Ask Teresa or I where we holiday more often than anywhere else in New Zealand and we would both agree that Rotorua is our default getaway destination.
We both think of Rotorua as a big playground with all of the best bits that New Zealand has to offer right on their doorstep. Not just because it is a world class mountain biking destination but also because of the great foodie spots like Abracadabra or Leonardo’s, and supreme R&R like Polynesian Spa, the Redwoods or pinnacle events like Crankworx. We have always really looked forward to and enjoyed our visits there.
A few years back I used to commute to Rotorua each week from Hawke’s Bay for work, and that meant I was able to explore and enjoy everything Rotorua had on offer.
One of my regular after work activities was walking the 5km track around Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and taking a dip afterwards. I remember thinking that it would make for the most awesome scenic mountain bike trail especially if it linked up over the hill past Lake Rotokākahi (The Green lake) and back into the main trail network.
A bit of troubled trail history
Fast forward from those days commuting and not only has the Rotorua Trails Trust built a separate MTB track (Tangaroamihi) around the Whakarewarewa side of Lake Tikitapu, but in 2018 they added a trail (Te Kotukutuku) skirting the northern side of Lake Rotokākahi too.
Teresa and I first rode these trails not long after Te Kotukutuku was opened, and we were both blown away with how well they both flowed and the incredible scenery over the two lakes. These trails immediately became Teresa’s favourite bike park trails, easy and fun to ride with rewarding scenery.
Then, news broke in late 2019 that the trail had been closed because some idiots had decided to go for a swim in Rotokākahi, despite signage requesting people refrain from such activities due to the cultural significance of the lake to the local Iwi. That’s a small ask, you would think given what was on offer. We were gutted.
Thankfully in early 2021, the various parties involved managed to find a way forward to reopen the trail (albeit with a slight variation). And for that, we are truly thankful.
Please read and respect the local signage, and don’t swim in Rotokākahi.
Getting to the trail
As part of the new greater forest loop, you can get to Tangaroamihi and Te kotukutuku in a variety of ways.
You can ride there from the Whakarewarewa out back trail network. Or if you want to get a little closer via car, you can drive past the long mile road car park towards Lake Tikitapu on
With the development of the awesome new Tarawera Road Forest Hub Te Pūtake o Tawa, it makes a lot of sense to park there and use the Feeder trail to get to the Blue Lake reserve. This car park features toilets, a bike wash with more development planned.
The Feeder trail is only about kms and drops you wight next to the Blue Lake entrance.
Alternatively for a shorter ride (and if it is not too busy) you can drive on through to the Blue Lake reserve and park right next to the entrance to Tangaroamihi, there are also toilets here and a shop next to the Top 10 Holiday Park.
About the trails
Tangaroamihi next to the blue lake, is a two-way trail with a short well sign posted one-way section at the top. The trail is about 2.5kms long and is super easy riding at grade 2. This would be a great trail for kids or those not so confident in their bike skills yet. There are a couple of good lake lookout points to take a breather as you head up to the high point at the far end of the trail.
Once you get to the four-wheel drive track, turn left and head down to the crossing where you can head back via the return section of Tangaroamihi, or head across to ride Te Kotukutuku. Both are well sign posted.
Te Kotukutuku runs alongside the Green Lake. It is a one-way grade 2 trail with an awesome lookout at the halfway point. Don’t be lured into the abandoned side trail about 1km in, it doesn’t go anywhere. After the lookout you will get to the new section of trail that heads uphill (rather than downhill as it used to) with some awesome linked berms towards the top. The trail drops you back on to a four-wheel drive track, turn right here and right again at the intersection if you want to head back to the crossing, alternatively, you can follow the forest loop to the left for a bigger ride.
Keep an eye out for future reviews of Rotorua including more MTB trails, walking trails, eating places, accommodation and Ben being He-Man on other trails ;).