The grades of difficulty for mountain biking in New Zealand
As you’ll see from the descriptions below, there are varying difficulties for cycling trails in New Zealand. It’s important to assess your own fitness and ability before venturing on a bike trail, so you can find something either challenging enough or not too much of a mission.
- Grade 1 Easiest track with a smooth, flat surface, generally suitable for all ages
- Grade 2 Easy with some gentle climbs and avoidable obstacles like rocks
- Grade 3 Intermediate with steep hills and some avoidable obstacles
- Grade 4 Advanced level track with long steep sections, narrow tracks and obstacles you might have to ride over
- Grade 5 Expert is technically and physically challenging
- Grade 6 Extreme level is for people who know their shit. Possible manmade or natural jumps.
Learn more about exploring New Zealand by bike in Mountain Biking in New Zealand: A Complete Guide.
Bike Trails in Porirua
Battle Hill Summit Loop (Grade 3)
In the Battle Hill Forest Park, lap up the countryside farm paddock scenery on this 3km loop track, usually taking 40 minutes to one hour to ride. Start from the Airstrip Paddock and follow the left-hand fenceline to the farm gate. Follow the blue trail markers across the paddock and onto the farm track onto the Battle Hill ridgeline. The track natural veers downhill just before reaching the summit, but it’s worth carrying on to the summit for the views. Follow the blue markers down through the Swampy Gully Paddock back to the airstrip.
Te Onepoto Loop Track (Grade 2-3)
This coastal loop track in the Whitireia Park starts from either Onehunga Bay in the north or Onepoto Road in the south. We recommend starting from the Onepoto Road car park, following the well-signposted loop on the coast of the Porirua Harbour. The track is about 7km including the loop and the return to the car park, making the ride about 40 minutes to an hour to complete.For more things to do in Porirua, see 10 Fun Things to do in Porirua and 9 Must-Do Walks in Porirua.
Bike Trails in Lower Hutt
Pencarrow Coast Road (Grade 1)
This popular and easy-going ride takes you to New Zealand’s first permanent lighthouses. In the East Harbour Regional Park, start from Burdans Gate and follow the gravel track along the harbour to the Pencarrow Lighthouse. It takes about 8km to reach the lighthouses, where many choose to return the same way. To make the ride longer, continue rounding the corner where the road crosses gravel and sandbanks to dam two lakes. Return the same way. The entire trail is 20km return taking 2-3 hours.
Parangarahu Lakes (Grade 3)
This trail has a variety of fun challenges and awesome views of lakes, the Wellington Harbour and the Cook Strait. Start from Burdans Gate in the East Harbour Regional Park and ride by the Lake Kohangatera entrance to Cameron Ridge. Follow a trail north and down from the ridge to Cameron Creek Wetland and onto a trail at the top of Lake Kohangaporopiri to the start of the Lighthouse Track. For more of a challenge, climb the to the lighthouse or take the Lake Blocks Circuit. The trails cover about 22km one way taking 2-4 hours to ride.
Hutt River Trail (Grade 1-2)
This trail begins in the Hikoikoi Reserve in Petone. See the Upper Hutt section below for more details.
Dry Creek Loop (Grade 3)
In the Belmont Regional Park, start from the Dry Creek entrance and ride up a zigzag track on the south side to the farm road. At the fork, go right through farmland and forest before the track heads steeply down to a stream with a bridge. Cross the bridge and climb the north side of the Dry Creek valley before descending back to the car park. Be aware of others using the trail. This track is a 9km loop taking 1-2 hours to complete.
Belmont Cress Circle (Grade 4)
Another fantastic track in the Belmont Regional Park is the advanced track, the Belmont Dress Circle. Allow 2-4 hours to do this 13.5km trail. Start from Stratton Street and follow the farm track to the Danzig Track then continue onto the Old Coach Road. Continue left around the valley to Round Knob, Cannons Head and then to Belmont Trig. From here, take the farm track back to Stratton Street. Be aware of other users of the trail.
Belmont Trig & Korokoro Valley (Grade 5)
Not for the faint of heart, this expert track in the Belmont Regional Park is 12km one way taking anywhere between 2-5 hours to finish. Start from Stratton Street and climb up to Belmont Trig before the trail takes a steep and narrow descent into the Korokoro Valley. Follow the Korokoro Stream up towards Oakleigh Street and back to Stratton Street via Dowse Drive to complete the loop. Look out for walkers and other users of the trail.
Sledge Track & Tana Umaga Track (Grade 3)
The Wainuiomata Recreation Area has a great 5km mountain bike trail, which takes around 30 minutes to do. Although there’s some climbing to do, you’ll be rewarded with views over the Lower Dam wetland. From the Triangle Paddock, ride over the bridge at the bottom of the paddock and follow the trail to some old house sites. Follow the Sledge Track as you ride uphill through forest then down. Turn left onto the Tana Umaga Track and enjoy the downhill to the Gums Loop Track.
For more things to do in Lower Hutt, check out 10 Thrilling Things to Do in Lower Hutt.
Bike trails in Upper Hutt
Hutt River Trail (Grade 1-2)
This is an easy-going ride great for casual bike trips and family outings. This 30km trail follows the Hutt River between Birchville in Upper Hutt and the Hikokoi Reserve in Petone, Lower Hutt. Most of the ride follows the river and parkland, with opportunities to make shorter loops by crossing one of the many bridges to return down the opposite side of the river.
Rimutaka Rail Trail (Grade 1-2)
This is an easy-going trail with lots of great features! In the Pakuratahi Forest, start 9km north of Upper Hutt just off State Highway 2. The route follows the old Wellington-Wairarapa railway line with a few tunnels and bridges to ride. Continue to Summit, where there are a few forestry tracks to explore, or continue down the Incline to Cross Creek and continue on your journey to the car park at the end of the trail. The complete trail is 18km one way, taking 2-4 hours, so you will either need to arrange transport at the end or return the same way.
Mt Climie (Grade 3)
Not exactly a technical trail, but good fitness is essential for the 6km climb up Mt Climie. Those who tackle this 12km return trail, which usually takes 1-3 hours, will be rewarded with amazing views of the Hutt Valley, Wellington and the Wairarapa. You’ll also be rewarded with a fun ride down, looking out for walkers on the trail.
Karapoti Gorge (Grade 1-2)
Start at Karapoti Road and follow the Akatawa River west in the Akatarawa Forest. This is a scenic ride into a river gorge, past native bush and the McGhies Bridge to a clearing by the river. The ride is 12km return taking 1-2 hours to complete. Return the same way.
Valley View Loop (Grade 3)
In the Akatarawa Forest Park, this 15km return ride takes about 2-3 hours to complete. From Tulsa Park, go up Valley View Road to the barn at Connon Point. From there, continue for about 4km then turn right down the steep Clarkes Creek Road. It’s another steady climb to Cannon Point Trig before returning to Totara Park via Valley View Road.
Check out 11 Excellent Things to Do in the Hutt Valley for more things to do in Upper Hutt!
Bike trails in Kapiti
Whakatikei Loop (Grade 3)
From Maungakotukutuku Road in the Akatarawa Forest Park, take Perhams Road to the Titi Ridge. Then enjoy an 8km descent through forest to the Whakatikei River. Return via Hydro Valley and Whakatikei to complete the 22km loop taking about 3-5 hours to complete.
Whareroa Stream Loop (Grade 1)
This easy trail in the Queen Elizabeth Park starts at Whareroa Beach. Follow signs for the Inland Track then branch off to follow the stream to MacKays Crossing. You can return back the beach along the sealed Whareroa Road. This trail is a 4km loop taking 40 minutes to do.
Paekakariki to Raumati South Loop (Grade 3)
Another awesome trail in the Queen Elizabeth Park, take the Coastal Track from Paekakariki through the dunes and historic pa site. Once you get to Raumati, return via the Inland Track which has a few climbs and short descents on your way back to Paekakariki. Watch out for walkers and horse riders on the trail. This loop is about 9km taking 1-2 hours.
See our 10 Must-Dos on the Kapiti Coast for more activities.
Bike Trails in Wairarapa
Wairarapa Valley Cycleway (Grade 4)
Ride between the Wairarapa hub of Masterton and the wine village of Martinborough on the 64km Wairarapa Valley Cycleway. Follow quiet country roads and check out all the things to do along the way like wine-tasting, eateries and more! This trail links up well with the Rimutaka Cycle Trail (see below) at Cross Creek. The ride takes about 4 to 6 hours one way.
In between bike trails, check out 10 Damn Good Things to Do in Wairarapa for more inspiration.
Rimutaka Cycle Trail (Grade 2-3)
An amazing cycle journey that incorporates the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa districts of Wellington is the 2-3 day Rimutaka Cycle Trail. The 115km ride takes in views of broad river valleys, bush-clad hills, farmland, rugged coastline and vineyards.
The ride is split into four sections starting from the Petone Foreshore to Maymorn (35km, 3-5hours), then Maymorn to Cross Creek (25km, 3-4 hours), then Cross Creek to Ocean Beach (36km, 2-3 hours), and finally Ocean Beach to Orongorongo (18km, 3-5 hours).
Mountain Bike Parks
Just 15 minutes drive from Wellington city centre, Makara Peak is the go-to city mountain bike park! It has over 45km of purpose-built mountain bike trails set within 230ha of regenerating native forest making it a pretty stunning place to hit the trails. There’s a wide range of trails available for children-friendly trails to something for the advanced!
Location: South Karori Park is the main entrance to the park.
If you have some experience and are at least an intermediate rider then don’t miss the mountain bike trails at the Polhill Reserve. There are about 12km of trails on the reserve, however, some don’t link up easily so you might want to plan which trails you take ahead of time. We recommend heading up the Transient before continuing onto Car Parts where you’ll reach a wind turbine and awesome views!
Location: Polhill Reserve, 10 minutes drive from Wellington city centre. There are many entrances to the reserve: Waiapu Road, Brosnahan Terrace, Highbury Rd, Ashton Fitchett Drive and at the top of Mt Pleasant road.
Easily accessed from the city centre, Mt Victoria has a host of easy and intermediate trails, as well as a skills area. Be aware that some trails are shared or cross trails with walkers. Some of the best riding can be found on the Hataitai side of Mt Victoria.
Location: 5 minutes drive from the city centre. There are a number of access points: Majoribanks Street, Lookout Road, Alexandra Road, Hataitai Park and more!
Waiu Park / Wainuiomata Mountain Bike Park
Another stunning location for a mountain bike park is at Waiu Park with its mix of regenerating forest and wetlands. There are around 16km of trails with highlights being the easy-going climb up Jungle Gym to the technical downhill of Spoon Hill!
Location: Waiu Street, Lower Hutt
In the eastern suburb of Miramar, check out the mountain biking trails in the Centennial Reserve. There are intermediate trails, a dual slalom, pump track and kids’ loop. Find out more at 10 Great Things to Do in Miramar.
Location: Centennial Reserve, Miramar. Access is at the end of Darlington Road, and along Nevay Road and Main Road.
Belmont Regional Park
The Statton Street side of the Belmont Regional Park in Lower Hutt has a wide range of purpose-built bike tracks such as Borderline, a flowing trail with drops, jumps and banked turns. The Bull Run is also a goodie if you are more advanced.
Location: Belmont Regional Park, Lower Hutt. Access off Statton Street.