Known as one of the best adventure mountain bike rides in the North Island, the 42 Traverse is a 46km multi-use track that travels through the Tongariro Forest Conservation Area. The Grade 3 challenging trail will take riders 3-7 hours to ride, with a number of sections to test your fitness and skill level.

Named after the forest, which was originally called State Forest 42, the 42 Traverse includes the spectacular Canyon Valley – a wide cleft of earth that offers remarkable views to the volcanoes. Olympic rower Brenda Lawson provides some advice for those looking to ride this epic trail. “The 42 Traverse has awesome scenery, big uphills and amazing downhills. To really enjoy this ride, you should have good skills and fitness. It is especially tough in wet conditions, so make sure you have good tyres, a first-aid kit, your outdoor safety intentions and checks are in place, and make sure you are really well-equipped for a long ride out of cellphone coverage.”

This premium sub-alpine New Zealand ride is renowned for its long downhill sections and varied surfaces. The track surfaces are often rutted with gravel and mud, stream crossings and uphills. The views from the volcanic plateau are phenomenal, including several mountains that feature in the Lord of the Rings movies. The spectacular scenery will distract you from the uphill sections, as you travel through the magnificent vistas beside three volcanoes and unspoilt bush. If you’re riding the 42 Traverse between 1 December to 30 April then beware that 4WD vehicle access is open each summer and you may encounter vehicles.

The trail is best ridden from State Highway 47 (starting at the Kapoors Road carpark) to Owhango. In this direction the trail starts at an altitude of 910m and finishes at 395m, but there are several large climbs of up to 380m. It is a point-to-point ride so you will need to arrange transport or a shuttle at one end. Be wary around stream crossings especially after rainfall – due to the large catchment they can rise very rapidly. Only cross streams once you’ve assessed them as safe.

Insider Tips

  • Once you reach the Tongariro Forest there are very few options for back-tracking, so make sure you take all safety precautions as recommended by the Department of Conservation, and the Mountain Safety Council in New Zealand. 
  • Don’t forget to take your camera to capture pictures of mountains Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe (which was Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings).
  • Recharge with a coffee at Café 39 South in Owhango.