Cycling and Mountain Biking in Rotorua
If there’s only one place in New Zealand that you’re going to do some mountain biking, it has to be in Rotorua. We know, that’s pretty controversial considering there are some outstanding mountain biking regions throughout New Zealand. But when it comes to downhill thrills, Rotorua is a clear winner. It has two mountain bike parks: Skyline Gravity Bike Park complete with a gondola and The Redwoods/Whakarewarewa Forest packed with 150km (93 miles) of mountain bike trail (no joke)! On top of all that, there are a few scenic trails thrown in the mix with a bike trail in the lakes district of the Rotorua area, a trail that’s part of the New Zealand National Cycle Trail, and trails that are deep in the Whirinaki Forest wilderness. Check out the list of bike trails in Rotorua below to find your perfect trail.
In between riding in The Redwoods or up Rainbow Mountain, spend some time checking out these 20 Awesome Places to Visit in Rotorua and stay in one of the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Rotorua or 10 Best Hotels in Rotorua.
1. The Redwoods Forest Mountain Bike Trails (Grade 2-5)
The Redwoods, otherwise known as the Whakarewarewa Forest, is what put Rotorua on the international mountain bike scene! The mountain bike trails are some of the oldest in the country but have aged well with more than 150km (93 miles) of exciting trails linking seamlessly linking together. What’s more, entry to the park is free and mountain bike hire is available from the main car park. A popular option for families or newbies is The Dipper (Grade 2) which weaves between the redwood trees. Alternatively, intermediate to advanced riders will have a blast at the “Outer Core Network” which is clearly labelled on the mountain bike park maps.
2. Tuhoto Ariki Trail (Grade 4)
Speaking of The Redwoods, a great ride for intermediate to advanced riders starts from the top of The Redwoods called Tuhoto Ariki Trail. This 5km (3-mile) duel-use trail winds through native bush and is rich in history. The trail is named after the Maori tohunga (priest) who predicted the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption. To get to this epic bike trail, either
Location: 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre. Long Mile Road, Lynmore. Either pay for a shuttle from The Redwoods Visitor Centre or ride from the visitor centre car park via Moerangi Road and turning into Tawa Road. Hire bike gear from the Whakarewarewa Forest Base (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
3. Western Okataina (Grade 3)
Mix mountain biking and stunning lake views on this 19.1km (12-mile) trails through the Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve. The trail can be ridden in either direction with plenty of ups, straights to catch your breath, and exhilarating downhills. Be aware that this is a shared trail with walkers.
Location: 14km (9 miles) from Rotorua city centre. Car park at Millar Road, Lake Okareka.
4. Te Ara Ahi (Grade 3)
For a longer scenic bike trail to Rotorua, try the Te Ara Ahi (thermal by bike). This 48km (30-mile) ride starts from Rotorua city centre, taking you through a geothermal field with bubbling mud and geysers. The trail is part of the National Cycle Trail and is shared with walkers. The trail can also be linked with the Rainbow Mountain MTB Loop (see below) for a full-days’ adventure. The trail ends at the Waikite Hot Pools giving you the opportunity for a well-deserved soak.
Location: Rotorua city centre. Starts at the arches opposite the Princes Gate Hotel and ends at the Waikite Hot Pools, Waitike Valley Road (36km/22 miles from Rotura city centre).
5. Rainbow Mountain MTB Loop (Grade 2-4)
There are three mountain bike tracks that link together to make a 7km/4-mile loop at Rainbow Mountain. Te Tihi o Ruru (grade 4) is a challenging uphill track to the summit of Rainbow Mountain (Maungakakaramea) with epic panoramic views. From the top, enjoy a thrilling downhill blast on the Te Ranga (grade 4) leading to Kerosene Creek, a natural hot spring (more details on Kerosene Creek here). The final traverse to the bottom is on the Te Ara Ahi (grade 2 – see above) for the final 2.6km (1.6 miles) of the loop.
Location: Either ride the Te Ara Ahi Trail from Rotorua city centre (see above for directions) or at the Rainbow Mountain car park along State Highway 5 (25km/15.5 miles from Rotorua city centre).
6. Hot X Buns (Grade 4)
Another blast in The Redwoods comes in the form of Hot X Buns, a 2.7km (1.7-mile) technical downhill ride. The trail is bikes-only so go at your own desired pace and enjoy!
Location: 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre. Long Mile Road, Lynmore. From The Redwoods Visitor Centre, ride up Direct Road to reach the track start (it’s a demanding climb but worth it). Hire bike gear from the Whakarewarewa Forest Base (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
7. Skyline Gravity Bike Park (Grade 2-5)
Choose from six stomach-flipping trails on an 8.5km (5.3-mile) network at the Skyline Gravity Bike Park. There’s something for everyone with grades 2-5 starting from a height of 532m (1745ft)! What’s more, the gondola-assisted bike parks means you can enjoy the downhills again and again, without having to bust a gut to get back up.
Location: 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua City Centre. Fairy Springs Road.
8. Hatupatu (Grade 5)
One of the most advanced trails to tick off the bucket list is the Katupatu trail. While the trail is one 1km (0.6 miles), it descends a total of 160m (525ft)! Choose this ride for a real challenge with its off-chamber benching and roots. Find this trail in The Redwoods.
Location: 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre. Long Mile Road, Lynmore. Accessed off the Tuhoto Ariki trail (see above for directions).
9. Tokorangi (Grade 3)
The final Redwoods Forest bike trail worth mentioning is the Tokorangi trail. This fast-flowing track is suitable for intermediate riders looking for something fun but not too gnarly. The trail starts high on the Tokorangi ridge, flows through a logged area into lush native forest.
Location: 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre. Long Mile Road, Lynmore. Start from the car park and pick up a map from the information centre for details. Hire bike gear from the Whakarewarewa Forest Base (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
10. Whirinaki Mountain Bike Trails (Grade 2-4)
If you’re willing to travel a little further out of Rotorua for a true wilderness adventure then it’s worth taking on the Whirinaki Mountain Bike Trails. There are two epic mountain bike trails to choose from; the Moerangi Track (Grade 3-4) and the Whirinaki Mountain Bike Track (Grade 3). The Moerangi Track is a 35km (22-mile) single track with a few forestry road sections. The trail is getting well-worn so look out for big drops here and there. The whole ride is about 5-7 hours, but if you take your time there are backcountry huts to stay in along the trail. The Whirinaki Mountain Bike Trail (Grade 3) is an easier option with 16km (10 miles) of trail to enjoy. Allow five hours to complete the trail.
Location: 89km (55 miles) from Rotorua. Ruatahuna Road, at the end of Fort Road off State Highway 38.