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Level: Intermediate
Length: 20 mi (32.2 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Out & Back
Elevation: +291/ -284 ft
Total: 7 riders

Mountain Biking Pillars of Hercules

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#91 of 387 mountain bike trails in New Zealand
#6,763 in the world

The Tongariro River has cleved a deep ravine through the rugged volcanic terrain of the Kaimanawa Forest Park. At one point the high walls of the ravine close up on the river like giant pillars, forcing it through a narrow gap at high speed. You have to kayak through it to fully appreciate it but mountain bikers and hikers do cross the chasm on a scary 40 metre long suspension bridge high above the river.

The Pillars of Hercules Track starts by a busy highway on a dangerous corner with little parking space. You then ride about 5 km down an old 4wd track until come to the swing bridge and finally realise why you bothered! After the bridge there is about two kilometres of glorious singletrack as you go around the top of the gorge through a fine beech forest with the sound of the river below and the birds above. Then you'll reach the Urchin Campground (and toilet) where you turn around and go back the way you came for a total ride of 14km.

A better way to ride the Pillars of Hercules Track is to combine it in an 18km loop with the Tree Trunk Gorge Track. Park just off the Desert Road on Tree Trunk Gorge Road. Ride down Tree Trunk Gorge Road, then the Tree Trunk Gorge Track, then the Pillars of Hercules Track which takes you back up to the Desert Road. After that it's just a 2km ride down the busy highway back to Tree Trunk Gorge Road. There is more on the Tree Trunk Gorge Track here: https://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/tree-trunk-gorge.html

Description updated November 2021 by Jim Cummings

First added by Ginny_Tory on Jun 22, 2013. Last updated Nov 30, 2021. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: yes
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
There are three places that people park their cars when doing the Pillars of Hercules ride... 1. Beside the Desert Road (Highway 1) 21km south of Turangi. There is a very small lay-by at the start of the mountain bike track that goes down to the Pillars of Hercules Gorge. It's on a sharp corner with little visibility. It's not very safe - best not to use it! 2. Beside Tree Trunk Gorge Road which is 23 km south of Turangi on the Desert Road. Park near the start of the road or 1km down it at the Bridge over the Tongariro River. From either place you can ride an 18km loop including Tree Trunk Gorge, Pillars of Hercules, SH1 and Tree Trunk Gorge Road. 3. At the Urchin Campground... To find it go south from Turangi on highway 1 for 15km then turn left into Kaimanawa Road and follow it for 7km. It's a primitative DOC campground with a toilet only. It's at the opposite end of the trail from the Desert Road end
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Pillars of Hercules Trail map

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Carl Gordon (on Jan 13, 2017)
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(on Dec 5, 2017)
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Turangi, New Zealand

Beginner | 9 mi

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  • Jim Cummings

    Strictly speaking the Pillars of Hercules Track is the two kilometre singletrack that runs above the gorge from Urchin Campground to the swing bridge over the Tongariro River. It's a glorious intermediate trail through Jurassic beech forest - you expect to run into a hobbit around every corner - or a dinosaur! You can drive to the campground - take Kaimanawa Road off SH1.

    Generally though the "Pillars of Hercules Track" refers to the 8km trail that runs from the Desert Road (State Highway One) to the Urchin Camp Ground and includes the two kilometres above the Pillars of Hercules gorge.

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  • fergnago

    Did this as part of the tree trunk gorge loop which is technically challenging for less fit riders. Lots of walking but great scenery

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  • olimoo

    Nothing technically challenging here (unless you cont the water crossings) but still a beautiful ride through some great landscape and definitely a decent work out.

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