We run our timber trail trips return from Taupo and typically over 2 days with accommodation at one of the 2 lodges on the trail. We always have a stop at the Dam Café in Whakamaru to break up the 75-minute transfer to the start of the trail at the Department of Conservation’s Nga Haerenga campsite, car park.
The Timber Trail is considered of grade 2 status (grade 3 when you include the significant gradual climb up the flanks of Pureora), it is not a technically difficult trail to ride on so it is suitable for riders of all ages and abilities with basic handling skills and a good level of fitness. It's popular among family groups and retirees wanting a mountain bike adventure in the backcountry. You'll just need to be careful on some of the descents and following rain as the trail can be muddy in places, however, there are warning signs erected to advise caution at the time. Always ride within your abilities.
Depending on where you are begin your day, you may ride a distance of up to 50km. If riding from the Black Fern Lodge, you'll ride just over 50km to Ongarue. If from the Timber Trail Lodge, which is right by the trail on the left-hand side heading south, it will be 46km or so to Ongarue. If from the Piropiro camp-site, the distance to Ongarue is 45km.
The trail follows a logging road for a couple of kilometres before reentering the forest on single-track, which twists its way mostly uphill. Parts of the trail are on packed shingle and the rest is packed dirt and rocks, but all is a grade level 2 good riding surface. Depending on the rain level, there will be a few puddles along the way!
After about 5km of riding, you'll enjoy a thrilling descent! At the bottom, you’ll encounter the amazing Maramataha Suspension Bridge, the country’s cycleways highest and longest rideable suspension bridge. You might want to avoid looking down. Or maybe you should…
With the bridge behind you, it’s a steady and challenging climb to Ongarue Tramway terminus. The good news is that you’ve now conquered all the major climbs of the Timber Trail and the trail undulates in a generally downhill direction from this point on, with just a few little climbs to contend with.
Along the old tramway, you’ll see remnants of logging history scattered about, including various huts, and you will cross more bridges. Parts of the trail cut through sheer rock faces shrouded in thick native bush where the sun’s rays seldom penetrate. That means mud, so be prepared for the odd splatter on this part of the trail.
Around the 75km mark is the nationally significant Ongarue Spiral, an engineering marvel explained in an interpretation panel. It is also the only rideable spiral in the world. From there, the trail continues to Ongarue, mostly downhill except for a couple of short pinches along the riverside as you burst into rugged farmland dotted with sheep and deer. The official end of the trail is located in the middle of Ongarue township, but we will collect you at the Bennetts Road car park to avoid the last few kms of road riding.
From here we transfer you back to Taupo via Taumaranui where we can stop for a coffee and a well-earned snack.