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Trails of transformation: the Love Taupō Trail Festival experience

When Aaron Carter mentions the mental health benefits of venturing outdoors, he’s speaking from hard-earned personal experience.

Join Love Taupō Trail Festival to celebrate all the good things about being outdoors in nature.

The man behind Love Taupō Trail Festival has battled through tough times to launch the town’s newest major event. Consequently, the three-day festival has an especially strong focus on the links between mental wellbeing and the act of tackling some of Taupō’s most scenic trails on foot or a mountain bike.

Participants of all ages and abilities will be able to ride, run and walk forest trails within the Craters Mountain Bike Park, in events that range from a navigation event and a night run, to a mountain bike adventure for children and adults. Three day passholders will also have access to an inspirational speaker event and wellness sessions. There’ll be a social event and tree planting opportunities, too.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

The festival is the latest in a long string of action-packed outdoor events that Aaron has created, as director of Total Sport. However, this one is by far his most personal.

“Having run this business since 2000, I’ve learned there is a massive, massive link between fitness and mental health,”

Aaron Carter

“But I truly learned that lesson firsthand in the last couple of years, through my own struggles.”

Aaron found his wellbeing and activity levels declining in the wake of Covid-induced financial stresses and a relationship break-up, with a young family.

“I got into pretty dark places and really started researching, reading, speaking to people about mental health. I realised the best possible thing I could do was to get out there and be active, maybe just starting with a gentle ride or walk. And to do it with other people; if Covid taught us anything, it’s that we actually do need to be connected to other people.

Lifechanging Events

“I believe hugely in the benefits of physical activity and being outside in nature, and science certainly backs that up.”

The evidence is repeatedly reinforced by people who participate in Total Sport events, which tend to be pitched more at everyday people rather than elite athletes.

Aaron says many people use these events as a goal to get them off the couch to train with friends, colleagues or a partner. Some bring their whole family along for a safe outdoor adventure.

Others have more serious motives.

“We’ve had people who have 100 per cent told us we’ve helped them replace an alcohol or drug addiction with mountain biking or trail running. People have categorically told us this stuff has saved their life. We hear a lot of that amazing, honest stuff.

Outdoor Opportunities

“Me? I’m a work in progress. I think we all are. Having been very active most of my life, I literally sat in my living room for months, doing nothing. Eventually, I started by getting my shoes on and taking a walk along the lake front. Then slowly getting back onto the trails."

"I’ve always known I’m a better person to be around when I’ve spent time out there, in nature.”

Aaron Carter

It was Taupō’s multitude of outdoor opportunities that lured the Carter family to the region in 2015. The year-round fairways were also a major drawcard for Aaron, who is also a keen golfer. They also wanted smaller town living and easy access to the lake, the trails for him and the ski hills for her.

What’s more, access is easy. No lengthy drive, no traffic issues. He regularly takes his two children out on trails that are within walking or biking distance from his house. One trailhead, five minutes’ ride from his office, leads to spectacular Huka Falls.

The Taupō Supervolcanic Trail Network delivers grade one to three mountain biking that encompasses everything from helicopter and boat-accessed gems to lake and riverside trails, clifftop drama and geothermal action.

Sharing Favourite Places

“There are literally a couple of hundred kilometres of trails around the region and quite a few of them are world class. There’s a really rich variety, round lakes, through the forest or 3km up Mount Tauhara for incredible views. A lot are designed for mountain bikers but you see runners and walkers all sharing them.”

He is looking forward to sharing some of his favourite spots and personal insights with visitors during the Love Taupō Trail Festival.

“Of course people will be out doing amazing events in this beautiful part of the world but I also hope it will be a real catalyst for all of us to talk about the things that are important.”

Aaron Carter

A portion of ticket proceeds will go to men’s mental health charity Movember.


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