The Great Lake Trail is one of the 23 Great Rides of the NZ Cycle Trail. It is purpose built single-track that crosses the ridges of Lake Taupo's western bays and drops down to lake level in between. The Great Lake Trail is comprised of 4 sections: The Whakaipo To Kinloch (W2K) section including the headland loop, The Kinloch To Kawakawa section, The Orakau Stream section, and the yet to be completed Waihaha section (respectively from east to west). This is a grade 3 trail and is challenging in its climbs but is generally not a very technical ride.
A courtesy vehicle or bus and boat shuttles are available – which help ease the access to get aroad the Great Lake Trail, so talk to us about these options too.
The following is an in depth description of the sections of the Great Lake Trail:
The Whakaipo To Kinloch (W2K) section:
This fantastic track is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. If you like riding your bike off road and enjoy NZ's native bush you will surely have a great time! The W2K is 14km over to Kinloch and there is a 9km loop that can be added on the headlands at the top. To ride this section of the Great Lake trail, start off in the west end of Whakaipo bay just a stones throw away from the crystal clear waters of Lake Taupo. Cross the bike specific style over the fence where you find a map of the trail then head up across the grass pasture past the sheep and bee boxes. In about 300m the track heads into the bush. The more steeper and more consistent part of the climb up to the headlands is off the start while it is a more undulating climbing once you get about 4km along (about halfway up the top/junction). This Great Lake Trail is packed soil and pumice in its natural state. There was no major importing of gravel into this track, the surface it just way a real mountain bike track should be. Looping around some contours on the hillsides there are excellent views of the Lake and the Tongariro National Park to the south. Along the Great Lake Trail listen for native birds and wind in the bushes at one of the nice viewpoints. There are some great fast flowing sections of trail as you approach the junction of the headland loop, but beware this is a two way track and please respect other users.
At the junction there is a toilet and map but no water supply. Here there is an option for riders to add another 9km loop section onto the route to Kinloch. The headlands loop can be ridden in either direction, start from the junction with the shelter or ride it counter clockwise from the other end of the loop just 1km along the W2K trail towards Kinloch. The headland loop is part of the Great Lake Trail, however it is narrower and more technical than the rest of the W2K section. On the Headlands Loop there is no major rooty or rocky sections, just tighter corners with plenty of fast flowing descents. It's one of those rare gems that feels like there is more descending than climbing. A masterfully built trail.
Once you rejoin the main W2K section of the Great Lake Trail it is almost all downhill for 6km to Kinloch. The riding is fast and flowing as the trail traverses the bushy hillside for a while before emerging round a rocky hillside clearing to a stunning view of Kinloch and the bay. From here it is consistent downhill to Kinloch and the track remains a nice packed soil surface. Enjoy the switchbacks and watch out that trees don't jump out at you! There is a small gate at the bottom of the track before crossing a residential road. This section of the Great Lake Trail then follows a gully, goes past a few big boulders, and onto a boardwalk before emerging onto the beach. Riders then follow the beach access road to the boat harbour and cross the arched bridge over the the Kinloch lakefront domain. A refreshing beverage or coffee can be enjoyed at the Tipsy Trout. Jump in the lake for swim or just enjoy the view from the beach.
The Kinloch to Kawakawa section:
This section of the Great Lake Trail is 10km, it crossing the ridge between Whangamata Bay and Kawakawa bay. The trail starts heading west on a grassy path just a few meters up from the sandy beach. There is a small bridge to cross where the Whangamata stream comes out to the lake. This point is the junction of the Whangamata Stream Trail that goes up to Whangamata Rd. The Kawakawa section of the Great Lake Trail continues on into the bush and soon crosses a larger bridge over the Otaketake stream. From here the real climbing starts. Gradients are not too steep and the track is not very technical.
The trail surface is well graded, maintained and is a nice mixture of packed soil and packed pumice in some parts much like the W2K section. At the 4km mark the trail climbs more steeply and the highest elevation of the trail is reached at about 6.5km where there is a rock lookout over a stunning view of Kawakawa bay. There is no mistaking how this bay got it's name with all the Kawakawa trees below. On the left of the panoramic view some cliffs can be seen that are often used by rock climbers. The far west bays of Waihaha and Waihora can also been seen. If you are riding on one of our expeditions it is also interesting to note that Mt. Pureora (of the Pureora Timber Trail) can be seen on the western horizon if it is a clear day.
Now the 2.5km descent begins! It's a long, flowing, fun, and exilerating ride down into the bay right to the water! At the bottom, take the right turn to head onwards (onto the Orakau Section) or go straight to find the toilet and beach. Just west of the toilet (along the next section of track for 50m there is campsite that the track currently goes straight through. Sit on the nice fine stoney beach, enjoy the crysttal clear waters, listen to the breeze in the Kawakawa trees along with the Tui birds, Tomtits, Fantails, and other native birds. Look out over our beautiful lake and ponder how it all came to be.
The Orakau Section:
This 10km section of The Great Lake Trail is newer (completed mid 2012) and joins the pre-existing Kawakawa track. This section (just like all the rest) is a two way track and is commonly done from west to east, especially when doing a day ride. Continuing on, as riders would do in our expeditions, the Great Lake Trail parallels the beach for a short while. The stones under your tyre treads will make you aware that you are actually riding on the beach which is now covered in bush!
Riding under a ponga tree frond (or dozens for that matter) the trail then crosses two bridges before starting the climb and soon cyclist will arrive at a couple of bench seats. Here there are stunning views of the volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park just south of the Lake Taupo. The Great Lake Trail winds on through native bush and continues to climb a fairly gentle gradient with some small descents along the way as it joins the Orakau stream valley. Traversing the sides of this small valley the trail descends to a wide bridge (without handrails) to cross over the stream. The trail emerges onto a clearing with hardy grasses before heading back into bush and arriving at another seat. With the lake and mountains out of view now the trail rolls in and out of bush and Harakeke (flax) wetland areas. There are a couple of boardwalks with excellent views of the wetland/stream valley with the pastureland visible on the nearby rural hillsides.
Eventually riders weave through a few gullies around pine trees before arriving at Whangamata Road and the car park. (If riding from Whangamata road down to the bay (west to east) then the vast majority of trail is downhill).
The Waihaha Section:
Currently this section of the Great Lake Trail is under construction. It is accessable from the Western Bays Rd. SH32. There is amazing riding found here, rocks have been blasted, and many big bridges built to access waterfalls and more untouched shores of the beautiful Lake Taupo! All for your riding pleasure! Visit the information site or a local bike shop to get a trail map.
This is a 1.5–2.5 hour walk over farmland, bush and a stream to the summit of the dormant volcano. At the summit you have great views of the central plateau, White Island and sprawling forests.
New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage Site. The Tongariro National Park is rich in both cultural identity and dramatic, awe-inspiring natural scenery. Unique landforms, including the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu ensure the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered a world-renowned trek.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is heralded as the best one-day trek available in New Zealand, while others say it ranks among the top ten single-day treks in the world.
Many who complete the 19.4-kilometre journey will tell you the climbs can be steep and the weather unpredictable, though worth it in every aspect.
Prepare for the elements. Ensure transport is arranged to drop you at the beginning of the track and pick you up at the end of the day.
Please contact us to build an adventure for you!