Whakarewarewa Forest is one of the most established mountain bike networks in New Zealand and has earned a worldwide reputation as one of the best. Also known as the Redwoods, there are more than 150km of trails in the forest that cater for all levels of rider, from beginners, through to family groups and expert riders looking for an extra challenge. From buff flowing trails to fun jump lines and rooty technical singletrack, there is something here for everyone to enjoy. This is the forest that put Rotorua on the world mountain biking map ... come and explore it for yourself.
The biggest attraction is the culture. There are so many different bike disciplines so close at hand, it creates a healthy and stimulating culture that resonates throughout the community. To the point where you hear stories of even the most unlikely people ending up on bikes. Something that can only be good for the health of the population.Julian Dean, professional cyclist and former Tour de France racer Share
Whakarewarewa Forest features a smorgasbord of Grade 1-4 tracks which all loop around two central points: the Waipa Carpark, and the visitors' centre at the Redwoods. Both trailheads are within direct riding distance from town. The network features a shorter core of trails, which are inter-linked with an outer, more distant and more technical network of trails. The 150km of tracks travel over well-draining volcanic soils, making them great for riding all-year round. Riders will enjoy undulating terrain with varying topography and fantastic scenery from the highest points of trail. Majority of the trails are so well-built they can make any rider feel like a hero and this is why the forest has become such a global mountain bike destination.
And if you don't like climbing make the most of the shuttles that operate in the forest, delivering riders and their bikes to a high-point on a regular schedule.
The hidden treasures within the topography, geography and history of Whakarewarewa Forest provide numerous opportunities for riders to experience the special Maoritanga, which is unique to this area. Make sure to take some time to view the geysers, observe the mud pools and enjoy the natural hot springs of this region.
Former Tour de France veteran, Julian Dean is a fan of the trails in Whakarewarewa Forest and an advocate for Rotorua as a cycling mecca.
“The biggest attraction is the culture. There are so many different bike disciplines so close at hand, it creates a healthy and stimulating culture that resonates throughout the community," shares Julian. "To the point where you hear stories of even the most unlikely people ending up on bikes. Something that can only be good for the health of the population.”
The trails are well maintained and continually evolving, so there is always something new to keep riders interested and challenged. With some of the finest mountain biking in New Zealand, the Whakarewarewa Forest plays a significant role in the economy of Rotorua. Because it has attracted such a large number of mountain bike visitors to the town, bike-specific industries have been established to support riders such as bike hire, shuttle up-lift, guided rides, and loads of bike-friendly accommodation options. Bring your own bike, or hire a high-quality late-model dual-suspension mountain bike from one of the many bike rental outlets in town.
For elite riders wanting to practice their skills, the selection of trails provide an excellent training ground.
“From an elite sporting perspective, for all the years that I was a professional cyclist the environment here in Rotorua was perfect. Spending time here during my off season allowed me to mix up various aspects of my training including different biking disciplines and a variety of extra healthy outdoor pursuits. Rotorua really is the perfect lifestyle city,” offers professional cyclist, Olympian, and mountain bike rider, Julian Dean.
For experienced and advanced riders, there is no shortage of challenge. In 2006 Rotorua hosted the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships and in March 2015 it hosted the biggest bike festival in the world: Crankworx. These trails on the sunny slopes of Mount Ngongotaha are now open for public use all-year round. Skyline Rotorua MTB Gravity Park is fed by a gondola which transports riders to the top of the mountain where they are offered a selection of pupose-built trails to take them back to the base station.
- Harriet Beaven, of Auckland, explores a section of trail in Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison
- A trail follows a stream in the Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua, New Zealand. Photo: Chester Boyes
- Trek World Racing's Justin Leov rides Kataore Trail in the Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison
- Before you leave to ride, we recommend downloading TrailMapps: Rotorua. This mountain bike trail map App can be downloaded from Apple iTunes, or by clicking here.
- For those less technically savvy, Rotorua cycle shops and services have Mankies available. Mankies are eco-friendly trail maps printed onto micro-fibre fabric. This will help you to find your way around the trails – and you can wipe the sweat from your brow too!
- For botanists and nature lovers, take note of the variety of trees in the forest. For the past 100 years, visionaries of the New Zealand Forest Service have planted a range of trees from throughout the world. These experimental plantings have led to the variety of terrain and mountain bike trails and features that exist today.
The Whakarewarewa Forest trails are 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 southwestern trailhead, carpark and MTB hub is 4km from Rotorua's CBD on Waipa State Mill Road, which heads east from State Highway 5. There is also an access point at the Redwoods Visitor Centre on Long Mile Road.
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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.