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Short grinds: a Taupō training guide

First time planning a bikepacking trip? Or looking for a few rides to train for an upcoming MTB event? These short grinds are beyond compare for seeing the region’s best tracks and sublime views!

Nothing is more liberating than having everything you need on your bike in the middle of NZ’s stunning wilderness.

But getting started can be tricky...

The Taupō region offers some of the best mountain biking with hundreds of purpose-built trails. So, whether you're planning a first-time bikepacking trip or just looking for a few rides to train and test your gear, here are some short grinds to easily fit into your itinerary and soak up the best of the Taupō region.

Wairakei Thermal Loop – Wairakei Tourist Park

Want to see it all in one outstanding ride?

Flow through Taupō's best natural attractions, like the thundering Huka Falls, the iconic Aratiatia Dam and Rapids, and the colourful Wairakei Stream Track. The Wairakei Thermal Loop is a 17km loop combining some of Taupō's most stunning spots and favourite trails. A test for attaching your gear to your bike while enjoying an excellent mix of terrain, from single-track bush trails to open road-like tracks along the Waikato River.

Huka Falls viewpoint, accessible from the Huka Trails

If you time it right, you can watch volcanic gorges form into the mighty Aratiatia Rapids from the Aratiatia Dam opening (seasonal times). Ask your local bike shop when to start your ride to get to the Aratiatia Dam on time.

This favourite loop is accessible from the Huka Trails or the Rotary Ride. Not to mention, there's heaps of bike-friendly cafes and eateries to reward yourself after the ride.

What to expect:

  • Time: 2-4 hours
  • Distance: 17 km
  • Difficulty: Grade 2 – 3
  • How to get there: Rent a bike or take a guided tour with FourB

Tongariro River Trail Trail - Tūrangi 

Suitable for green riders or families, this trail meanders along the world-famous Tongariro River, home to keen anglers and splashing trout.

Start your ride off right at the trail's main entry point (across the Tūrangi Bridge Motel) with a Blueberry Crumble muffin and a flat white from the Delta Coffee Cart.

Woman riding a bridge in Tongariro River Trail, Turangi
The Red Hut Bridge on the Tongariro River Trail

Then, the trailhead begins across the road, with a gorgeous riverside view around every bend!

If you're short on time, create a customized loop crossing Major Jones Bridge or the Red Hut Bridge. Or complete the entire loop with one short, steep climb, rewarded by immaculate views of the Tongariro River and the Tongariro National Park in the distance.

For a more family-friendly ride, there is another entry point at the Tongariro National Trout Centre – perfect for a walk through the aquarium and history centre beforehand.

Bonus: The Kaimanawa Forest Park is only a 20-minute drive from Tūrangi's town centre. So ride the Tongariro River Trail for a quick morning ride, then head to the Urchin Campsite for the Tree Trunk Gorge in the afternoon.

What to expect:

  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Distance: 15 km (39km with Tree Trunk Gorge return)
  • Difficulty: Grade 2
  • Where to stay: Tūrangi Bridge Motel

Tree Trunk Gorge – Kaimanawa Forest Park

Winding through lush forests full of native ferns and kamahi trees, riding through this technical trail is as if you’ve entered the ethereal forest itself.

Couple mountain biking the Tree Trunk Gorge Kaimanawa Forest Park
The river Crossing on Tree Trunk Gorge

This journey begins with a short but challenging climb, ideal for test-riding with your gear strapped to your bike. Wooden bridges, a few fast descents and a crystal-clear river crossing follow. The final but thrilling section is a steep technical descent – well worth it! It’s a tough but exhilarating ride for an intermediate or experienced mountain biker looking to venture from the beaten path.

Return to Urchin campground for an easy camp setup. The Urchin campground is by the trailhead and an ideal spot to test-run your camping gear with your vehicle as support. Just drive right up to the site with your bikes and overnight equipment.

Then, for a short walk afterward, wander down to the Pillars of Hercules track, where you can view the spectacular ravine from the suspension bridge.

What to expect:

  • Time: 2-4 hours return
  • Distance: 12 km (24 km return)
  • Difficulty: Grade 4
  • Where to stay: Camp at Urchin Campsite
  • How to get there: Bike transport & shuttle with FourB

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