such as manuka, tutu and coprosmas. A Maori settlement called Te Whakarewarewa Tanga o te Ope Taua a Wahiao – (the place where the war party of Waihiao (a Te Arawa chief) performed) lived in the area.

Mt. Tarwawera erupted causing devastation in the area surrounding the volcano including Whakarewarewa Forest.

Late 1890’s
The New Zealand government began an attempt to replace the native forests that were being rapidly cleared by European settlers for farmland and timber and purchased some blocks of land off the Maori landowners in 1896.

Knowing New Zealand native trees grow very slowly (200-300 years to mature) a government nursery was set up to determine the best exotic species most suited for commercial harvesting in the Bay of Plenty.

The first of 170 different species of trees were planted in a trial. Trail plantings continued for many years.

The first Californian Coastal Redwoods were planted.

The grove of Redwood tress was declared a memorial to commemorate New Zealand Forest Service members who died in World War I.

The Waipa Sawmill was established in the forest.
The Redwood Walking track was developed.

The grove of Redwoods was informally dedicated to those Forest service members who died in World War II.

Early in this decade a Rhyolite Quarry was opened to supply metal for forestry roads.

The quarry was closed as it was considered too noisy for the nearby growing residential area.

Late 1960’s early 1970’s
An informal move to enable people to enjoy the forest was made when the Redwoods Memorial Grove walking track was opened to the public for recreation.

In October the forest was officially designated as a “Forest park” under the Forests Act.

A Forestry Visitors Centre opened. In this decade further walking tracks were developed.

The Waitawa Walk was developed and opened as an identification trail.


1980 - NOW
Mountain Biking Forest Rotorua

The “Forest Park” designation was removed following the restructuring of the New Zealand Forest Service.

The Government decided to sell off Crown forestry assets.
Because the Whakarewarewa Forest was widely recognised for its importance to the Rotorua community for historical, recreational and aesthetic reasons, the forest was given special status to ensure recreational access was retained.

As a result of ongoing pressure regarding possible consequences of the sale (cutting down of the Redwoods & trial species etc), the Tokorangi Triangle (known as The Redwoods) was defined and an agreement between the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand (restructured Forest Service), the current licence holders, and the Rotorua District Council was initiated.

In this decade various iwi (Maori tribes) and hapu (sub-tribes) lodged claims for settlement of historic grievances with the Waitangi Tribunal under the Treaty of Waitangi Act.

First mountain bike trails were built by local mountain bike enthusiast Fred Christianson and community service workers. New tracks would continue to be developed by Fred and others as the sport grew in popularity.

Forestry Corporation was sold to Fletcher Challenge Forests, who took over management of the Forest and The Redwoods on behalf of the Rotorua District Council.

A decade after the process started, management of The Redwoods was finally transferred from Forestry Corporation to the Rotorua District Council in June. Fletcher Challenge Forests continued to manage The Redwoods on their behalf.

Fletcher Challenge Forests split its forest assets and sold them off to national and international companies. Management of The Redwoods was passed on to the new forestry management company.

With mountain biking now being a popular sport and tracks popping up all over the forest a policy was developed to govern access and track building. The outcomes of which was increased communication and co-operation between the forest managers and mountain bikers. The Rotorua Mountain Bike Club became the key point of contact and most tracks are now developed and maintained by the club or volunteer track adoptees.

Kaingaroa Timberlands the current managers of the Whakarewarewa Forest & The Redwoods relinquished their management agreement with the Rotorua District Council of The Redwoods. The Rotorua District Council take over management.

The Redwoods is managed by the Rotorua District Council. The greater Whakarewarewa Forest is managed by Kaingaroa Timberlands. Treaty of Waitangi claims have not yet been settled.

The land on which the Whakarewarewa Forest and Tokorangi Forest (Redwoods) sits returned to Maori ownership in July as part of the Treaty of Waitangi Claims.

The Redwoods continues to be managed by The Rotorua District Council and the Whakarewarewa Forest continues to be managed by Kaingaroa Timberlands until termination comes into effect.

Australian Mountain Bike Magazine named the Whakarewarewa Trails as the best in the world.


Rotorua’s mountain bike trails win global praise from Red Bull as one of the eight top mountain biking destinations on earth – the only place awarded such recognition in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Maps below are available from the Redwoods i-Site & Visitor Centre.

Mountain Bike Map

Mountain Bike Map

Forest Experiences