Waikato River Trails

from 2 - 3 days

Planning on riding the Waikato River Trails? Contact us for help in planning your itinerary and booking your trip.

The Waikato Region is rural New Zealand's heartland, and the Waikato River Trails wrap around a path that takes in the beauty of the land, historic landmarks, and fascinating volcanic rock formations. The trails roll through farmland, native bush, exotic forest, and open reserve, and includes boardwalks through wetlands and extended views of lakes and rivers. This is one of the more challenging of the Great Rides, suitable for those with a bit more mountain biking experience.

Discover historic dams, hydro-lakes, and suspension bridges passing high above the river. The region's history is sign-posted along every leg of your journey! The trails offer a unique cycling experience alongside New Zealand's longest river, providing an off-road, grade 4 (advanced) mountain biking experience. The sections alongside the Whakamaru, Maraetai and Karapiro Lakes are however easier, grade 2 rides. The Waikato River Trails are easily accessed off State Highway 1, and are only a short drive from Taupo, Tauranga, Rotorua, or Hamilton - but the experiences you gain on these trails connect you with nature at its best.

The trails can be ridden in either direction, but are described below following the journey of the river's water, based on a suggested 3-day itinerary.

Atiamuri Trail Head to Mangakino (35 km)

The trail starts with a grade 3 route along to Dunham Point Reserve (about 12 km) on Lake Whakamaru, and onwards to the Whakamaru Dam (at 23 km). This includes boardwalk sections through wetlands with awesome birdlife, as well as views of the towering volcanic hill of Pohaturoa. There is also a staircase to descend at Ongaroto, providing some good views of the lake.

From Whakamaru Dam, the trail gets easier as it skirts along Lake Maraetai, over the 70 metre long suspension bridge over Mangakino Stream and on into the small settlement of Mangakino. There are various accommodation options here, as well as bars and restaurants to top off a great day.

Mangakino to Jim Barnett Reserve (40 km)

Leave the comforts of Mangakino behind, for the toughest day of the trail! You'll enter a section of undulating single track among native and exotic forests, most of which is not too technical, but which can certainly work the quads. This will take you down river to the Waipapa Dam, where you cross onto the eastern river bank. From here, things get even tougher. For starters, you have a large set of steps to climb, with the only reward being the views and photos from the top. You have another 9km to get to the Mangarewa Suspension Bridge. A little further on you have the final challenge of the day, a long climb up to Waotu South Road. Warm down with a road section through to Jim Barnett Reserve.

There is camping available at the reserve, or alternatively, you can arrange shuttle collection (in advance) to take you to one of the nearby accommodation options. Sleep well, knowing tomorrow will be easier.

Jim Barnett Reserve to Pokaiwhenua Bridge (28 km)

Start the day with a nice easy road ride, predominantly downhill, down to Jones' Landing back on the river. Check out the incredibly pink hues of the ignimbrite rock columns generated by the areas volcanic origin. From here it is only 5 km to Arapuni Village, a scenic section taking you past the Arapuni Dam and it's adjacent swing bridge. Head along to the village, where the bike-friendly Rhubarb Cafe has a tastly selection of snacks. You're well and truly on the home stretch now, as you head along Lake Karapiro with some more boardwalks and wetlands on the way in to Little Waipapa Reserve. An easy roadside trail takes you the last 5km out to the trail head.

You are now well aquanted with the mighty Waikato. Keep an eye out on the developments on the Te Awa River River Ride just downstream, where a further 70km route is being developed, which will eventually get you right through to Ngaruawahia!

Lake Maraetai Lodge
Lake Maraetai Lodge is set in a quiet street (5 Totara Terrace) with views across the village to the lake with a forest backdrop.
Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort
The accommodation choices at Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort are made up of our 20 Deluxe Studios located on the ground floor with views to the pool and garden area and lakeveiws from the outdoor covered patio furniture: and our 10 first floor 1 bedroom Superior Suites each with their...
Woodstock Farm Vacation
A Unique Vacation Experience
The Woodstock Cottage is a 1650 sq. ft luxury home located 10 minutes drive south of Rotorua, New Zealand. There is over 900 acres of operating sheep and cattle farm land, complimented with areas of both native bush and Radiata Forest.
Fairy Springs Motel
Great Service, Real Comfort & Excellent Value
Cycle Friendly Accomodation & Lockable sheds for your bikes. You'll feel rested & relaxed in the tranquil, quiet park like grounds surrounding the Motel, and NO Sulphur smells. You'll find us at the base of Mt Ngongotaha inbetween Mini Golf NZ and the Skyline Gondolas and Luge tracks.
Arapuni Backpackers
Comfortable Budget Waikato River Trails Accommodation
We offer clean, comfortable and affordable accommodation for you to enjoy whilst biking the Waikato River Trail. We are set amidst farmland in the small village of Arapuni, take a day off from your bike ride and fish or kayak in the Lakes Arapuni and Karapiro, or see the Takehe...
Arapuni Retro Cottage
Cozy Waikato River Trails Accommodation
Fully refurbished home with fresh clean linen, upmarket conveniences on a well manicured section with 180 deg views. Water skiing, lakes, trout fishing or a romantic getaway with luxury spa. 10 mins from all amenities. Perfectly located for the Waikato River Trails. Pets are most welcome.
Regal Palms 5 Star City Resort
Experience Regal Palms and the Art of Hospitality
At Regal Palms, we understand that hospitality is an art that embraces service, attitude and respect for the individual needs of every guest. Designed for comfort and relaxation, Regal Palms is situated at the southern end of Fenton Street, within walking distance of, Whakarewarewa Golf Course, cafes/restaurants and Rotorua's world...
YHA Rotorua
Welcome to YHA Rotorua, a purpose built backpacker hostel and very bike friendly.
SilverOaks Resort Heritage Rotorua
SilverOaks Resort Heritage, Rotorua, New Zealand has accommodation close to Thermal Pools and Maori Arts & Crafts Centres in Rotorua. If you are looking for accommodation while visiting Rotorua New Zealand the SilverOaks Resort Heritage in Rotorua is perfectly situated. Check out our great year round offers in Rotorua.
Koura Lodge
The Koura Lodge is situated in a private, peaceful location on the lakefront only minutes away from Rotorua City Centre.
Phone Number: 073485868
Ibis Rotorua
Situated on the picturesque shores of Lake Rotorua is Ibis Rotorua with 145 accommodation rooms.
Phone Number: +64 7 346 3888
Jack & Di's Lake View Accommodation
Jack & Di's unique accommodation offers spectacular views and access to Lake Rotorua.
Phone Number: 0800522526
At Springwaters Lodge
At Springwaters Lodge you immediately feeling welcome, at home and relaxed. Four guests rooms each have a private ensuite bathroom for your privacy and each rooms is complete with safe, tv, dvd player, robes.....
Phone Number: 07 3322565
Ferntree Cottage Bed & Breakfast
At Ferntree Cottage, we offer you comfortable, clean accommodation in a central location near Lake Rotorua, the city and many attractions.
Phone Number: 07 3480000 or 021 104 7203
City Lights Boutique Lodge
Phone Number: 073491413
B&B Blossom Cottage
Phone Number: 07 3322720
@94 On Springfield
Phone Number: +64(0)7 348 3343
Best Western Capri Court Motor Inn
Best Western Capri Court is the ideal place to base yourself whilst in Rotorua for your cycle holiday. We're bike friendly and offer lock-up facilities for your bike.
Phone Number: 0800 501506
Atsala Apartments Rotorua
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Phone Number: +64 7 350 3327
ASURE Palm Court Motor Inn
17 deluxe ground floor motel units, all thermally heated, each with its own spa pool.
Phone Number: 07 347 2200
Cedarwood Lakeside Holiday Resort
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Phone Number: 07345 7773
The Lake House Bed and Breakfast
We are just a short drive out of Rotorua, far enough away to be both tranquil and sulphur free and yet still within easy access to the host of attractions that Rotorua has to offer. Built in the 1920’s it enjoys extensive northern lake views to take full advantage of...
Phone Number: 07 3453313
MALFROY Motor Lodge
Phone Number:
Out in the Styx
A beacon in the heart of the Waikato countryside
Operating since 1995 Out in the Styx Guesthouse is unique in this area , offering bunkroom or ensuite accommodation with gorgeous rural views and superb homecooked food.With hot spas & kingsize beds awaiting you at the end of a long day’s ride you can be assured a restful night’s sleep....
Phone Number: 0800 461 559
Hydro Road
Self Contained Accommodation - Free WiFi
Affordable, upmarket self-contained accommodation in Karapiro, Cambridge, New Zealand Come and enjoy our newly built self-contained accommodation set in a private tree lined location in Karapiro. The Hydro Road is situated amongst an established woodland garden, right on the doorstep of Lake Karapiro - just a two minute drive or...
Phone Number: 07 823 2044
Rotovegas Motel
City End of the Strip
Come and explore Rotorua, the geothermal wonderland and New Zealand’s favourite family holiday spot. The multitude of cultural and adventure activities offered in Rotorua, along with the ‘Motel Mile’ on Fenton Street has led Rotorua to be affectionately nicknamed named “RotoVegas” by generations of Kiwis who visit this vibrant city...
Phone Number: 073485586
Alpin Motel & Conference Centre
Phone Number:
Rydges Rotorua
Located in a park like setting on the edge of Rotorua's Arawa Racecourse, Rydges Rotorua boasts panoramic views over Arawa Racecourse and the city. The hotel is close to Rotorua's famous attractions and activities, and an easy walk to the CBD, Convention Centre and Whakarewarewa Geysers.
Phone Number: +64 07 349 0099
That Dam Lodge
Cottage and lodge accommodation on lake Whakamaru right on the Waikato river trails, great base camp for riders, meals available on request
Phone Number: 0212529474
Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park
Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park has been a favourite destination since 1932. A natural spring of fresh water has given us the ability to conserve a special part of New Zealand
Te Puia
Conveniently located at the commencement of the Pathway of Fire cycle ride, the NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (Te Puia) is New Zealand’s premier visitor experience.
Polynesian Spa
Hot Mineral Bathing & Spa Therapies
The perfect way to take time out to relax and unwind after a day of sights and activities! Visitors can enjoy a wonderful fusion of relaxing hot mineral spring bathing, sumptuous spa therapies and picturesque lake views. Thermal bathing is offered in 26 pools in four areas:
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
The World's Youngest Geothermal Area
The first attraction you’ll come to on the Te Ara Ahi Bicycle Trail, Waimangu Volcanic Valley is definitely the “must do” eco-experience if you want to experience New Zealand’s unique ecology, botany and geothermal features all in a natural setting of New Zealand native bush.
Hells Gate
New Zealand is located on the “Ring of Fire” where the earth is always in a state of upheaval. This is no more evident than in Rotorua on New Zealand's volcanic plateau where geothermal activity is pronounced including erupting geysers, steaming fumaroles, mud pools and hot geothermal springs.
Planet Bike
The One-Stop Shop for Mountain Biking in Rotorua
Planet Bike is the one-stop shop for your mountain biking holiday to Rotorua - home to some of the best mountain biking on the planet. We're located in the Whakarewarewa Forest mountain bike carpark - just a five minute drive from downtown Rotorua.
Phone Number: 0272802817
Rotorua Museum
Learn about the rich culture, volatile landscape and legendary figures that have shaped this fascinating region.
Phone Number: +64 7350 1814
Mountain Bike Rotorua
MOUNTAIN BIKE ROTORUA is your gateway to the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest, the stunning jewel in the crown of the adventure destination that is Rotorua. Located at the forest itself the friendly team here at the MBR base have everything you need to get out and ride!
Phone Number: 0800 682 768
Tamaki Maori Village
New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Experience!
New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Experience! Experience an evening of ceremonial ritual, amazing re-enactment, powerful cultural performance, storytelling & hangi feasting as we relive significant events within our Pre-European history.
Phone Number: 07 3492999
Mountain to Road Cycles
Join us for a Ride
We offer a range of quality Mountain, River Trail, and Road Bikes with a full on site workshop servicing all bicycles.
Evolution Cycles
Phone Number: 078270485
Evolution Cycles
Phone Number: 07 8705175
South Waikato Cycles
Phone Number: 078869299
Rotorua Cycle Centre
Large Range of Bikes for All the Family
Retail of quality bikes and accessories, bike hire and full bike workshop - we're open seven days a week.
Phone Number: 073486588

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