Planning on riding Te Ara Ahi - Thermal by Bike? Contact us so we can help you plan your trail itinerary.
Te Ara Ahi means the Pathway of Fire, and is a two day Great Ride that extends 51 km from Rotorua to the thermal area of Waikite Valley. There is an optional on-road extension out to Lake Ohakuri on the Waikato River for those who want more distance, but with plenty of inviting distractions along the route, there is really no need to hurry! This Grade 2-3 trail takes in the best of Rotorua's thermal activity and is suitable for most 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 Redwoods, cyclists pass Green Lake and Waimangu and continue on to Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland and the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.
Rotorua to Waiotapu (31 km)
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 Maori Village. From the village, head south past Te Puia, the New Zealand Maori 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 kilometres of custom-built single track.
From the mountain bike car park, join onto the start of the recently built concrete cycle path which follows the highway to Tumunui (approx. 12 km), providing for smooth and easy riding. The trail then follows Waimangu Road to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which is 31 km from Rotorua. Depending on your speed, this can make s suitable point to end the day with a soak and a shuttle back to your bed for the night, or camp just up the trail at Lake Okaro.
Waiotapu to Waikite Valley (20 km)
After leaving the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, continue along Waimangu Road, past the Lake Okaro picnic area as far as State Highway 38 where you can take the underpass under the highway. You will soon meet an optional detour out to Kerosene Creek. The off-road cycle path around Rainbow Mountain leads to a great spot to park up the bike and soak away any aches in a natural thermal pool. Parts of the trail are steep here and there may be some walking for inexperienced cyclists.
It's only a quick ride along the gravel road to Waiotapu where you will find a cafe, an old hotel and a honey shop. There are further thermal experiences 2 km off the trail.After leaving Waiotapu, follow the Waikite Valley Road down for about 5 km to the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. There is camping available here, or you can pre-arrange a shuttle back to Rotorua. For those extending the trail, 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.
Te Ara Ahi provides a nice, slower-paced alternative to the Mountain Bike Parks that Rotorua is famous for, and the thermal baths will ensure your body will not regret it.