About the Pakihi Track
The Pakihi Track is a part of the Motu Trails network and the New Zealand Great Rides. Located in the Eastern Bay of Plenty by Opotiki, this is an area known for its wild native bush and pristine rivers.
Originally established in the early 1900’s as a stock track to connect Motu to Opotiki via the Otara Valley the Pakihi is now (after significant restoration in 2012) exclusively for recreational use like walking (tramping), hunting and cycling.
The Pakihi Track itself is one-way (for cyclists) and around 20kms long, being predominately downhill. It is generally easy riding, but it does feature some exposed edges and un-rideable slips along the trail and hence it is officially graded advanced. You would want to be a confident rider to ride it comfortably, but we think it is more like an intermediate ride, with caution needed around exposed areas.
Also note that there is no cell phone coverage along the track, so we recommend taking an EPIRB and make sure someone knows your intentions.
As the area experiences some pretty wild weather, the track gets a hammering. It features a few slips and remnants of storms past that require riders to dismount and traverse on foot, these are well sign posted. The track managers do an amazing job of clearing things and keeping the trail status updated, make sure to check it out before riding.
There are a bunch of ways you can enjoy the trail. For those with big legs, you could do the full loop (90kms) from Opotiki up Motu Road, down the Pakihi Track and then back to Opotiki via Pakihi Road. We did a 44km ride, catching a shuttle and starting at the Meremere hill shelter on Motu Road, down Pakihi Track and then around 12kms on Pakihi Road to our vehicle at the Te Waiti bridge.
If you have one day to ride in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and want to experience some of the most beautiful native bush in New Zealand, this won’t disappoint!
About the area
The Motu Tails are located in Opotiki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty which takes about 2 hours to get to from either Tauranga, Rotorua or Gisborne.
There are loads of other adventure activities on offer in the area from water based like diving, kayaking and bush walks too.
Next time we visit the area we will make more time to explore the rest of the Motu Trails, especially the Dunes trail and maybe some more of the Motu Road.
If you contact the trail managers, they will send out some great brochures with trail info and maps of the rides in the area.
Unless you are riding the full loop from Opotiki, you will most likely need a shuttle service to drop you at your chosen starting point (and maybe pick you up too).
We opted to start our ride from Merermere Hill on Motu Road (about 9kms to Pakihi junction) and then ride to our car at Te Waiti Bridge on Pakihi Road (about 15kms from end of Pakihi Track) which was about 44kms all up and took around 4.5 hours with stops.
We used the shuttle service from Bush Haven and can recommend them, they also have accommodation available too.
Accommodation options in Opotiki were a little scarce when we booked (Labour weekend) so you may want to book well in advance or like us you may need to look at Ohope or Whakatane (about 40mins by car). We ended up staying in Whakatane.
Dense native bush and pristine streams, Pakihi Hut, lots of bridges
Ōpōtiki is the nearest spot for food etc
Toilet at Pakihi Hut and the shelter at the end of the Track
The track itself is an easy ride but there are exposed edges along most of the trail and unrideable slips that require you to walk your bike ( aka hike-a-bike)
4.5 hours on eBikes
44kms and 530mtrs climbing
Riding the Pakihi Track
Once we parked our ute up at Te Whaiti Bridge, we couldn’t help but feel like we were in the middle of some rugged country with beautiful, lush bush surrounding us and bird call ringing out through the valley.
The shuttle picked us up around 9am and delivered us to our start point at the Meremere Hill shelter on Motu round. The shuttle trip took around an hour and a quarter.
The Motu Road is unsealed and we encountered a few vehicles travelling in both directions while riding it. The grade was mostly easy with one reasonable climb of a few hundred meters over 3.5kms to get up to the Pakihi Track Junction.
There are some awesome sights out over the valleys along the way and a couple of shelters if you encounter inclement weather or just need a breather.
The Pakihi Track junction is well sign posted so you won’t miss it.
Once you turn off the road and onto the track you will immediately feel like you have landed in the middle of nowhere. Rolling along a 2-meter-wide trail enclosed in a canopy of native trees you catch occasional glimpses of the Otara Valley.
One side of the track is covered in moss and interspersed with tiny waterfalls, the other simply drops-off into the bush and valley below. Occasional switchbacks take you over some well-built bridges, there’s 25 in all, count em.
Before long you will encounter one of several slips, with signage requesting you dismount your bike and walk. The suggestion is to walk on the uphill side of your bike such that if you slip, your bike doesn’t end up sending you down the hill too. Good advice it seems.
If this section doesn’t recharge your nature batteries, you just wait…..
After about 9kms, a signposted fork in the trail gives you the option to walk your bike down to Pakihi hut, which is a great spot to stop, rest, have a snack and take in the surroundings. The hut is perched over the Pakihi Stream, which will feature for most of the rest of your ride. We encountered a few other riders and a hunting group staying at the hut, it’s a pretty social spot in the middle of nowhere. The hut has a basic toilet and some nice big picnic tables to rest at too.
Some of the Kereru swooping between Nikau’s in the valley looked like they weren’t far off maximum take-off weight. A good sign of healthy bush.
Once you re-join the trail, you will need to walk past one more big slip before you get to the big swing bridge over the Pakihi Stream. Some of the old original bridge can be seen here too.
From here you will sidle alongside the stream all the way to the end of the track. The stream itself sparkles with an unreal crystal-clear azure, just don’t allow yourself to get too distracted while riding or you may end up in it. Take your time, get off the bike to really take it in.
There are a few waterfalls on this section and one very big slip that you will need to carry your bike up. We used walk mode on the eBikes to struggle our way up and over.
We passed a new shelter being completed mid-way down this section and some relics of the tracks history before we exited the trail at the big Pakihi shelter (there’s a toilet here too). Tip: If the water in the stream is warm enough for you, this is an awesome swimming spot.
From here we pedalled a few kms on the gravel road back to our ute at Te Whaiti Bridge with big grins and our nature batteries fully charged!
If you do ride the trail, please provide feedback to the trail managers. This helps with trail improvements and assists with funding for maintenance.
This is an exceptional ride that you need to experience if you like remote, back country adventure rides with lush unspoilt bush and pristine rivers views.
This was our favourite one-day ride of 2022 and gets our full five stars.
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