Central North Island- Tongariro -Mountain Bike Rides:

Tongariro offers some of the best back-country riding in the North Island / New Zealand, with 42 Traverse, Bridge to Nowhere, Tree Trunk Gorge leading the charge.

1)  42Traverse***MTB

Known as one of the best adventure mountain bike rides in the North Island, the 42 Traverse is a 46km multi-use track that travels through the Tongariro Forest Conservation Area. The Grade 3 challenging trail will take riders 3-7 hours to ride, with a number of sections to test your fitness and skill level.

Named after the forest, which was originally called State Forest 42, the 42 Traverse includes the spectacular Canyon Valley – a wide cleft of earth that offers remarkable views to the volcanoes. Olympic rower Brenda Lawson provides some advice for those looking to ride this epic trail. “The 42 Traverse has awesome scenery, big uphills and amazing downhills. To really enjoy this ride, you should have good skills and fitness. It is especially tough in wet conditions, so make sure you have good tyres, a first-aid kit, your outdoor safety intentions and checks are in place, and make sure you are really well-equipped for a long ride out of cellphone coverage.”

The 42 Traverse has awesome scenery, big uphills and amazing downhills. To really enjoy this ride, you should have good skills and fitness.

Brenda Lawson, Olympic rower


Tongariro Forest, 18km northeast of National Park

Grade 3 Time 3-7 hours distance 46kms

This is one the more popular adventure rides in the North Island. It involves brilliant biking on old logging tracks through a remote area covered un native bush abd has a overall descent of 570 metres. By 2014 it was almost fully gravelled.

Track conditions 35% gravel raod, 65% 4wd track.

Maps For safety,NZ Topo 50 BH34 Raurimu is essential, but it has some old tracks marked on it that don’t exist anymore. For this reason, we recommend you take  a GPS. Also do Not use during  winter or when snowing on the Central Plateau:

How to get there:  From National Park township, head northeast on Highway 47. after 18kms, you will reach Kapoors Road on your left ( signposted with a DOC route description board) This the usual drop-off point for the ride as it’s predominantly downhill riding from here.

Route: DOC has signposted this track with marker posts 10 metres before and after major intersections. However don’t count solely on the markers for navigation-when your’e cycling along quite fast, they can be hard to spot. As you head up  Kapoors Road, keep going straight ahead around 2-km mark ( do not veer right). After 6.3km, turn right into the Slab Road Car Park’.  Head right along a 4WD track that follows the main ridge north, past high points 831. After 1.5kms, there is a small clearing on your left ( Kiwi Clearing),with great views back to Mt Ruapehu in a fine day.

The next few kilometres are undulating, and there are a few major turn-offs  to ignore until you get to an intersection at grid reference 146 752, with a ‘Kiwi Zone’ sign. Turn right here and cycle past high point 793. Now here’s a hot tip: just over 1km down from 793, you might notice a little track heading off on your right.Thios leads to a fantastic lookout over Echo Canyon. The lookout is only 100metre  off the maintrack, at grid refernece 163 770, and offers the best spot for a break and an awesome view of the whole ride. From the Echo Canyon lookout, the downhill is a ripsnorter all the way to the Waione Stream. If it’s wet, be wary of the odd slippery  patches of clay. When you reach Waione Stream, follow the main track right down the  valley for a few hundred metres. The track then hangs another sharp right and climbs steeply from the stream for a couple minutes then swings left and sidles down the valley again. Before long, you will dive down steeply to meet the mainford across Waione Stream. This is the halfway mark, and the first significant climb starts here. the First major turn-off on the right is the Pony Club Track, which descends to the head of the Whanganui River. Unless you wish to go swimming, just stick to the main track called Dominion Road, and you will ride through lovely native bush and past  Te Kaha and Waterfall Bridge before blasting down to the Whakapapa River Bridge.

Most people arrange to be picked up at the Whakapapa River Bridge, although it’s only a 10 minute ride to Owhango if you’re keen. There is a picnic area, toilets and swimming hole near the bridge and up at Owhango, a pleasant pub and accommodation.

Notes: This is an isolated area that has seen many bikers get really lost. Take extra clothing,food, a compass, and afirst-aid-kit and someone responsible  who knows where you are.

Support Services:

National Park Backpackers offers a shuttle service ($30 per person) email  nat.park.backpackers@xtra.co.nz or Ph 07-892 2870 or

arrange transport and MTB Hire  from Kiwi Mountain Bikes www.kiwimountainbikes.co.nz or 0800 562 4537

Accommodation is available at Owhango and National Park and  Free camping at Owhango end of the track( 1km east of Whakapapa River) after a big storm check with Whakapapa Visitor Centre 07-892 3729 to CHECK THE TRACKS ARE OPEN the Waione Stream ford is ocasionally impassable due to flooding.

2) Tongariro River Trail***


Grade 2 Time 1-2.5 hours Distance up to 15km 

This scenic loop is suitable for all riders. However, it’s heavily used by walkers and anglers -ride carefully( Keep Left at all times) always give way to other users and avoid during public holidays and holiday season .

Track Conditions 1% sealed raod, 99% single track

How to get there From the Turangi I-Site, ride east, through the highway underpass and down to the Tongariro River on Arahori Street. Ride through the park at the end of the street and you’ll find the Tongariro RiverTrail.

Route: Turn right and follow the walkway up river for 5-10 minutes. At a Y-Intersection with’Waikari Loop Walk’sign, verr left and then just keep folowing the small Tongariro River Trail signs. They will lead you to the National Trout Centre ( a great diversion if you have the time). The trail continues from the end of the trout centre car park and goes to a small car park at red hot pool. Hang left and drop down to the river to cross the large swing bridge 100 metres away. After crossing the bridge, follow the main track down river to Turangi. Do not turn left down on the anglers track: they soon run out at the river. The track  rolls up and down through a mixture of forest and farmland on its way down to another swing bridge at Major Jones Pool, just next to town( you passed it on the way up). From the bridge you have two options:

Option one: Re-cross the Tongariro River here and head back into Turangi via any one of the obvious access roads, This is the easiest option.

Option two: Don’t cross the bridge. but instead head straight on the Tongariro River lookout track.  The track climbs high above the river then drops down a swag of swichbacks to a big bridge on Highway 1. Ride under the bridge and then cross it on a footpath. At the time of writing, there was a good coffee cart in the car park at the end of the car park. From here, a easy concrete path lead back you back to the Turangi  i-Site( ie where started).

Notes: The Coffee Cart beside the highway is alsoa great place to start this ride. For accommodation Book at www.bnblive.com book the luxury  Tongariro Lodge at www.bnblive.com or at  www.turangi.co.nz . There is a bakery and  supermarket opposite the i-site. www.Ebikerentalsnewzealaland.com offers ebike rentals from half a day) Tread Routes offers transport from Taupo  027 446 2408  www.treatroutes.co.nz

3) Tree Trunk Gorge***

22km South of Turangi

Grade 3 Time 2-4 hours Distance 19km

This popular ride follows beautiful native forest single track and is within cooee of the most impressive gorges in the Central North Island.

Track Conditions 35% sealed road, 25% 4WD track, 40% single track.

Maps NZTopo50 BH35 Turangi is worth getting

How to get there From Turangi, head south on Highway 1 for 22km before turning left onto  Tree Trunk Gorge Road( signposted) Park just out of site of the main road. or from Taupo turn right on to Tree Trunk Gorge Road

Route: From the highway, coast 5km down to the Tongariro River Bridge and check out the gorge. Cross the bridge and carry on for 500 metres before turning left signposted 4.6kmto Kaimanawa Rd’.This is the start of the Tree Trunk Gorge track. This track weaves through native forest, dealing out a steep little climb, four picturesque river fords and two wooden bridges en route. At the first stream crossing, look upstream to find the ford( which is impossible to cross when in flood) On the other side, continue following the orange markers. You are well ready for a rest by the time you reach the picnic/camping area beside the gravel road. Cycle out of the picnic area on to the gravel road, after 50 metres, turn left onto another single track. At the end of the sweet 1.6km track, cross the Pillars of  Hercules bridge. There is a sign to follow: MTB Track to SH1′. On the far side of the bridge, follow the main track gradually uphill, past several turns-off, for 4.5km out to Highway 1. Turn left and follow the highway for 2km back to Tree Trunk Gorge Road.

Notes: Be careful not to run over walkers. Turangi has a good range of accommodation go to www.bnblive.com the best being the Tongariro Lodge aor go to www.turangi.co.nz or visit the i-site in town.  For Ebike & MTB Bike rentals www.ebikemtbtousnz.com  0800 400 900 or for transport Tread Routes  027 446 2408 or 07-377 8319  www.treadroutes.co.nz

4) Sash and Door**

National Park

Grade 3 Time 1.5-2 hours Distance 23km

This loop is ideal for those bad-weather days when the mountain is closed for skiing and cabin fever set in. Approximately half of the ride is on historic tramways built to get timber out of the forest for windows and doors.

Track conditions:35% gravel road, 45% single track, 20% 4WD track.

Route: From the National Park railway station ( also a cafe), ride north for 200 metres and cross the railway line before heading south on Fishers Road. When Fishers Road turns right, continue straight ahead on Pehi Road, keeping your eyes peeled for small signs. Shortly there is  a short steep climb up to a historic bush tramway that has recently been opened up for cycling. This tramway wa built for the Marton Sash and Door Company so that bush locomotives could transport logs out of the forest to be taken south to Marton. The tramway provides excellent riding through lovely forest. When the track splits you can go either way ( the track on the right is longer). Both lead to a  gravel road (  Cuff Road), where you turn left. Ride down the gravel road to the next intersection, then turn right up Erua Road and take the next left onto a new single track that follows Waimarino Stream back down to Erua Road. Cross the bridge and take the first left onto a track ( it is signposted). You follow a mix of tracks and gravle roads, and even and old sealed road, back to National Park. You will need to hop onto the highway for a short section to cross Waimarino Stream on the highway bridge. The last few kilometres to National Park run beside the railway line.

Notes there are plans to extend the track to Horopito to connect with the Mountain to Sea Track. National Park is a small town next to Tongariro National Park. For  accommodation go to www.bnblive.com . There is a Cafe in the old railway station building a petrol station and general store www.nationalpark.co.nz

5)Bridge to Nowhere

Whanganui National Park

Grade 3+ Time1-3 days Distance 135-km loop

Set in the heart of a national park, the bridge is an iconic symbol of engineering perseverance and polical folly. There are several ways to tackle this adventure; we describe the two-day option below, but you can arrange for shuttle  to make it a one-day trip.

Track conditions: 30% sealed road, 24 gravel road, 8% 4WD track, 15% single track, 23% river

Maps the map to take is Whanganui Parkmap 275-05

How to get there: The best palce to start and finish this ride is Raetihi, 11km west of Ohakune.

Day One: This is a big day, so  you really need to get away by 9am.first of all, there is a 40-km (2-3 hours) back-country ride to start of the Mangapurua Track. Take Highway 4 north out of town, the take Ruatiti Road west. Stick to the main road the rest of the way. The first half to Ruatiti Domain is  mostly downhill-fast fun on sealed road. Keep on Ruatiti Road, which narrows and becomes  gravel, waeving through trees and across side streams down to Crotons Road and the start of the Mangapurua Track. All  going well,  it’ll take you 3-4 hours to ride the next 38km along the Mangapurua Track to the Bridge to Nowhere. From the parking area, head left through a gate and cruise up a well-graded 4-km climb. This is only big climb of the day. After an hour, you will reach a ‘ National Park” sign. About 2km after entering the National Park, you will reach a Y-intersection by a large pou(carved pole) where the Kaiwhauka Track branches off down to Whakahoro. Continue along  the ridge, and you will soon pass a steep walking track( signposted) on your left that goes up to the Mangapurua Trig. The track is all downhill from here and will take fit riders approximately one and half hours to get to “the Bridge to Nowhere”: it’s  areal hoot. Make sure you veer right at the “Stafford” sign. Half an hour after that sign, you reach a large clearing in the valley that is a good place to rest and regroup. The track follows the valley  gently downhill  all the way to the bridge; so gently, it’s almost flat. There are many narrow swing bridges, a few bluffs and several bluffs and several large clearings en route. The Bridge  itself, quite aptly, appears out of nowhere, It was opened in 1936 and had become overgrown bt 1984.Doc has restored it, and it now looks weirdly fresh and new in it’s ancient surroundings. There is a lookout track 100 metres on from the bridge and toilets a few hundred metres  further on again. The steep ride down to the Mangapurua Landing and the Whanganui River takes about 15 minutes. There is a shelter 200 meters before the landing. From the landing we recommend you organise a jetboat to the “Bridge to Nowhere Lodge” then canoe down to Pipiriki. This enables you to do the whole trip without  carying any camping rear. Plus you can have  a big dinner and breakfast at the lodge. However if you are in a hurry, you can head straight down to Pipiriki and get a shuttle from there back to Raetihi.

Day two: The paddle down the river  takes about 5 hours from the bridge to Nowhere lodge if you allow plenty of time for photos. Much of the river is like a long, narrow lake with hardly any flow at all,  but there are several grade 2 rapids to negotiate. From Pipiriki, cycle 28 km up to Raetihi (2-3 hours). It’s a quiet winding road with great bush scenery in the first half and mountain views in the second.

Notes: The history of the Mangapurua Track is interesting. First world war veterans were give farms in the  Mangapurua Valley. The Government assist in building the impossible road to “the Bridge to Nowhere”. It did not last long and nor did some of the settlers. Raetihi is the best base for the trip. for accommodation visit www.bnblive.com Raetihi website www.raetihi.com to organise transport contact Bridge to Nowhere info@bridgetonowhere.co.nz 0800 480 308 or www.bridgetonowhere.co.nz   Transport only from Mangapurua Landing down the river, and up to Raetihi cost appron$115 per person.  in 2014 the jetboating, lodging and meals and canoeing option cost $285 per person.

Jetboating & accommodation from Whanganui River Adventure 08000862 473  or visit www.whanganuiriveradventures.com who provide the only accommodation in Pipiriki.

6) Ohakune Old Coach Road***


Grade 2+ Time 2-3 hours Distance 14km one way

Historically and scenically this is one of the most popular rides in the Central  North Island region. If you have small children riding one way start at Horopito as its basically all downhill to Ohakune.

Track conditions: 35% gravel road, 15% 4WD track, 50% single track

Route: From the Ohakune railway station, It is impossible to miss the signposts at the start of the trail. Ride northwest under the huge New Zealand Cycle Trail sign and across a new cycle trail bridge. The trail runs along the side of  Old Station Road then Marshall Roadfor about 10 minutes before crossing a small bridge on your right and heading up into the hills. The track surface is rocky in the first section of the hill climb (approx 600 metres)-remnants of the century-old cobbled “Coach Road”. There are several fasinating interpretation panels along the way, many massive rimu to admire and ,  just of the main trail, two huge  rail  viaducts and tunnel ( the old rail viaduct is no longer in use, which you can walk across).The last stretch to Horopito follows farm roads. Give yourself two hours  to complete this 14-km  uphill trail to Horopito and at least one hour to fly downhill to Ohakune ( assuming you don’t stop  to look around especially at the huge viaducts, definitely worth the break).

Notes: This trail is the first section of one of the NZ Government’s  “New Zealand Cycle Trail project”.  The Mountain To Sea , Bridge to Nowhere   and Whanganui River Road are also.

Ohakune is a large tourist town on the southside of Tongariro National Park for accommodation go to www.bnblive.com ph 0800 400 9000 for E-Bikes Rentals visit www.ebikerentalsnewzealand.com or sportx.nz the town has everything from  a great New World supermarket , fantastic Cafes, Fish and chip shops and goods Hotels and restaurants and more.  for info visit www.ohakune.info or visit  the Ohakune  i-site. For Transport & also  bike hire contact contact Mountain Bike Station  www.mountainbikesstation.co.nz 0800 385 879

Turoa downhill to Ohakune ( Colins Turoa flyer)

Also the mountain downhill ride from the Turoa car park to Ohakune is one of the most exciting down hill rides in Central  New Zealand , Surface tarsealed , distance approx  10kms, Grade 4 (traffic on the road so be very careful and do not exceed 30kms/hr.   How to get there  ( drive to the Top Turoa car park from Ohakune township).

Five more exciting rides:

Fishers Track*

Grade 3 Time 3-5 hours Distance 17km mostly downhill or 50-km loop

Here’s a scenic , mostly downhill, trip for riders in search of gravel roads and a bit of grass track.

Track conditions 70% gravel road, 30% grassy single track

This is signposted as part of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail. Starts at National Park railway station (also cafe) ride north 200 meters and cross the railway line before following Fishers Road over a hill and down into the Retaruke valley. Part way down, the road becomes a grassy track for 5km, then meets Kurua Road, After approx 2 kms, Kurua road meets Upper Retaruke Road. Turn right and ride another 12km, to  T-intersection with Oio Road, where there is a war memorial in the middle of nowhere. Once you meet the memorial, you can turn left to ride down the valley to Whakahoro and the Blue Duck Lodge, or turn right and follow the’Raurimu’ signposts  up to Raurimu, then turn right at Highway 4 and continue climbling up to National Park.That is a really good workout.

Accommodation visit www.bnblive.com or 0800 400 900 for E-Bikes  www.ebikerentalsnewzealand.com, also visit www.nationalpark.co.nz and  for Transport and MTB Bike hire  Kiwi Mountain bikes 0800 562 4537 www.kiwimountainbikes.co.nz

Tongariro Forest Loop**

Grade5+ Time 5-8 hours Distance 41 km ( advance riders only)

This is a good challenge for young and fit bikers with considerable MTB experience. Choose a dry day and take grippy shoes, safety lasses, a long-sleeved top and full-fingered gloves. Expect a toitoi thrashing, a freezing tramp down a mountain stream and difficult navigation.

Track conditions 35% gravel road, 30% 3WD track, 20% single track, 15% unridable

Start from Taurewa, just 2kms south of the Outdoor Pursuits Centre(OPC) on Highway 47. All the old buildings at Taurewa are now part of OPC. At Taurewa, cross a footbridge at grid  reference 230 717. Nip around the sde of the Lions Lodge and rise down the old forestry road( Pukehinau Road). Pass John Mc Donald Road on your left, then  the Taurewa Intake track on your right. Then, a grid refernce 194 740, you’ll reach Danhars Road( signposted). Turn right down Danahars Road. It narrows to single track and delivers you to a flat area above Mangatepopo Stream. At the northwest corner of the clearing, a tiny track drops down to the stream. There are ropes to help, but they  may not be safe. Expect to take 15 minutes to reach the bottom. Walk and wade down the valley for 45 minutes to the old OPC-Owhango track where it fords the Mangatepopo Stream. You might see the OPC end of the trackon your right-continue down stream for a further 200 metres to find an uber-steep quad-bike track on the left bank. Grovel your way up this and you will reap the reward of being able to ride your bike again. At  the next major intersection, turn right and tackle a steep downhill leading to a bridge( of sorts) and veer left 300 metres later. Watch out for two more dodgy bridges in short succession(Slow down on them).Continue on the main track and, after about 20 minutes you will sidle around the east side of a large knoll and meet up with the42 Traverse track just above the Waione Stream. Head southwest on the 42 Traverse-It’s a 40 minute climb to the Echo Canyon lookout  at grid reference 163 770. after  a well deserved rest, continue along the 42 Traverse, then descend to the Pukehinau track turn off, on your left, at grid referencec 152 743.

Blast down this forestry road for 1km, then keep look out for a small track branching of on your left. This seems to be the sole domain of quad bikes these days, and is rutted from top to bottom.It leads back to Pukehinau Road where you started.Enjoy, if you dare!

Notes: Don’t even thinkabout attempting this ride after heavy rain.NZTopo50 BH34 Raurimu is essential, although not all roads are marked accurately. A GPS is a good idea.’

Tukino Mountain Road*

Grade 2  Time 2-4 hours  Distance up to 28kms return

This ride involves just over 600m of climbing/descending and offers amazing views of MT Raupehu, the desert and Kaimanawa Forest Park.

From Turangi, head south on Highway 1 for 32km. Turn right onto the Tukino Ski field access road and park a few hundreds in from the highway. Follow the main 4WD track towards Mt Rauapehu. Just over halway up, you will pass DOC signs pointing out where the round-the mountain walking track heads off.Carry on past these signs up a steep section to the telecomminications transceiver and then around the hill to tackle the last stretch up to the ski field. From the ski field, head back the same way  you came, watching out for sandy/snowy patches. It isa natural surface road the whole way, and outside the ski season there is virtually no traffic.

Kaiwhakauka Track **

Whakahoro, 52km west of National Park

Grade 4  Time 2hours Distance 20km

When dry, this old tramping track provides a fine alternative start to the Bridge to Nowhere ride.

Track conditions 50% 4WD,50% single track

Maps  The Whanganui Parkmap 273-05 is the best to take

The Kaiwhakauka Track starts from Whakahoro and finishes near the MangapuruaTrig( on the way to the Bridge Nowhere) Youcan pedal New Zealand Cycle Trail routes to Whakahoro from either National Park or Taumarunui.

From National Park. its 52km or from Taumarunui it’s 65km. both routes are mostly downhill and well signposted.  You can also drive 44km down Oio Road,  which starts from Highway 42km south of Owhango.

The Track is signposted as part of the Mountain to Sea Trail, It starts off as an easy farm track, heading south towards the Whanganui National Park boundary. After passing the park boundary gate,however, the track becomes a single track, with several narrow bridges and some steep drop-offs onthe sides. The single track lasts for 5kms, then breaks out onto farmland again, and a 4WD track climbs for 3kms to the Mangapurua Track. From the track intersection your choice are turn right and ride up to the Mangapurua Trig and possibly all the way to the Bridge to Nowhere or turn left to head down to Ruatiti Road,and onto Raetihi, Of course, you can also just head back the way you came-it is more fun going downhill!

Notes: Blue Duck Lodge and Cafe at Whakahoro 07 895 6276 or book accommodation at www.bnblive.com visit www.blueduckstation.co.NZ a cool place a interesting mix of recreation with conservation of natural and cultural heritage. On a budget there is a DOC campsite and cabin at Whakahoro.

Kiko Road Loop*

Motuoapa Near Turangi

Avery short, but great fun, easy loop. Well worth it.

Grade 3 Time 1 hour Distance 4km loop

This ride is short riding from Motuoapa, where thereis a store that sells ice creams. Drive 10 km north of Turangi on Highway 1, to get to Motuoapa, a further 1km north, turn right onto Kiko Road. Drive 17km up the end of Kiko Road where you will find a car park, a picnik area and toilet.From the car park, a km loop follows a benched track, passing through lush and varied forest that includes matai, miro, red and silver beech, kamahi and rimu. Also keep an ear out for Kaka flying overhead.

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