Whirinaki Forest – Moerangi MTB Trail

Fancy a back country adventure ride through arguably one of New Zealand’s best forests?

The 36km Moerangi MTB trail is an epic ride where you will experience native New Zealand like nowhere else.

Moerangi Hut

Getting there
Situated deep in the Whirinaki forest, this ride is a little harder to find than some and as there is limited cell phone coverage you should check the route before you leave. We travelled up from Hawke’s Bay and between Taupo and Rotorua at Rainbow Mountain we turned off towards Murupara on SH38 continuing on for approx 45mins towards Minginui Village.

Since the ride starts and ends quite a distance apart and the road to the start at the Okahu Road campground is rather rough, we recommend using a shuttle service for drop off and pick up. We used Jailhouse Shuttles who also have accommodation should you wish to stay overnight and explore some of the other walking or mountain biking trails in the area.

Doc map

Be prepared
This is a big ride, make no mistake. On average riders complete the trail in 5-6 hours so you need to ensure you have enough water and food to keep your energy levels up with some in reserve just in case. It is also a very remote trail with very little cell phone coverage so you need to be self-sufficient with a map, tools for your bike, patches or tubes for your tyres, a first aid kit and thermal blanket just in case.

If you use the shuttle service, you will need a cell phone to contact them when you reach Moerangi saddle summit. If you don’t use the shuttle service please let someone know your plans and what your intentions are.

Checkout our 5 tips for navigating and staying safe out on the trail article.

The ride
The trail starts at the Okahu Campground Carpark, around 40mins from Jailhouse Shuttles. And ends at the River Road Carpark, around 20mins from Jailhouse Shuttles. 

Moerangi is a dual purpose trail that connects to other huts in the area so you should expect to see hikers, hunters and dogs and make sure you follow the trail markers, read the signs and are handy with a map.

While Moerangi is rated a grade 3 trail, it is a physically tough ride with some big climbs and quite a few deep ruts to negotiate . We felt that some sections, especially towards the end, were more like grade 4.

The Okahu Campground Carpark has toilets but you will need to bring your own loo paper. From here you will ride around 7kms to Skips hut with a few steps and steep pinch climbs to push your bike up. The trail follows alongside a picturesque Minginui Stream and if you listen carefully you might hear the shrill calls of local Whio (Blue Ducks).

Once you’ve had a break at Skips Hut you will make you way to Rogers Hut, approx 9kms away which is a great spot for a lunch break. The trail winds around the river and over ridges, weaving in and out of some of the best native forest I’ve ever encountered. Towering Kahikatea, Rata, Matai, Rimu cloaked in ferns and moss accompanied by the roar of Cicadas and native bird song.

Once you’re rested and fed and ready to depart Rogers Hut you follow the signage at the intersection towards Moerangi Hut about another 9kms away. This is where the trail begins to climb and the next 9kms can be a bit relentless but you will be rewarded with some awesome views out over the Whirinaki Forest valleys across Moerangi Stream.

Moerangi hut sits at the end of a short spur off the main track and here you will want to rest up and fill up the tanks ready for a pretty grunty climb that lays ahead to Moerangi Saddle.

The track surface up until Moerangi Hut was immaculate when we rode in January, with very little standing water or mud and not many ruts that needed walking.

While we were resting up at Moerangi hut two pairs of local Kaka (Brown Parrot) put on a spectacular show and song for us, awesome!

Once you rejoin the main track you will have a few kms of pretty constant climbing, sidling up alongside some spectacular waterfalls and an increasingly narrowing valley, you will eventually arrive up at the Moerangi Saddle (955mtrs), it is here you will need to call the shuttle service which gives them a heads up as to what time to pick you up from River road.

Leaving the saddle you will have a few more shorter climbs but mainly a downhill glide to River Road carpark at the end of the track. We found the downhill trails quite rutted out which Teresa didn’t enjoy, and required us to walk our bikes. We also had to negotiate our way over a large tree fallen across the track, which with two eBikes was a bit of an effort!

Overall I loved this ride, it is actually the third time I’ve ridden it. It features everything that I enjoy in a trail, great forest (like really great!), healthy birdlife a sense of adventure and a good workout. Teresa found the last section a little tough with the ruts but agrees that the forest was pretty epic.

Checkout our YouTube video below and let us know what you think?

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