Tongariro River Trail During this peak summer tourist period TRM receives many requests for info on bike trails in this region, so TRM have completed a survey of other local bike trails suitable for day trips. These tourist trails extend to the north near Taupo and south into the Kaimanawas. It is essential to have some hands-on practical knowledge on these trails rather than relying on memory or brochures (and it also excuses me from laundry duties…). TRM’s strong (completely unbiased!) recommended bike trail, that ticks all the boxes for tourists, is the Tongariro River Trail. It is the only easy-peasy loop track more suitable for tourists looking for a wide variety of views and environment – varying from riverside parks to native bush to farmland to fern grottos to swing bridges high above the Tongariro River with views over the lower river towards Lake Taupo (pronounced “Toe-paw”?). For bikers it has everything. But first, let’s compare the others…
Great Lake Trails Taupo claims to offer more than 200km of bike trails providing for every requirement. Some of the Taupo trails that receive far more promotion have access issues that tourist bikers need to be aware of. The hub for the “Great Lake Trail” around the lake is at Kinloch, about 20 km from Taupo. Then both bike trails are “there & back” trails. i.e. If you start at one end you need to bike back or have arranged transport at the other end to get back.
The above noticeboard illustrates the “W2K” (Waipiro Bay to Kinloch) and “K2K” Kinloch to Kawakawa Bay. Wonderful scenic more technical trails for fitter club members but not really catering for casual tourists as they are located too far from Taupo to bike to from their accommodation.
Two Great Lake Trails from Waihaha (photos above) and Kinloch offer great lake views and are very scenic but cannot be seriously regarded as “tourist” trails when they end up at the edge of the lake requiring bikers to charter a boat to return? Tourists require a shuttle bus service to get there and a boat charter to return. They are longer more technical (i.e. “difficult?”) trails suitable for local club members but we cannot recommend them to tourists seeking something much easier in terms of access and physicality. Waihaha on the western side of the lake is probably closer to Turangi – about 50 km distance. That is still too remote for most TRM biking guests. Understandably, tourists want bike trails closer to their accommodation.
The Huka Falls north of Taupo is a natural tourist meca as indicated by other attractions such as the prawn farm, golf driving range (closed during our visits) and jet boat rides. A bike trail extends further north to the Aratiatia Rapids where the lure is when the power company release the flow every day, but it is tricky to try to time the bike ride for this. A loop track is across the Huka Falls bridge and back up-river from the Aratiatia Rapids but this is probably too far for tourists to bike from Taupo township. Other attractions such as Hot Water Beach could be an ideal destination for a day ride but the access track – known as Fergusson’s Gully – is too difficult to recommend to tourists.
The most popular Taupo bike trail, also known as the Lions Walk, extends around the lake front from Taupo shopping area south to Waitahanui. This is mainly in an urban setting on a wide smooth concrete walking path for about the first five km.(which is now subject to a $4 Million redevelopment?. What a shame the council’s spend-up on bike trails is not directed at extending the bike trail further south to eventually link with Turangi… That would be a real investment!) A tame urban-type bike route is not what tourists are looking for. They prefer more of a challenge on unsealed tracks in a natural setting. They usually live in towns and want to get out of them on their bikes.
Timber Trail Arguably the best track, recently voted in NZ’s top ten, is the Timber Trail. Tourists are warned this is also too remote and too lengthy for casual tourist bikers looking for a day trip. It is about 80 km long with a delightful lodge situated about half way between Ongarue and Pureora – but both quite remote from the central plateau region. This needs to be booked ahead for a two-day ride as it has become very popular over the summer months.
Waikato River Trail Similarly the Waikato River Trail which extends north-south from Karipiro through Mangakino via Whakamaru to Atiamuri is too far in distance from Turangi for a day trip. It is unfortunate for biking tourists that none of the Taupo bike trails link up with the Waikato River Trails to provide a multi day ride. This would confirm the Taupo trails were planned for their own club supporters rather than considering tourism’s wider requirements.
Kaimanawas Refer to other recent reports by TRM on other alternatives in the Kaimanawas which are more accessible than any of the Taupo trails. Sadly they are never promoted as part of the Taupo region bike trails yet they are far closer to Turangi . They provide a real sense of wild remoteness on trails that are as scenic as anywhere else. The options include there-and-back or a loop track out from Pillars of Hercules to link up with the Tree Trunk Gorge track or a longer alternative to include the isolated roading network originally developed as part of the Tongariro Power Scheme about fifty years ago and now available for tourists enjoyment. For more info on these ask at TRM.
So after our “informal” survey of everything this central plateau region has to offer bikers, we keep returning visitors to the Tongariro River Trail as the ideal day trip for tourist bikers. The enthusiastic feedback from them confirms this. Make sure it is on your bucket list for this summer holiday. Below is TRM brief video shows the Tongariro River Trail appeals to more than just bikers…