Rotorua- Te Ara Ahi, – Thermal by Bike- cycle trail
Rotorua — Waikite Valley (2 days, 48km)
This trail offers a 48km adventure through a thermal wonderland of steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers.
Between the trail heads at Rotorua and the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, this cycle trail takes riders to four significant geothermal fields: Whakarewarewa, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waikite Valley Thermal Springs. Each has its own unique geothermal features, including rare flora and fauna, and is rich in Maori history and folklore. Possibly the most famous of these is the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, located next to Te Puia (the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute). Here you will also find Whakarewarewa Village, which has existed for over 700 years and is home to many families of the survivors of the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera.
Other unique features along the trail include the Lake Okaro restoration project (re-established wetland), Rainbow Mountain, Te Ranga Hot Pools and the Waikite Geothermal Field. Most of the geothermal areas are well established tourist attractions, with a wide range of amenities such as cafés, souvenir shops, toilets and bike storage facilities.
We recommend you take at least two days to ride this trail. And if you want more after that, Rotorua is a mountainbiking mecca, with a range of worldclass cycle trails to explore.
WHAKAREWAREWA – THE LIVING MAORI VILLAGE
Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley incorporates a living, breathing Maori village that relies on geothermal power for the ease of everyday living. Throughout the day local residents act as village guides, providing a tour with a difference – from relaying village stories, to cooking meals and explaining how they use the natural landscape for bathing, washing clothes and predicting weather patterns. You can also see spine-tingling cultural performances including the haka, and taste delicious traditional Maori food.
This picturesque lake is the second biggest in the North Island and is perfect for windsurfing, sailing and fishing. Tours are available to Mokoia Island, in the middle of the lake.
MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: Good coverage from the start of the trail at Princes Gates through to Waiotapu. No coverage on Waikite Valley Rd.
DRINKING WATER: Available at cafés at the Rotorua Mountain Bike car park in the Waipa Valley, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Waikite Valley Thermal Pools and at Lake Okaro and the Waiotapu Tavern.
The best time to ride is in the summer between November and April.
However this will also be an enjoyable autumn and winter ride as there are plenty of warm water attractions and natural hot pools in the area.
Stage 1: Rotorua to Waimangu Volcanic Valley
30km, 3-4 hours, Grade 2 (Easy)
From the Lake Rotorua i-Site on Arawa Street, ride east on Queens Drive to Princes Gate Archway where the trail starts. There is an art gallery and museum with lots of parking. Carefully follow blue trail markers past the Polynesian Spa and the end of Amohau Place then through the Sulphur Bay section of the trail. You are heading for Sala Street, and can take the scenic route or the direct route.-the signposted scenic route is longer but much more interesting. Just before Sala Street, the trail goes under highway 5 and then weaves through trees beside a stream. When you are about 6km out of town you will pass a few shops at the entrance to the Whakawarewa Maori Village and thermal area. It’s only $30 fora guided tour of this fascinating thermal region. From Whakawarewa Village, the trail continues south past Te Puia , another much larger cultural centre, and onto a new off road track that leads through Hemo Gorge to the Whakarewarewa Mountain Bike Car-parking area. There is a cool cafe nestled in a area throbbing with bike culture,You could easily get diverted into the 130-km maze of mountain bike tracks here or just kick with a flat white and enjoy the vibe. From the park entrance, head towards Highway 5 , a stone throws away, and you will pick up a concrete cycle path that glides south beside the highway to Taupo. It’s easy cycling for several kilometres before you nip onto Highland Loop Road. This soon brings you back to a separate cycle path and the leads you away from the highway to Waimangu Road. A few kilometers along this road, you will reach the entrance to Wainangu Volcanic Valley.There is a great cafe and various walks and tours available here at one of the most impressive thermal areas on the trail. From this geothermal area, backtrack to Rotorua ( mostly downhill) or ride on stage 2 and the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.
Stage 2: Waimangu Volcanic Valley to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools
17-21km, 2-3 hours, Grade 3 ( Intermediate)
From Waimangu, continue along Waimangu Road, past Lake Okara picnic area, to a T-Intersection at Highway 38.Cross the Highway and pick up a off-road path that leads around Rainbow Mountain (Maungakakamea) to Waiotapu. You can detoor 2km off to Te Ranga ( Kerosene Creek), which is popular for its Free hot pools. At Waiotapu, where there is an old Kiwi pub ( with accommodation), or visit www.bnblive.com, a petrol station and a cafe/store attched to a honey factory. Ride west of the pub along Waikite Valley Road for 6km to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. Open 10am to 9pm daily with cafe and camping. From Waikiti Valley Thermal Pools you have three choices: 1) Ride back the way you came, 2) Arrange for a shuttle to take you back to Rotorua, 3) Loop back to Rotorua via a quiet back roads and the cycle trail (29km).
Loop return to Rotorua: Head southwest along Waikiti Valley Road for 500 metres, then turn right onto Corbett Road. After 4km turn right to stay on Corbett Road, Then 2.5km later( at the bottom of the hill) turn hard right onto Tumunui Road, Ride 9km to Highway 5, carefully cross the highway and follow the Te Ara Ahi cycle trail back to Rotorua (12 kms)
Fact File: Overview The First two-thirds of this ride, from Rotorua to Waitapu hot pools is mostly off roadand packed full of features, the rest is all on raod, although quiet country roads, with fewer points of interest.
How to get there: The trail starts in Rotorua, Buses and Air New Zealand travel there daily. For shuttles contact Mountain Bike Rotorua 0800 682 768 www.mtbrotorua.co.nz
Riding surface: You name it, this trailhas it all, Cycle paths, ans lanes, sealed and gravel roads, boardwalks, even some mountain bike tracks
Special considerations: You will need a mountain bike for a few kilometers around Rainbow Mountain to Waiotapu. Alternatively, just ride on the highway shoulder.
Special features: the geothermal activity is what makes this ride so special. mudpools, geysers, steaming hillsides and hot pools that yu can soak in travel website www.nzcycletrail.com
Support Services: All geothermal areas are well established with a wide range of amenaties such as cafes, souvenir shops, toilets and bike storage facilities. Most good motels/bnbs provide free bike storage visit www.bnblive.com Transport around the trail Thermal Land Shuttle 0800 894 287 www.thermalshuttle.co.nz
Rotorua accommodation www.bnblive.com and for tours www.rotoruanz.com
Whakarewarewa Cafe and bike hire 0800 682 768
Rotorua E-Bike Hire Sportx 0800 400 900 or www.sportx.nz
Waimangu Volcanic Valley Cafe,Tours 07 366 6317 www.waimangu.com
Waiotapu Food and accommodation Waiotapu Tavern ( meals and cheap accommodation) 07 366 6640 www.waiotaputavern.co.nz Waiotapu Thermal pools only 2km away
Waikiti Valley Thermal Pools great hot pools and camping 07 333 1861 www,hotpools,co.nz