This 17 km track located close by to the town of Taupo is a scenic loop crossing Huka Falls initially then continuing north along the Waikato river. There are some great panoramic lookout points along the way which feature the powerful Waikato river, bright green belts of forest and tracts of farmland. From atop high vantage points you can spy on somnambulent livestock dotted on the far hills.
The first leg of the journey takes you through interesting landscapes, undulating hills and narrow grass tracks, through woodland, tropical forest, open fields, and sandy lunar landscapes that feature succulents.It’s almost as though you are cycling through several micro-climates. The variation in the surroundings keeps it engaging.
At the mid point you reach the Aratiatia dam. It’s well worth the effort to time your MTB trip to coincide with the opening of the dam which happens three times a day, 10 am, 12pm and 2pm. The dam itself is a vibrant iridescent blue and must be very inviting for a swim in the summer. Given that it was the end of the winter it was too chilly to dive in. It’s crystal clear and you can almost see to the bottom.
On the south side of the river, on the way back you will encounter a long track past farm land which feels very closed off from the cares of the world. It’s incredibly peaceful and quiet here.
After a few km you will come to a labyrinthine geothermal streams which snake through primeval forests. The streams are completely quiet and there’s nobody else around, it’s quite a magical find.
The steam coming off the streams creates a slightly enchanted and creepy aura to the place. Peer into the water you will see bright fluorescent green microbial mats and cascading water flowing over the top. It has a sort of Excalibur, Tales of Arthurian England or Tolkeinesque vibe. Easy to see why Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand when you chance upon this place. It’s a secret sanctuary and if you asked me what its exact location was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s a bit off the track so good luck in finding it.
Taupo’s geothermal region is full of these kinds of discoveries though, quiet, otherworldly and magical places that aren’t in any way described in guide books. On this day, (which was a week day, freezing and sunny) there was nobody else on the track. I’m not sure that this is always the case, possibly not. In which case you will be sharing the track with others, which can be a bit annoying. But not for us on this day.
After this, you will cycle past a resort here with a couple of decent cafes, it’s worth a little rest and a smoothie, beer or cup of tea. Followed by more geothermal streams and then the track meanders past a golf course, a Honey Hive shop (seriously overpriced, avoid) and the Hub Cafe.
In terms of hiring bikes, we used the Souvenir Bike Outlet which is right near Huka Falls. The people there was super nice, the bikes themselves were high quality and safe and had great tread on the tyres. I highly recommend getting your bikes from there.