Rotorua: Leave only tyre tracks

Pedal power is one of the best ways to appreciate the natural beauty of Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua.

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 200 kilometres of trails on offer would be enough.

But what they say about builders’ houses always being under construction can be also said about trail builders’ networks in Whakarewarewa, because a brand new 35-kilometre trail offering variety, culture and views is now ready to be ridden.

The Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is a circular one-way route located just a 10-minute drive (or 20-minute ride) from Rotorua’s city centre, making it quick and easy to get to and fit around other sightseeing activities.

The Forest Loop, which is a Grade 2 to 3 ride, has been designed to be accessible for people of almost all ages, abilities and fitness levels, and riders are loving it—including those on e-bikes. 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.

The trail should take you between two-and-a-half to five hours to complete, depending on your pace. You’ll want to factor in some time to stop, rest, rehydrate and take in the beautiful views of Lakes Rotorua, Tikitapu and Rotokākahi at strategically built points along the way.

If you find you’re running low on water or energy bars, there are three spots to purchase food and drinks and four taps to refill water bottles. There are also three accessible toilet blocks on the trail.

Storyboards along the route feature interesting stories and information about local Māori, and you’ll be riding among iconic stands of California redwoods and geothermal features. It’s hoped that the trail will eventually gain Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails’ Great Ride status. The slightly more technical downhill sections provide a bit more excitement than other trails in the Great Ride network.

There are multiple trail entry and exit points that are similar to roundabouts, but it’s recommended riders start at Te Pūtake o Tawa carpark or Waipa carpark as both hubs offer facilities such as bike rental outlets and services, bike wash stations, accessible shower and toilet blocks and coffee and food vendors. 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 and there are a few detours (read: shortcuts!) available if required. You’ll also have mobile phone coverage throughout most of the ride should you need it.

A growing number of visitors are coming to Rotorua to ride, and the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is a fantastic addition to the existing trail network, offering yet another way to enjoy the forest recreationally—and responsibly.

More by