Te Ara Ahi is a two day Great Ride that extends 74 kms from Rotorua to the thermal area of Orakei Korako on the Waikato River. This Grade 2 trail takes in the best of Rotorua's thermal activitity and is suitable for all levels of cyclists.
The Great Ride will take riders through four of the world's most unique geothermal areas. Cyclists will first pass Whakarewarewa - a Maori village and an area of hot thermal springs and bubbling mud pools. After passing the Whakarewarew Forest with its towering Californian Coastal Redwoods, cyclists will pass Green Lake and Waimangu and continue on to Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland where they will spend the first night.
Day One: Rotorua to Waiotapu: 48 km, 4 - 6 hours
From Rotorua, the Thermal by Bike trail starts on Queens Drive, opposite the Rotorua i-SITE. From here, head east on Queen Street and follow the Cycle Trail signs around the edge of the picturesque Lake Rotorua. After about 6 kms, you'll arrive at the the historic Whakarewarewa Māori Village. From the village, head south past Te Puia, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, through Hemo Gorge to the entrance to the fantastic Whakarewarewa Mountain Bike Park. There is a cafe here as well as access to hundreds of kms of custom built single track.
From the mountain bike car park, ride 50 m along the highway to the start of the recently built concrete cycle path. This path runs alongside the highway for several kilometres (aprox 30kms) providing for smooth and easy riding. The trail follows Waimangu Road to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which is 31 km from Rotorua.
After leaving the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, continue along Waimangu Road, past the Lake Okaro picnic area as far as State Highway 38. Take care crossing the highway (there is an underpass currently in construction - March 2013) and follow the off-road cycle path around Rainbow Mountain to Kerosene Creek. Kerosene Creek is a great spot to park up the bike and soak away the days pains in a natural thermal pool. Parts of the trail are steep here and there may be some walking fo inexperienced cyclists.
It's only a quick ride along the gravel road to Waiotapu where you finish your first day. There is a cafe, old hotel and a honey shop here. Here you can either spend the night or arrange for transportation back to Rotorua or Taupo.
Day Two: Waiotapu to Lake Ohakuri : 26 km, 2 - 3 hours
After leaving Waiotapu, follow the Waikite Valley Road for about 5 km to the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools (where there is camping available). Continue on 1.5 km past the thermal pools and turn left onto Te Kopia Road and follow this past the Paeroa Thermal Bluffs and on to Lake Ohakuri. The Department of Conservation plans to develop a picnic area where the trail meets the lake.
The cycle trail ends at Lake Ohakuri. From here you can organize a shuttle back to Rotorua or to Taupo.