Great Lake Trail
On the shores of Lake Taupo lies an epic mountain biking adventure. What began as a pipe dream for a crew of local trail builders has evolved into the stunning Great Lake Trail, a 71km grade 3 (intermediate) mountain biking and walking journey that will take you deep into the native bush surrounding the beautiful Lake Taupo.
The Great Lake Trail traverses some of the most remote areas of the lake shore on a stretch of land between Waihaha Bridge in the west to Whakaipo Bay in the north. A boat shuttle links the different sections of the trail, providing pick ups and drop offs from various picturesque bays along the trail.
Below is a description of each section on the Great Lake Trail:
Towering volcanic rock cliffs, spectacular views and a waterfall hidden deep in the Waihaha Valley are highlights of the Waihaha section. The trail has been built with flowing corners and fun downhills, and some short switchback climbs to keep you honest!
Key Information :
Time Required: 4-5 hours cycling. 7.5 hours walking.
Phone Coverage: Intermittent
Toilets: At start and end of the trail
The cost of the shuttle per person return is $90.
The cost of the boat transfer is $70 per person.
Getting to the Waihaha Section:
From Taupo, drive 57km (around 40 mins) to the Waihaha River Bridge on the Western Bays Road (State Highway 32). If you are coming from Kinloch, the bridge is 37kms (around 30 mins) away. The Waihaha track starts from the car park at the eastern side of the bridge.
Note: Be careful not to confuse the Waihaha Hut Track with the Waihaha section of the Great Lake Trail. The Waihaha section of the Great Lake Trail starts on the eastern side of the Waihaha Bridge and heads east down the Waihaha River, whereas the Waihaha Hut Track starts on the western side of the bridge and heads up the river. The two different trails are signposted.
KAWAKAWA BAY SECTION
At the Orakau carpark, you will find a shelter with a map, information board and a toilet. From here, the trail follows the beautifully clear Orakau Stream thorugh regenerating native bush and past Harakakeke (native flax) wetlands down towards Kawakawa Bay. You will ride across boardwalks, past waterfalls and over ravines as the trail makes its way down towards the lake shore.
This trail is a dream to ride with the generally downhill profile of the first half lending itself to beautifully laid out corners and berms, giving it incredible flow. The trail boasts some stunning scenery and native birdlife – tuis and bellbirds in particular – and there are seats along the way at the best vantage points, so you can rest your legs while taking in the view.
As you near the beach at Kawakawa Bay you will cross two bridges that span some really deep ravines. It’s worth stopping and peering over the sides as the ravines are quite spectacular. After 10.25 km you will emerge onto the beach at the stunning Kawakawa Bay. There are views across the lake to the mountains of Tongariro National Park, and during summer this is the perfect place for a swim in the clear blue waters of Lake Taupo.
A shelter and campsite lies in a clearing at Kawakawa Bay, and you will often see rock climbers here. There is a long drop toilet available but no cooking facilities on site. Please bring your own tent and light no fires.
During summer, Kawakawa Bay is also frequented by boaties and walkers who have come over from Kinloch, so please remember this is a two way track if you are riding over to Kinloch.
From Kawakawa Bay, a 3km switchback climb will take you up onto the Te Kauwae headland before you begin the fast and flowing descent down to the village of Kinloch. Your climbing efforts will be rewarded by magnificent, sweeping views from the top of the hill up towards the western bays. Once down the other side, the trail emerges on the lake front in Kinloch where it continues along the lake shore on a grassy path before reaching the carpark opposite the Kinloch Domain.
There is a shelter and bike wash area on the Kinloch Domain. Make sure you head straight over to the Kinloch Store for a woodfired pizza (in summer) or their famous Grand Loch burger, or hit the Tipsy Trout for a beer, coffee or gourmet meal.
If you want to continue riding after completing the Kawakawa trail, you can carry on from Kinloch and ride the W2K section of the Great Lake Trail over to Whakaipo Bay
Time Required: 2.5-3.5 hours cycling. 6 hours walking
Phone Coverage: Intermittent
Toilets: At start and end of the section
Shuttle: We can arrange a shuttle for you, please EMAIL us & we will take care of it.
Water Taxi: Pre-booked boat transfer available from Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch for those wishing to complete the first 10.25 km only of this section. A great option for those with low fitness levels or for children. Bookings are essential. Please EMAIL us & we will book the boat for you.
Getting to the Kawakawa Section
From Taupo, drive 30 km to the Orakau carpark on Whangamata Road, 11.3 km from the Kinloch turn off. You can leave your car here or arrange to be dropped off by a shuttle service.
At the Kinloch Domain you will find a shelter with a map and bike washdown area. Start riding the W2K section of the Great Lake Trail from here. Follow the markers around the marina, along the lakefront and then up a gully to Boojum Dell. The W2K trail heads up the hill from here, climbing steadily up through native bush and onto the headland, providing spectacular views across Lake Taupo to the mountains of Tongariro National Park as well as back down to Kinloch. Once on top of the headland the trail starts a long, flowing descent down to Whakaipo Bay.
Headland Loop (optional)
From this point at the top of the headland, there is the optional Headland Loop, a 9.5 km trail that follows the top of the Whangamata Bluffs out to the end of the headland then back around the other side to the point at which you started. There are more stunning views to be had from this trail out towards the Kaimanawa Ranges, the Karangahape Cliffs and Tongariro National Park to the south. There is also a short lookout trail off this loop that offers views of Kinloch and Whangamata Bay.
From the Headland Loop junction, head on down the long, flowing descent through the bush to Whakaipo Bay. This beautiful bay is a very popular swimming and picnic spot with its crystal clear water and wide open spaces.
If you are travelling in a self contained vehicle, overnight stays are allowed at the Whakaipo Bay Recreation Reserve. There is a maximum stay of 4 nights in any single calendar month. Toilets are available at the reserve and a fire ban is in place all year round.
Car parking is available at both ends of the trail, or you can arrange for a shuttle to pick you up if you don’t want to ride the return trip.
W2K Key Information
Distance: 13km + optional 9.5km for the Headland Loop Track
Time Required: 2.5 - 3.5 hours cycling, 6 hours walking
Phone Coverage :Intermittent
Toilets: At start and end of the section
Shuttle: Please EMAIL us & we will arrange a shuttle for you.
Water Taxi: Pre-booked boat transfer available from Whakaipo Bay and Kinloch. Bookings are essential.
Please EMAIL us & we will arrange the boat transfer for you.
Getting to the W2K Section:
From Taupo, drive 21 km to the Kinloch Domain in Kinloch village (next door to the Kinloch Store and Tipsy Trout Café). Please EMAIL us for all your shuttle requirements.