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Waikato River Trails

  • 4 min read

Waikato River Trails

Opened in 2011 after 8 years of development, the Waikato River Trails (“the trail”) provides 103kms of cycling trails along New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato River. The trail provides some of New Zealand’s most stunning river views and spectacular scenery.

The trail can be cycled in parts, with small daily rides or can be combined as one fantastic ride from Atiamuri to the upper end of Lake Karapiro. There are easy flowing sections for all riding abilities, and some sections with more technical riding. Riding the whole trail takes in five lakes, four hydro dams and a number of small towns and villages.

Chill Dirt Features Waikato River Trails

The Waikato River Trails office and Putaruru ISite are in Putaruru and can assist with all travel logistics, information and packages for riding the trails, including shuttle service (for drop off and pick up), bike hire, and accommodation.

The trail runs north – south, and can be started/finished at either the Atiamuri end, State Highway 30, Ongaroto Road in the south or from Pokaiwhenua Bridge Carpark at the southern end of Lake Karapiro in the north. There are informational and interpretive panels along the trail provide details about the journey itself and some of the history of the area.

Chill Dirt Features Waikato River Trails

Latest News – www.waikatorivertrails.comfor all trail updates and activity. There is an enquiry form to assist with booking transport and accommodation. Keep in touch via Facebook.

One Day or Overnight Ride
“The Waikato River Trails is a hidden gem in this part of the world.”

Cycle or walk just part of one section or go the distance from Atiamuri to the upper end of Lake Karapiro, taking in five lakes, four hydro dams and a number of small towns and villages.

The Waikato River Trails office and Putaruru ISite are in Putaruru and can assist with all travel logistics, information and packages for riding the trails. Packages include optional shuttle service (for drop off and pick up), bike hire, accommodation, and more.

Waikato River Trails
6 Main Street, Putaruru
P: 07 883 3720
E: wrtadmin@orcon.net.nz
www.waikatorivertrails.com

The trail is 103kms and can be started/finished at either the Atiamuri end, State Highway 30, Ongaroto Road in the south or Pokaiwhenua Bridge Carpark at the southern end of Lake Karapiro in the north.

• The trail can be accessed along its route at several other points.
• Info & interpretive panels along the trail provide details about the journey itself and some of the history of the area
• Visit www.waikatorivertrails.com for information about the trail, regular updates, FAQs and an enquiry form to assist with booking your transport and accommodation.

We’ve listed out places of interest and approximate distances starting at the southern point of Atiamuri heading north.

LAKE WHAKAMARU

Dunham Creek mobility trail and Wetlands (8km along the trail)

Whakamaru Reserve (21km) has towering pines; film set of the 2010 Yogi Bear 3D Movie; home to thousands of campers over the summer period.

Whakamaru Dam (23km) is the first of two dams crossed along the Waikato River Trail. In the area look for the Aniwha Wilderness Experience.

LAKE MARAETAI

That Dam Lodge (Whakamaru Village)

The Dam Café (Whakamaru) (24km) is 300m past the Mighty River Power office.

Mangakino Suspension Bridge (30km) is a 70m long swing bridge over the picturesque Mangakino Stream

Mangakino Village (35km) is a popular stop at the end of Day One of cycling.

LAKE WAIPAPA

Ride through a spectacular pine and native forest and over Waipapa Dam (55km) which is the second dam crossing on the Waikato River Trails.

LAKE ARAPUNI

Tumai Gorge (56km) leads onto Mangarewa Suspension Bridge (67km) an 80m long bridge 42m above the stream and valley below.

Swaps Waotu Quarry (70km) is a working quarry, and the 200m climb from the lakefront provides spectacular views over the quarry and Mt Ruapehu can be seen from the top on a clear day.

Jim Barnett Reserve (74km) is full of beautiful native trees and prolific birdlife, this is a piece of native bush to survive the 1981 Taupo eruption.

Jones Landing (82km) is a peaceful rest stop with beautiful views down the lake and rides through to the Arapuni Dam.

LAKE KARAPIRO

Arapuni Swingbridge (86km) is a beautiful old but very functional swing bridge with great views into the Arapuni Powerhouse.

Arapuni Village (87km)
Huihuitaha Wetland Boardwalk (93km) is a unique and rare wetland with a continuous 500m boardwalk winding through it.

Little Waipa Reserve (96km) is a nice big reserve with a canopy of shady trees for a rest stop.

Useful Tips

Advance planning
Common-sense and practical tips will ensure a better, more enjoyable trail experience.

Accommodation
Book in advance OR contact Waikato River Tails for a convenient, hassle-free all-in-one booking service.

Cycling
Allow at least three days of three to four hours a day to bike over the trails’ mostly gravel surface at an average speed of 8-10km/hr. This is the schedule that generally works comfortably for most.

Fitness and Experience
The Waikato River Trails is not a “rail trail” nor is it flat. The trail is best described as undulating with some steep climbs making a degree of fitness and off-road biking experience desirable.

Upstream or downstream
Most trail experiences start in the south and finish in the north, so are downstream. Overall, this provides a slightly easier experience, but both options are outstanding.

Bicycles
Mountain bikes with big tyres are best. Take tools and a puncture repair kit.

Drinking water
Is not readily available along the trail. Take plenty with you and replenish with commercially bottled water at trailside businesses and communities.

Toilets
Are positioned at least every 15km along the trail. Take toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

Mobile Phones
There are some areas of weak or no signal.

Barriers
Squeeze barriers are positioned along the trail to stop stock and motorbikes. Walk yourself and your bike through these.

Vehicles
Prohibited include cars, motorcycles and quad bikes.

Private Property & Livestock
Stay on the trail, please do not enter private property or disturb stock in paddocks.

Safety
The trail is often close to the Waikato River, streams or wetlands. Supervise children at all times. Water levels can rise and fall rapidly due to hydro dam activity.

Secure Parking
It is not advisable to park your car overnight adjacent to the trail. Our shuttle service provides a convenient and safe transport option for you and your bike.

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