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Level: Intermediate
Length: 64 mi (103 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: One-way
Elevation: -
Total: 6 riders

Mountain Biking Waikato River Trails

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#35 of 387 mountain bike trails in New Zealand
#4,128 in the world

The Waikato River Trails are actually one continuous trail that happens to be promoted as five linked trails!! Total length is 103km, 64 miles, including some parts that are on roads. ----

The Waikato River is the largest in the North Island and there are several hydro-electric dams along its length with long lakes behind them. The trails (sections of the trail!) go alongside five of the lakes and the sections are named after the lake they go beside. You can ride the trail(s) either way but they are generally listed from north to south (going upstream!) as follows:
1. Karapiro, 11.5km, 7 miles, intermediate...
2. Arapuni, 36km, 22 miles, advanced...
3. Waipapa, 19km, 12 miles, advanced...
4. Maraetai, 12km, 7.5 miles, intermediate...
5. Whakamaru, 23.5km, 15 miles, intermediate... ----

While it is possible to ride the entire 103km in a day, these are scenic trails with many points of interest, and places to picnic or swim. The trail(s) are well made with an all weather gravel surface, but it's best to ride them in summer so you can enjoy the lakes which are all swimmable. ----

Many people do the entire length in parts, parking their car at various access points and doing out-and-back rides. People riding from one end to the other generally take three or four days and may need shuttles and accommodation. That's easy to organise. Just call the friendly folk at "Waikato River Trails", 0800 874 978, or look them up on www.waikatorivertrails.com. They'll give you all the advice you need, arrange bike hire if necessary, and book accommodation and shuttles. Be warned though, they'll take away your rights as quick as a flash. You'll even have to sign a waiver for a bus ride! And you won't see it till after they take your money!! They are based in the i-site at Putaruru. ----

Each of the five trail sections has its own description and photos on Singletracks as you may have noticed. Enjoy the ride(s)! ----
Text by jimcummings

First added by Ginny_Tory on Jun 22, 2013. Last updated Apr 28, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: yes
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: yes
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: yes
  • Fat bike grooming: yes
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
South end: About 50km north of Taupo on State Highway 1, just past Atiamuri you'll see the Waikato River Trails sign. The car park is 100m away... North end: About 45km south of Hamilton on State Highway 1, just past the SH29 turnoff, you'll see the Waikato River Trails sign pointing down Horahora Road. You'll come to the well signed car park in about 5km... There are many other points of access along the trails.
System trails (5)
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Waikato River Trails Trail map

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Dusty (on Apr 2, 2019)
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Taupo, New Zealand

Intermediate | 40 mi
Beginner | 28 mi
Easiest | 15 mi
Intermediate | 10 mi

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  • Jim Cummings

    Stunning views beside the lakes and river on well formed trails at times remote, at times civilised - there's great variety.

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  • Jim Cummings

    Another great ride along the lakes of the Waikato River. Mangakino is the biggest village along the Waikato River Trails and the lake there is really stunning.

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  • Jim Cummings

    This section of the Waikato River Trails is as picturesque as the other sections and it's the most like a "family fun" style of ride because it's short and not too challenging.

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  • Jim Cummings

    I rode it from south to north - from the Waipapa Dam to Arapuni.

    The southern section from Waipapa dam is fantastic - beautiful trail through native forest and it's real close to the lake in places. You have to walk up the steps to the top of a cliff. After some more native bush you go through lots of pine forest then after the swing bridge it's a 200m climb to Waotu Road. It's mainly down hill to Jones Landing and then there is some quite nice single track to Arapuni village and a coffee.

    Great ride!!

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