Cycling the Waikato River Trails
Day One - 58km
Our group of eight meet up at the Horahora Rd carpark on the banks of lake Karapiro earlier Saturday morning. The group had a wide range of experience so we split up into two groups, the fast group attempting to ride to Mangakino whilst the slower group would cherry pick the better sections and act as our transport support team. The first section, a 13km grade 2/3 trail to Arapuni followed the river most of the way and judging by the number of other riders on the trail must be very popular. Had a short stop at the Rhubarb Cafe in Arapuni which was busy serving heaps of cyclists. The slower group used this as their turn around point and returned to the cars. We continued south on the five km grade 5 section to Jones Landing which being at tad more challenging put a big smile on our dials. From here it was a 16km undulating road bash to Waotu and onto the end of Waotu south road. There was no cellphone reception after this highpoint which proved to be a problem later. As a reward for the tedious road section we were rewarded with fabulous views of the surrounding countryside before the trail zig zags down a series of switchbacks back to river level. The trail now followed the river along a combination of single track and forestry roads to the Waipapa dam. Arriving there around 5pm we decided that we didn't have enough time(or juice in the tank) to complete the next 20km section(3hrs) to Mangakino. With no cellphone reception we had little choice but to cross the dam and ride up the steepish road for 3km until we were able to get reception. Before long the rest of the team arrived and we headed to Out in the Styx for a much needed ale. As usual the hospitality was superb as we have come to expect from our hosts, Lance and Mary. The "foodies" in our group were not disappointed, the meals were superb!!
Day Two - 33km
After a fabulous breakfast and last nights feast we needed a good ride. The plan today was to drive to Mangakino and ride south to Hikurangi Island on Lake Whakamaru. A nice easy 13km grade two section to Whakamaru had us cruising along enjoying the views. The trail follows the shore so there is always plenty to see and its very family friendly. A lunch break at a cafe in Whakamaru provided the slower group the option to return and pickup the cars. We continued south for approx 10km to Hikurangi island on a grade three trail. We cycled past a great camping ground on the shores of Lake Whakamaru which would be idealic for a summer vacation. The rest of the trail to the island being a grade 3 was a bit more technical so more attention was required instead of grazing at the views. We returned to the dam via the road to find the rest of the team had just arrived after riding back to Mangikino. The trails we had ridden over the two days varied from grade 2 to 5. In retrospect we would miss out the road/trail section from Jones Landing to the Waipapa dam and instead ride the Waipapa to Mangakino section. We'll check that out next time we are down in Waikato looking for a ride.
Interactive Map of Trails