About the Timber Trail
Part of the Nga Haerenga Great Rides and Te Araroa pathway, the Timber Trail is as popular for walkers as it is for riders.
The Timber Trail weaves its way through the Pureora Forest in the Hauhungaroa and Rangitoto ranges west of Lake Taupo. At 85 kilometres long and with 1,400 meters of climbing (riding from North to South) it is best enjoyed over two days. But since Piropiro (roughly halfway) is accessible by shuttle, the top and bottom sections of the trail can also be ridden on their own comfortably in a day.
Stories about the history of the trail are fascinating and if you hitch a ride with one of the local shuttle operators, you are bound to be enthralled with tales of timber, trams and protest from your driver.
The lower section of trail was originally established in 1946 as a logging tramway, and you will see relics of the logging history dotted along the trail with informative sign boards.
Officially opened in 2013, the Timber Trail was conceived from the national cycle trail fund in 2009.
About the area
Situated West of Taupo in the heart of King Country, the forest fuelled the once bustling local townships of Ongarue, Waimiha and Maniaiti (Benneydale).
Other trails in the area include the Waikato River Trails up around Managakino, The Great Lake Trails around Taupo and the Mountains to Sea trails in Ruapehu National Park.
If arriving from the North, take state Highway 30 from Te Kuiti to Maniaiti (Benneydale) and on to Pureora where there is a large carpark with toilets and fresh water at the start of the trail.
If coming from the South, make your way to Taumarunui, and head North to Ongarue where the Bennett Road carpark also has good facilities and is serviced by all the shuttle operators.
There are several shuttle operators that service the trail including The Timber Trail Shuttle & Bike Hire, that we used as part of a package deal with accomodation at their lodge and Epic Cycle Adventures (not sponsored).
Native forests & birds, historic logging relics, massive bridges, The Ongarue Spiral
Limited unless you have accommodation on the trail
Grade 2/3 mostly easy riding, some exposed edges. 95% purpose built tracks, 5% forest 4×4 roads
6 hours riding (on eBikes, stopping frequently), 85kms, 1400mtrs climbing
Riding the Timber Trail
As the Timber Trail can be ridden in a variety of ways, for simplicity we will focus on the two-day, point-to-point ride from Pureora to Ongarue.
Starting from the Pureora Forest carpark, you will gently weave your way through one of the most incredible ancient native forests. Bird calls interrupt the roar of the cicadas, which grow to deafening levels at times. 3km’s in and you have the option for a little side loop to visit an abandoned 1940’s crawler tractor, it’s worth the extra pedalling.
A few km’s further on and you ride out in the open and the trail begins to climb, eventually you will arrive at the forest edge shelter and a good spot to stop for a drink and a snack.
From here the trail climbs, and climbs, and climbs….. After about 3 or 4kms you will come to the Mt Pureora rest area, where there are toilets, a picnic table and for those keen for a little walking, the option to climb up to the summit. I’m told the view on a good day is almost completely unobstructed across the Central North Island.
From here a short climb through some spooky stands of trees covered in moss and Foxgloves lining the trail sides, and you pass the highest point of the trail at 971mtrs.
At 22kms you will come across the first of the massive suspension bridges on the trail. The impressive Bog Inn Creek Bridge is 115 meters long and surely a photo opportunity.
At around 27kms, just past the Harrison’s Creek bridge is a little rest area with a toilet and picnic table.
Beyond Harrison’s Creek are a few fun little downhill sections, to cool you off and give your legs a little rest.
Further on you will cross a few 4×4 roads until you reach Piropiro where at 40kms, the Timber Trail Lodge welcomes you (but not before a little zig zag climb out of the valley).
After a few drinks and a great meal, we enjoyed an awesome sunset over the valley.
Leaving the lodge we passed Camp Epic who also operate a shuttle service. We also passed the Doc campground before rolling back into the bush.
In no time at all you will encounter the massive Maramataha Bridge, at 141 metres long and 53 metres high, it is one of the largest suspension bridges in New Zealand.
From the bridge, you will grind out the only significant climb of the day for 2.5kms to reach the ridgetop and the start of the tramway, before your ride continues gently downhill.
From here you will encounter many historic logging artifacts, supported with information sign boards telling the tales of the trail.
At the camp sites, you will find shelter, tables and toilets.
Rolling down the trail, you will pass through many deep cuts made to ensure the tramway gradient was consistent for the trams.
After crossing several more impressive bridges you will encounter the Ongarue Spiral, again a feature to ensure the tram had a gradient it could both climb and descend. A torch is useful.
Beyond the spiral, you will enjoy a fun little downhill taking you down to the road crossing, before you roll past some farmland on your way to the Bennett Road carpark at the end of the trail.
At Bennett Road you will find shelter & toilets, and a huge sense of achievement 🙂
We love the Timber Trail because it is easy to ride with just enough climbing that it feels like you’ve had a good workout, making it accessible to most riders with average fitness and skill (especially on an eBike). Add an overnight stay at one the accommodation providers into the mix and this makes the Timber Trail a real adventure ride for the whole family.
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