Waikato River Trails

There are few better places for cycling than the banks of the mighty Waikato River. From native forest and birdlife to hydro dams, suspension bridges and exhilarating downhills, there’s plenty for mountain bikers to enjoy.

Waikato River Trails, South Waikato

The Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest and the 100km of off-road trails that follow the river’s banks between Atiamuri and Pokaiwhenua Bridge are known as the Waikato River Trails. The journey takes in five lakes, five hydro dams and a number of small towns and villages, showcasing some of the best of the Waikato heartland.

The Maraetai and Whakamaru sections in the south and Karapiro section in the north are Grade 3 (intermediate), making them ideal for nature lovers and family groups of intermediate riding ability. Highlights of the Maraetai and Whakamaru sections include the 70m long Mangakino Suspension Bridge, Whakamaru Dam and two picturesque lakes, while the Karapiro section offers fantastic views of Lake Karapiro and the 1929 Arapuni Power Station. The easily accessible Karapiro section is also notable for a 500m boardwalk through the Huihuitaha Wetland – home to many different birds.

More experienced riders might want to try the Waipapa and Arapuni sections, graded 4 and 5 (Advanced - expert), – both of which offer challenging down hill sections. These sections include two massive hydro dams and the 80m long Mangawera Suspension Bridge. The vertigo-inducing bridge offers spectacular views over the river below. These trails take riders through native and exotic forest, requiring riders to adapt to a variety of different surfaces.

There are cycle-friendly accommodation options for those who want to stay overnight, and tour companies offering single or multi-day tours of the trails. Bike hire and shuttle services are also available.

For more information visit www.waikatorivertrails.com


  • Discover 100km of trails taking in five lakes and four hydro dams
  • Explore the banks of New Zealand’s longest river
  • Hurtle down hillsides on the Waipapa and Arapuni sections
  • Cross suspension bridges high above the water
  • Ride along tracks and boardwalks through native and exotic forest
  • Suitable for walking and hiking

Sections on the Waikato River Trails

  • Karapiro section (Pokaiwhenua Bridge Carpark to Arapuni Village), 11.5km, Grade 3(Intermediate)
  • Arapuni section (Arapuni Village to Waipapa Dam), 36km, Grade 3-5 (Intermediate - advanced)
  • Waipapa section (Waipapa Dam to Mangakino Lakefront), 19km, Grade 4 (Advanced)
  • Maraetai section (Mangakino Lakefront to Whakamaru Dam), 12.1km, Grade 3 (Intermediate)
  • Whakamaru section (Whakamaru Dam to Atiamuri), 23.5km, Grade 3 (Intermediate)

The Taniwha

The Waikato River Trails also plays host to The Taniwha multisport event each year which consist of seven mountain bike categories and nine off-road run/walk categories along the Waikato River Trails. For more information visit www.thetaniwha.co.nz