Ever imagined riding through a thermal wonderland of steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers in a chronically volcanic area? We certainly did and the Te Ara Ahi Thermal by Bike trail in Rotorua offers exactly that. The 51km Grade 2-3 cycle trail weaves through some of Rotorua’s most impressive thermal hot spots and is rich in Maori history, folklore and geothermal flora and fauna.
The most famous of these is the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, located next to Te Puia – the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute and a destination in its own right. 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 Waikite Geothermal Field. Nadia Coombe is the co-cheese of women’s cycling club, Revolve Rotorua, and she rides part of the trail on her way to work each week. She told us, “the Sulphur Point section of Te Ara Ahi is stunning. So stunning that although I’m lucky enough to ride it several times a week I still stop to take photos”.
The Sulphur Point section of Te Ara Ahi is stunning. So stunning that although I’m lucky enough to ride it several times a week I still stop to take photos.Nadia Coombe, Revolve Rotorua co-founder Share
The first section of Te Ara Ahi begins in Rotorua and leads riders along 20km of Grade 2 trail for 3-4 hours to the geothermal fields of Whakarewarewa and into the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Section two of the trail between Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Waiotapu is 12km long and is Grade 3: intermediate-level riding. After passing a roadside picnic area, the trail climbs around the mountain to a fork in the track. Parts of the trail are steep and may require some walking. From Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland onwards you will travel a further 6km on Grade 3 trail before finishing at Waikite Valley Thermal Springs. Here you can decide whether to finish and use your pre-booked shuttle, or the super fit might turn around and ride back.
- For those not wanting to back-track along the trail, the ride will finish at Waikite Valley Thermal Springs. Make sure you pre-book a shuttle in advance to take you back to Rotorua or Taupo.
- Bring your togs and visit the amazing Te Ranga on the side of the trail. Te Ranga is a thermally heated junction of hot and cold streams, known locally as Kerosene Creek.
- For keen riders, Rotorua is a mountain biking mecca, with a range of world-class trails to explore, so add a few extra days to explore all Rotorua has to offer.
The Te Ara Ahi trail is best accessed from Rotorua. Rotorua is a two-hour-forty-minute drive from Auckland Airport (216km) and an hour drive from Tauranga (70km). Rotorua is a one-hour-twenty-minute drive from Hamilton (98km). The trailhead start point begins right in town. From the Rotorua i-Site, ride east on Queen Street to the start of the trail at the Princess Gate Archway a few hundred metres away. Follow the trail signs around the edge of Lake Rotorua for 6km to the Whakarewarewa Māori Village (the village entrance is 200m off the trail on your left).
From the turn-off to the village, continue following signs south past Te Puia, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, through Hemo Gorge to the entrance to the Whakarewarewa Mountain Bike Park. From here, ride 150m towards the highway where you will find the start of the concrete, all-weather bike trail.
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The Te Ara Ahi - Thermal by Bike forms part of the Nga Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail, for information on the trails we recommend visiting NZCycleTrail.
We recommend visiting local ride website RideRotorua for the latest information on ride groups, coaching, and cycle services in the area.
To explore all that Rotorua has to offer, we recommend visiting the Destination Rotorua website.