Taupo is a unique destination that offers holiday makers a seemingly endless variety of things to eat, see and do. Among the options on offer for adventure seekers are some great cycling opportunities. From Craters Mountain Bike Park, to the Great Lake Trails and the Huka Trails. It’s no wonder Taupo is so popular!
After spotting a video online featuring the hot water Wairakei Stream, we decided we would travel up for a day trip and ride the Huka Trails loop to go check it out for ourselves.
Wairakei Thermal Stream
Spa Park toilets
Huka Falls toilets
Aratiatia Dam toilets
MTB Hub toilets and shelter
Kefi Café at The Hub
95% pumice and loam over hard pack, 5% road
Some exposed edges and switchbacks on the Rotary Ride section
2:40 Ride Time (eBike)
660 Mtrs Climbing
We opted to start our ride from Spa Thermal Park so we could include the Rotary Ride in our loop.
Spa Park has plenty of car parking and is easy to access from Spa Road opposite the AC Baths. Starting from here adds about 10kms to the ride. You could alternatively start from the MTB Hub (or Huka Falls, or Aratiatia Dam) and just do the river loop if you preferred.
Spa Park has an impressive dirt jump park next to the top carpark (if that’s your thing) and there are toilets available down by the trail head at the bottom car park if you need them too.
From the bottom of Spa Park, you will head out on the Rotary Ride, where the trail takes you through some beautiful New Zealand bush threading through some of Taupo’s thermal valleys to the Waikato River and down to Huka Falls.
The Rotary Ride is a two-way multi use track and as many of the corners are blind, you should ride carefully. The trail here also has a few gentle climbs and several switchbacks to negotiate.
The trail surface itself is a hardpacked pumice soil that drains quickly after rain and rides well all year round.
After a few kms you will encounter a few lookouts over the Waikato River and across the other side to Huka Lodge, from here it is mostly downhill past the trail map to Huka Falls.
One of the highlights of the trail and a major tourist attraction is Huka Falls on the Waikato River.
The river has carved a 15mtr wide channel where the water flow of almost 250,000 litres a second gives an incredible sense of power and energy.
There are several great viewing points of the falls including a footbridge and paths downstream on both sides of the river.
Because of the natural clarity of the water and the air bubbles formed from turbulence the water at Huka Falls appears as an intense brilliant blue.
From here we headed back to the map board we passed on the way down from the Rotary Ride, turning left towards Aratiatia Dam downstream. This section takes you under the SH1 bridge, past the Huka Prawn Farm and Wairakei power station for around 7kms to the dam.
Aratiatia Dam and Rapids
At roughly the halfway point on the loop is the Aratiatia Dam and rapids.
Several times a day, the Aratiatia Dam gates are opened to spill water and manage the river water levels. This creates quite a spectacle to watch as millions of litres of water wash down the rapids. We noticed the carpark filled up rapidly about 5 minutes before the scheduled spill as dozens of tourists arrived. Be aware that this can become quite a busy road and bridge.
There’s a picnic table next to the dam, which we found was a great spot to stop for a bite and a rest.
From here we crossed the bridge and began heading back on the opposite side of the river. This section was easy riding with a few road sections to negotiate.
Wairakei Thermal Valley
Around 5kms from Aratiatia Dam, you cross a bridge next to the main highway with massive geothermal steam pipes running underneath, this is where you turn back towards the river into the Wairakei Thermal Valley. This section features a stunning looking thermal stream running along beside the trail. The colour of the mineral deposits and steam rising up off the stream give it a magical appeal.
Heading on from the thermal valley, you climb back up towards the road again and onwards for a few kms until you can choose to cross the road to get up to The Hub (Which we did) or follow the trail back down to Huka Falls.
Bike Taupo have done an awesome job at the hub, providing ample car parking, a huge shelter with a bike tool stand and pump. There are toilets and one of the best map boards we’ve seen that includes suggested routes. This is the main entrance to Craters Mountain Bike Park.
Over the road sitting next to the iconic old Russian Mil Mi-8 Helicopter (Apparently back in its flying days could lift an almighty 5 tons!!) is Kefi Café, a great place to stop and fuel up during your ride.
There’s also a bike rental and shuttle operator (Four B Bikes) with a sweet looking pump track out the front.
From here we followed the road around to a track taking us back down to Huka Falls where we crossed the bridge and headed back to Spa Park on the Rotary Ride return path.
This is a super interesting and relatively easy ride. The Rotary ride section has a few climbs and switch backs but is a worthy section. The Huka Falls, Aratiatia Dam and thermal stream all make for a fun adventurous day out suitable for most riders that can manage 30kms.
Interested in other rides in the area?
Even closer to the Huka Trails is the acclaimed Craters MTB Park, a stella MTB park with an awesome variety of trails.
A little further afield, we have ridden and reviewed Fishers Track in National Park. Or you may be interested in a few awesome trails in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa MTB Park. For something a little more adventurous and challenging, the Moerangi Track is epic!
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