Stretching between Rotorua and the Waikite Valley, this cycle trail links five significant geothermal parks – Whakarewarewa, Te Puia, Waimangu, Wai-O-Tapu and Waikite Valley Thermal Springs – each with its own unique natural wonders.
A wonderful way to reach these major attractions, Te Ara Ahi is also rich in Māori culture and offers a chance to see other notable sights such as Lake Okaro wetland, Rainbow Mountain, and world-class Redwoods Mountain Bike Park.
Stretching between Rotorua and Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, Te Ara Ahi is divided into two sections, best ridden as a two-day adventure. Multiple access points and shuttles, however, make it possible to tailor to trip to suit your abilities, interests, and travel schedule.
Rotorua is a world-renown mountain biking mecca, so enthusiastic off-roaders should factor in time to explore further, particularly the trails of the famous Redwood Forest – accessible from Te Ara Ahi.
Rotorua—Waimangu Volcanic Valley
As Rotorua i-SITE as a start-point, ride east on Queen Street to the official start of the trail at the Princes Gate Archway a few hundred metres away.
The trail is well-signposted around the edge of Lake Rotorua. At the 6km mark, it reaches Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve & Māori Village, an area inhabited for more than 700 years and home to many surviving families of Mt Tarawera’s devastating 1886 eruption. You can learn more on regular guided tours.
From the village turn-off, Te Ara Ahi continues south past Te Puia, another notable geothermal park with dramatic bubbling pools and the famous Pohutu Geyser. Te Puia is also a great place to engage with living Māori culture through rousing concert performances and the beautiful work produced by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute on site.
The trail then leaves Rotorua town via Hemo Gorge. On your left it’s impossible to miss the entrance to the Redwoods Mountain Bike Park down Waipa State Mill Road; even if you’re not riding, it’s well worth swinging into the ‘Hub’ for a coffee and chats with local riders.
Te Ara Ahi turns into a concrete pathway and continues alongside busy SH5. It’s a smooth and easy ride to Waimangu Road turn off, which the trail then takes to reach Waimangu Volcanic Valley – one of the world’s youngest thermal areas. Enjoy refreshments in the cafe here, or pay the admittance fee to take a walk amidst the park’s unique features.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley—Waikite Valley Thermal Pools
From Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the trail continues onward along Waimangu Road, past Lake Okaro picnic area (where there are campsites available) and on to SH38.
After crossing the highway, the trail follows an off-road cycle path around Rainbow Mountain, passing a roadside picnic area, before dropping down to cross Old Waiotapu Road.
At this point, you can turn left to go to Te Ranga (a thermally heated stream locally known as Kerosene Creek) or carry on straight ahead on an off-road trail all the way to Waiotapu. Parts of the trail are steep and some walking may be required.
Waiotapu has a hotel with accommodation, a petrol station, and a honey factory with a cafe and shop. Only 2km away is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, another of the area’s famous volcanic areas featuring brilliantly coloured waters, steam and bubbling mud galore.
From Waiotapu, the trailheads along Waikite Valley Road for 6km to reach Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, a rewarding attraction blending various hot pools with geological sights, camping, and a cafe.
Source: The New Zealand Cycle Trail