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Where to bikepack in the Taupō region?

In case you missed it, Previously, Kate from the Rebel Ride detailed how bikepacking can be your “adventure of a lifetime.” To prepare and train for those longer bikepacking trips, we revealed some short grinds in the Taupō region. Now, we’re sharing where to go bikepacking, where to stay and a few tips along the way!

As Kate, founder of The Rebel Ride, said, “there’s so much away from the road that you can experience. It's where New Zealand’s real beauty is at!”

There's so much to see, from expansive lake views, remote cliffside bays, scenic waterfalls, and remarkable mountains. And with three Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails – the Great Lake Trails, Timber Trail and the Waikato River Trails plus hundreds of cross-country and single-track trails, the possibilities are endless.

Whichever trail you choose, you’re bound for an adventure!

The Great Lake Trails

Most riders complete sections of the Great Lake Trails as an epic one-day ride. But extending it to a 2-3 bikepacking trip only amplifies this unparalleled mountain biking experience.

Great Lake Trails

Option 1: The entire Great Lake Trails (2-3 days, tenting)

Scale down volcanic cliffs, past waterfall views, traverse volcanic cliffs and gorges through to secluded bay beaches, discovering the Taupō region's awe-inspiring landscapes.

Based on your preferences and experience level, you can ride the Great Lake Trails in 2 or 3 days. Tour and shuttle services simplify transport, offer insight into the best views, and provide more tips about each section.

Day 1: Waihaha section (Waihaha and Waihora trails)

Jump onboard a shuttle to get to the start of the entrance of the Waihaha section, where you’ll ride past panoramic viewpoints on both the Waihaha and Waihora trails (30 km). This section ends on the remote beaches of Waihora Bay. Here the Taxi-coloured adventure boat ride, Venture Beyond - powered by Taxicat awaits! From mountain biking down volcanic gorges to boating past majestic waterfalls tumbling over a cliff into the lake you can only see by boat.

Taxicat Adventures at Waihora Bay

After Ian from Taxicat Adventures drops you at the beautiful Kawakawa Bay, set up camp at the campsite and enjoy one of the region’s best sunset spots.

What to expect:

Day 2: Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch via Orakau and Otaketake trails

To start, ride to the Orakau entrance to Link Road via the Orakau Trail through native wetlands and a few gentle uphills. The car park links to the Great Lake Trails' newest section, the Grade 3 Otaketake Trail

Ride along the Otaketake Trail for fun switchbacks to Kinloch. And hidden along these forest trails are some of the “best reveals” along the lake’s edge, reminding you that you’re riding on the rim of an ancient volcano.

Afterwards, a Kinloch Store ice cream or burger, and chips are unrivalled as post-ride treats. Grab your takeaways for a relaxing session at Kinloch Beach. Here you can organize a bike shuttle to pick you up, stay at some epic glamping spots, or...

What to expect:

  • Time: 4-5 hours
  • Distance: 32 km
  • Difficulty: Grade 3
  • Where to camp: Kawakawa Bay campground

Day 3: Kinloch to Whakaipo Bay

Ready for more jaw-dropping riding? Top off this unique experience with the famous W2K Trail.

The track climbs through native bush, joining with the Headland Loop (which adds 10km) for expansive lookouts to the Tongariro National Park and the Kaimanawa Ranges. You’ll then rejoin the main trail for a flowing descent to Whakaipo Bay (a perfect lunch spot or a refreshing swim).

Congratulations, this is the complete Great Lake Trails experience! Organize a shuttle for transport or camp another night at the DOC campground at Whakaipo Bay.

What to expect:

  • Time: 4-5 hours
  • Distance: 23 km
  • Difficulty: Grade 3

Option 2: W2K to K2K (1-2 days)

Dabble in overnight trips with beautiful trails before camping at Kawakawa Bay. This is a great route to see popular sections with minimal packing and a stopover for supplies in Kinloch.

Codgers Rock, K2K Trail - Great Lake Trails

Day 1: Whakaipo Bay to Kawakawa Bay

Start your exhilarating journey with a morning shuttle to Whakaipo Bay. Or for a supreme sunrise spot, camp the night before at the DOC campsite (self-contained vehicles).

The W2K trail will take you past some unbelievable views, climbing down to Kinloch marina. Stop to refuel with a wood-fired pizza (summer season) at Kinloch Store. Or even better, a refreshing swim at Kinloch Beach and a breezy ride through the Whangamata Stream Trail.

Invigorating switchbacks and vast lake lookouts are next on the K2K trail. Then towering cliffs and the gin-clear lake surround your picture-perfect camp at Kawakawa Bay.

What to expect:

  • Time: 5.5-7 hours
  • Distance: 32.5 km
  • Difficulty: Grade 3
  • Where to stay: Kawakawa Bay campground

Day 2: Kawakawa Bay to Link Road Entrance

Enjoy Lake Taupō’s remote beauty at your campsite before continuing to the new Otaketake Trail to the Link Road Entrance, where your transport will take you, your equipment, and your bike back to Taupō.

What to expect:

Option 3: Waihaha Hut Track to Waihaha & Waihora sections

New to camping or want to get more comfortable carrying a lot on your bike? But still want a fast and thrilling excursion, this route is for you! Intermediate and experienced riders look out for an adrenaline-charged and accessible overnight trip.

Bas and Vaea - Great Lake Trails lookout, Taupo
Outlooks on the Waihora Section

Day 1: Western Bay Road to Waihaha Hut Track

Shuttle services will transport you to the start of the Waihaha Hut Track (Grade 4) alongside the serene Waihaha River. Recently upgraded, there will be sections where bikes need to be carried – it’s part of the adventure! End the day at the Waihaha Hut (bookings not required – standard 10-bunk DOC hut).

What to expect:

  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Distance: 9 km (one way)
  • Difficulty: Grade 4
  • Where to stay: Waihaha Hut

Day 2: Waihaha Hut to Waihora Bay

Return via the same track back to the Waihaha Section. Then follow the Waihaha Trail down the Waihaha River above volcanic gorges cloaked in native bush. Trailing along rocky outcrops, the spectacular Tieke Falls is the reward for this tough trail.

Continue to the Grade 3 Waihora Traol that meanders on the lake’s edge. Mountainous ravines and clifftop lookouts of Lake Taupō lead up to Echo Rock. The trail gets even better as it descends to Kotukutuku Stream alongside several waterfalls. At Waihora Bay, take in more views before Ian from Taxicat Adventures brings you back to Kinloch with a thrilling boat ride.

What to expect:

  • Time: 7-7.5 hours
  • Distance: 39 km
  • Difficulty: Grade 3-4

The Waikato River Trails – Whakamaru to Waipapa Section

The Waikato River Trails encase the Waikato River’s unbelievable scenery with native forest and small villages along the way! Be inspired as you cycle past magnificent hydro dams, suspension bridges, wetlands and riverscapes only found along the Waikato River.

The trails divide up into five sections – the Karapiro, the Arapuni, Waipapa, Maraetai and Whakamaru sections, expanding over 100 kilometers. Below is a 2-day option from Whakamaru to Waipapa sections.

The Waikato River Trails

Day 1: Atiamuri Village Carpark to Lake Whakamaru

The intermediate Whakamaru Trail follows 26 kms along the Waikato River with panoramic views of the staggering Pohauroa Rock formation. The Waikato River’s longest section will fly by with lake bluffs and backdrops of Lake Whakamaru. There are plenty of opportunities to stop at cafes and find campsites along the lake at either Lake Whakamaru Reserve, Dunham’s Reserve or Snowshill Reserve.

What to expect:

  • Time: 3-5 hours
  • Distance: 26 km
  • Difficulty: Grade 3
  • Where to start: Atiamuri Village Carpark

Day 2: Lake Whakamaru to Waipapa Dam

On the Maraetai Trail, grab a blueberry scone or, for something heartier, an All-day Breakfast at the rustic Dam Café. This is a breezy countryside 12.3km ride.

Onward to the advanced Waipapa section, with steep climbs and challenging but electrifying obstacles. Rest assured, the lookouts are well worth it! Grab a bike shuttle back from Waipapa Dam.

What to expect:

  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Distance: 31.9 km
  • Difficulty: Grade 3-4

Or complete the Waikato River Trails over 3 to 4 days, depending on your fitness level, experience and time available with these multi-day itineraries

Te Iringa Track – Kaimanawa Forest Park

If you're looking for a mountain biking breakaway like no other, look no further than Te Iringa Track, set deep in the Kaimanawa Forest backcountry. This challenging Grade 5 trail suits experienced riders with advanced carrying sections.

Day 1: 

You'll climb steep hills, cross rivers, ride through wetlands, hike with your bike and carry it over fallen trees. It's part of what makes it half the fun! The thrilling 19 km to Te Iringa Hut site will take 4-6 hours from the trailhead.

As you travel Mt Te Iringa, you'll see mind-goggling views and enjoy a fun descent along Tiki Tiki Stream. For those who love tenting camps, set up near Tiki Tiki Stream or ride another 20-30 minutes to Oamara Hut.

You can stay at the camp near the Tiki Tiki Stream camping area or continue another 20–30 minutes ride to Oamara Hut.

Day 2:

Recover from the epic day of riding at the campsite or hut with your riding buddies, then return the next day via the same track. This is one epic bikepacking trip!

What to expect:

  • Time: 4-6 hours (one way)
  • Distance: 19 km (return via same track)
  • Difficulty: 5
  • Where to stay: Oamaru Hut

Great Lake Trails

Great Lake Trails on Trailforks.com

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