The Whaka (more correctly Whakarewarewa) Forest, also know as The Redwoods, is huge. There are over 160km (100 miles) of trails, most of them purpose-built singletrack through pine trees or native forest. There is plenty here to keep you smiling for weeks. You won't find a better network of trails in New Zealand.
The network is like a board of Snakes and Ladders. The ladders are the forest roads. Usually they go up. The Snakes are the narrow bike trails through that weave through the forest and they normally go down.
On your first visit or two you'll need the $5 map that's available from bike shops and the visitor centre. Even with the map, which is pretty horrible, you could waste a lot of time on the forest roads getting oriented and trying to find the good singletrack. While the network of trails is densely packed near the car park, they are VERY spread out in the hills behind.
All the singletrack is one way with signs at the beginning giving the grade and distance. They also have an exit sign.
There is a large car park at the Waipa State Mill Road entrance, along with bike shop, bike hire, cafe, toilets, shower and bike wash.
TRAILS TO GET YOU STARTED
1. Beginners, easy riders...
If you're new to mountain biking, swallow your pride and take the Kids Loop. It starts just in from the Waipa car park and is clearly marked. You'll love it. Then try the Dipper - the best grade 2 trail on the planet. ---
2. Intermediate riders...
Head straight up to the trail called Challenge Roadside. Its a new style flow trail - machine made, wide, down-sloping, swooping corners, gentle jumps . Next head up to Red-Dot-Six on your map and try Dragon's Tail and Be Rude Not 2. They are narrower trails weaving through trees in the older style of most of the trails in the forest. The ultimate intermediate trail in the network is Split Enz. You can take the shuttle to avoid much of the long ride up to it. ---
3. Advanced riders...
Don't hesitate, get on the shuttle! Then try Billy T, Corners, Huckleberry Hound, Rock Drop, Eagle vs Shark and so on. ---
Several stunning trails start at Red-Dot-Nine on your map, near the top of the forest. Nearly all the best trails are accessible from here. The more often you come up here the more often you'll feel the magic of the forest. A multi-day, multi-person ticket for 20 rides will set you back $100. Their website has other options: www.southstaradventures.com. The shuttle runs from Red-Dot-Seven on you map to Red-Dot-Nine, an altitude gain of 300 metres or 1000 feet. The timetable varies by season and day of the week. Check their website or Facebook feed for today's run times. Search for southstar shuttle.
WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD
The Whaka Forest trails are very spread out and there is a lot of down time riding on the forestry roads...
Very few new-school machine made flow trails...
There is a derth of good climbing singletrack...
Not much in the way of good table-top jumps or similar...
But who's complaining - Whaka Forest has it's own unique style and quality that you won't find anywhere else on the planet.