Discover the mighty Waikato; New Zealand’s longest river flowing 425 km to the sea from Lake Taupo. Historically a vital transport route, now leafy urban walkways link parks, Hamilton and surrounding towns in a network of shared pathways. The Waikato River Trails offers views of the Waikato, New Zealand’s longest river as it carves its way past original forest, planted timber plantations, rolling farmland and wetlands. There are suspension bridges, streams and boardwalks to explore.
WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL
The Waikato River Trails is mapped by New Zealand’s longest river with suspension bridges, streams and boardwalks to explore. There are 5 WAIKATO RIVER SECTIONS. The trail is a shared cycle and walking pathway.
WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL SECTIONS
Made up of five trails that follow the Waikato River there are five lakes, four hydro dams and three suspension bridges and boardwalks over regenerating wetlands.
The trail length is 100km and follows the river from Lake Karapiro to Atiamuri. To complete all five sections between 2 – 5 days depending on stops and cycling speed. For cycling grades check Waikato Rivers trails for up to date information. Tour operators can manage drop-offs, pick-ups and accommodation. The Waikato River Trails are managed by the Waikato River Trails Charitable Trust.
KARAPIRO SECTION – NORTHERN SECTION OF THE WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL
14 km to the picturesque hydro town on Arapuni
- Huihuitaha Wetland 500m boardwalk
- View of the Arapuni Dam & swingbridge
- Rhubarb Cafe in Arapuni
This section is very popular with the charms of Lake Karapiro and the promise of the Rhubarb Cafe in Arapuni Village at the finish.
WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL – ARAPUNI – WAIPAPA DAM SECTION
36 km, advanced grade
- Jim Barnetts Reserve with its 1000 year old totara tree
- The thrill of riding 42 metres above the creek on Managarewa suspension bridge
- Waipapa Dam lookout
Arapuni (Arapuni to Waipapa Dam) includes some road riding from Jones Landing to the end of Waotu South Road. Jim Barnetts Reserve is full of birdlife and there is a 1000-year-old totara and well signposted easy walking trails.
WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL – WAIPAPA SECTION
19 km grade moderate
- Views of native and exotic (pine) forest
- 70 m suspension bridge 12 metres height
- Contrast between massive concrete dams and surrounding natural landscape
This section links Lake Maraetai dam and Waipapa dam. It is an advanced trail due to switch backs and over 600 m of climbing. It is considered to be a beautiful remote trail.
WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL – MARAETAI SECTION
12.3 km grade intermediate
- 70m long Mangakino stream suspension bridge 12 metres height
- Bus Stop and Hui Hut Cafes in Mangakino
- Mangakino lakefront views is known for its wakeboarding and water sport activities.
WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL – WHAKAMARU
23.5 km grade intermediate
- Stunning Pohuturoa rock, a magnificent historic marker for river navigation
- Whakamaru Dam
- Lake Whakamaru
- Wetlands and boardwalk of Dunhams Creek Reserve
- Ongaroto Steps
Along the way cyclists pass one of the Waikato’s top destinations Sanctuary Mountain with its predator free fencing. At Mangakino, consider a round of golf at a picturesque golf course. The mighty Waikato River witnessed many battles in the 19th century New Zealand Land Wars and is the location for several urupa (burial sites) for pre-European Maori who had a thread of pa (villages) along the river banks.