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Getting technical in Taupō

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November 2021 Issue

The Waihaha Hut Track provides a refreshing technical ride for those who have completed the nearby Great Lakes Cycle Trail.

At the eastern edge of Pureora Forest, the Waihaha Hut Track follows the Waihaha River upstream, plunging from regenerating scrubland into a dense podocarp forest full of towering rimu and kahikatea monsters. 

After completing three superb sections of the Great Lakes Trail, we decided the less groomed and more remote Waihaha Track would add something technical to our Taupō biking holiday. 

It starts at the main highway and heads upstream through the once grazed Waihaha Scenic Reserve. The track is fairly flat to Mangatu Stream confluence and swingbridge. This bridge was tricky to cross when compared to the ride-on, ride-off bridges on the Great Lakes Trail. It brought back memories of the swingbridges once found on the Heaphy Track before it was upgraded for mountain bikers. 

From the bridge, it’s a steep climb that evens out on a narrow section heading away from the river through regenerating native bush and onto a high terrace. Once farming country, this wide terrace roams north and south to Pokaiora Clearing below a row of three distinct 600m volcanic peaks. The track winds through a stunted forest of mānuka and kānuka back to the river. We followed the trail doggedly across the undulating river bank and into a dense mature podocarp forest. 

The Waihaha Hut Track is a technical ride beside the Waihaha River. Photo: Dave Mitchell

From the sunny open flats, we were plunged into twilight with a lower canopy of tree ferns and with massive rimu rising skyward. Once our eyes adjusted to the gloom, we enjoyed riding in the forest with something new at every turn and lots of flow to keep the momentum going.

The track soon leaves the river again, heading inland before popping out on the river bank for a short final section to Waihaha Hut. A backdrop of incredibly tall rimu shields the hut from a low hanging sun and any northerly fronts.

The palatial 10-bunk hut is in a large clearing surrounded by tall timber, green grass and plenty of birdlife. It’s a popular destination for families, hunters and day-trippers. Though mountain bikers cannot go further, for those trampers looking for a longer trip it’s possible to continue on Te Araroa Trail to Bog Inn Hut to the north and Hauhungaroa Hut to the south.

After lunch at the hut, we began the return ride which had a surprising amount of downhill with just a hump near the end before Mangatu swingbridge to slow our gravity-assisted progress.

This track was a superb technical ride and a total contrast to the Great Lake Trail where riders can relax and watch the scenery go by.

18.9km return
Total Ascent
Waihaha Hut ($5, 10 bunks)
From SH32, Waihaha Bridge car park

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Waihaha Hut (gpx, 10 KB)

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