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.
For more about planning a mountain biking trip in New Zealand, see Mountain Biking in New Zealand: A Complete Guide.
Rawhiti Mountain Bike Park
Distance: 15km of trails
Rough and ready trails between the pine forest are what’s on offer in the Rawhiti Forest. With steep terrain peaking at 300 metres altitude, this mountain bike park is for those who have no time for flat terrain. The trails are ungroomed, which is fine if you don’t mind the odd fallen branch. Otherwise, you’ll find flowing trails from years of wearing together by multiples of bike tires. Plus, the free-draining pumice soil means that even in winter the track doesn’t get too muddy.Only a few kilometres from Ohope Beach, Rawhiti Forest is easy enough to cycle to from Ohope or even Whakatane. You need a pass to access the mountain bike park, which is a tiny fee. You can get a two-week pass from Ohope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park or Whakatane Information Centre.
Onepu Recreation Park
Distance: 15km of trails
This mountain bike park 25km southwest of Whakatane on State Highway 30 is an easier mountain bike park option in the Whakatane area. It’s great for those riders looking to transition from the sealed road to forest riding. There are four main single-track bike trails: The Outback, Pai’s Pathway, Oh Mai-Mai and Hedgehog. There is also the additional Ridge Loop, which is a shared 4WD track used to connect the four main single tracks with some extra ups and downs. Try out the BMX-style jumps at The Sandspit. Although the park is on private land, you do not need to purchase a pass to use it.
Distance: 10km for the loop or 15km for alternative option
Grade: 2 for the loop or 3 for the alternative option
The Burma Road can be done as an easy loop or a slightly more challenging detour. Either way, this is a pleasant ride through bush and farmland on mostly gravel 4WD tracks.
Burma Road Loop Track (10km)
Starting at Maraetotara Reserve in Ohope, ride up Maratotara Road which quickly turns into a gravel road. This is part of a historic route that connected Opotiki and Whakatane. After about 2.5km, you’ll reach an intersection with Burma Road. Keep going straight by the barrier gate and you’ll now be on Burma Road. It is a steady climb with views over the valley. At the top, there is a gate and a car park. Now head right (north) and follow the road to Ohope Road. Then turn right (east) onto the cycleway/walkway. There is a climb before descending steeply to Ohope Village. This makes a good stop for a drink before taking the last leg of the journey for 2km on the same road until you reach the starting point.
Burma Road Alternative Route (15km)
At the Maraetotara/Burma Road intersection turn left onto the eastern end of Burma Road. You’ll climb farmland and the drop to the main Wainui Road east of Opotiki. You’ll also pass the Rawhiti Forest entrance here (see above), so this is a good excuse to try out your mountain biking skills if you have the time and the pass. The end of Burma Road involves some steep 4WD tracks and a few farm gates to pass. You’ll meet up with the main road where you can return to Ohope.
Whirinaki Mountain Bike Park
Distance: 16km Grade: 3-4
Ride among the giant podocarp forest on the purpose-built Whirinaki Mountain Bike Track. Although the track can be ridden in shorter sections, the whole thing takes 2-5 hours to complete. Alternatively, there’s the Moerangi Track which will certainly test you more with a few drops and eroded sections. This trail is 35km taking around 5-7 hours to complete, however, you can stay in the backcountry huts along the trail if you’re out there longer. See below for more details on the Moeragi Track. To access Whirinaki Forest Park, take Ruatahuna Road, via State Highway 38. The mountain bike track is located at the end of Old Fort Road. It is within a two-hour drive of Whakatane.
For something slightly more challenging in the Whirinaki Forest, try the Moerangi Track! You can either bash it out in one day taking 5-7 hours or break it up by staying in one of the Department of Conservation huts. Shuttle transport can be taken to and from either end of the track. Again, this is a trail through the magnificent forest, so it’s certainly an awesome environment to be in for an epic bike ride. Although the riding is not particularly technical, it is classed as an advanced track due to a few dropoffs on the side of the trail, as well as varying weather extremes and some tough climbs.
End on an easy one
Either bike or walk on this very easy trail in Whakatane
The Warren Cole Walkway to Whakatane Heads is an easy 4.5km oneway ride on this paved track. The trail is between Whakatane River Bridge on Landing Road and Whakatane Heads.Riding on the riverside, you can watch the Pacific Ocean swell rolling into the Whakatane River Mouth. Other eye-catchers are the lady on a rock statue near Wairaka and the saltmarsh to see the wading birds. Finally, look out for the pou whenua (welcome poles) at the Landing Road entrance and at Whakatane Rose Gardens.