A pleasant ride in itself, this route connects the Waikato River Trails and the Timber Trail via quiet backcountry roads and old forestry tracks.
Highlights include the classic Arataki swing bridge and an out-of-the way monument marking the geographic centre of the North Island. This ride forms part of Tour Aotearoa, a 3000km brevet route through the length of New Zealand.
From Managakino centre, follow the Waikato River Trails towards Whakamaru for 6.3km before turning right up a gravel road that leads to State Highway 30, only 500 metres away. Turn left down the highway for 300 metres, and then carefully cross the highway to McDonald Road.
Follow McDonald Road for almost 7km before turning left at Sandel Road. After 700 metres, turn right at Henderson Road, then take the next right turn into Arataki Road and follow it as it turns from seal, to gravel to dirt.
At the 24.6km mark from Mangakino, you’ll see a 4WD track veering left to the Arataki swing bridge – a narrow wire bridge crossing a gorge over the Mangakino Stream. You might like to avoid looking down if you’re afraid of heights. The narrowness off the bridge means you’ll have to remove any panniers before you cross.
On the other side of the bridge, clamber across the small gully and turn right onto an old forestry road, which is now maintained as a cycle trail and has NZCT signage.
Follow the signs to reach a gravel road and the DOC sign (35km from Mangakino) directing you (right) towards the geographic Centre of the North Island. It’s only 500 metres from the main gravel road, and follows a single track into beautiful forest with a monumental plinth marking the centre – a classic example of 1970s Forest Service design and a photo-op not to be missed of course!
Backtrack to the main gravel road, and turn right. This will lead you to Link Road, which leads to the Pureora camping area and the start of the Timber Trail.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
Need to Know
FITNESS & SKILLS
The surface of this trail is as follows: 6km gravel cycle trail; 14km sealed road; 9km 4WD track; 20km gravel road; and 1km single track. Although it is graded up to advanced (4), it features a lot of intermediate (grade 3) and is therefore suitable for averagely fit riders with some cycle touring experience.
TYPE OF BIKE
A ship-shape mountain bike is essential for the remoteness and terrain. Riders should ideally have basic mechanical skills and carry a tool kit. E-mountain bikes with sufficient battery capacity are also suitable, however, riders should be fit enough to complete the ride in the event of a technical hitch.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
This trail is well signposted but carrying a map of the area will reduce the risk of wrong turns, help you time your ride, and identify points of interest along the way.
This trail can ridden year round although it’s proximity to mountain ranges means it can be cold and wet at any time. Good wet-weather gear is essential.
ACCOMMODATION, FOOD & WATER
Food & accommodation is available in Mangakino. There is camping at Pureora and some accommodation & food in nearby Bennydale.
This route links with the Waikato River and Timber Trails and therefore their local transport connections to service towns such as Taumarunui and Taupō.
Coverage is available in Mangakino and Pureora but limited along the rest of the trail.
There are public toilets in Mangakino and Pureora.