3 Day Waikato River Trail - Self guided tour
Atiamuri – Mangakino – Waipapa – Arapuni (Grade 3 & 4)
Day 1 - Atiamuri to Mangakino (38km, 5-6hours)
After a relaxing stay at Sanctuary Lodge Maungatautari you will be transported to begin your ride today at Atiamuri, the southernmost point of the Waikato River Trail. This 26km section is almost always in sight of the scenic and expansive Lake Whakamaru. Watching over you just after the Atiamuri Dam is the stunning half-million-year-old Pohaturoa volcanic plug, a magnificent historically significant feature. The trail then hugs the lake through pine forests and native bush, adjacent to farmland. Across the lake sheer bluffs rise from the water to provide an amazing backdrop. Once you arrive at Whakamaru Dam it is only a short ride to The Dam Café in the village for a well-deserved break and some lunch. The trail is moderately technical with some short steep areas and corners to navigate and is graded INTERMEDIATE.
After lunch it is onto the second part of the ride through to the hydro village of Mangakino. This 12km section has great views along Lake Maraetai and just before the village is the 70m long Mangakino Stream suspension bridge. The WRT Trust has recently planted several thousand native trees along the edge of the lake on this section of trail. On reaching the picturesque Mangakino lakefront your transport will be waiting to transfer you back to Sanctuary Lodge.
Day 2 - Mangakino to Waipapa Dam (19km, 2-3hours)
This morning you will be transported back to Mangakino where you will pick up from yesterday’s finish point. This section is for those looking for a little adventure as there are no alternative routes off the trail once you begin. The Waipapa section combines high quality custom-built trails through native bush, along with long flowing forestry trails. There are some steep areas giving this section its ADVANCED grading. There are historic sites at the start of this section where construction of the Maraetai Dams took place, information panels are situated in the area to share some of the stories.
The Waipapa section of the WRT is more remote than others but should not be missed. You also have the option of adding a 20km ride from Waipapa Dam to the Mangarewa Suspension bridge and return (info below). On completion we transport you back to the stunning Sanctuary Lodge Maungatautari for dinner and a well-earned rest.
Day 3 - Waipapa Dam to Arapuni Dam then to Pokaiwhenua Bridge
(35km road section, 3-4hours and/or 14km, 2hours)
Starting the day back at Waipapa Dam, the Arapuni section is on quiet country roads that are mostly sealed, with a short section of metal/gravel. The gradient includes some long steep climbs and is graded INTERMEDIATE. On reaching the Arapuni Dam it is possible to ride the short but challenging section of trail to Jones Landing and return (6km), stopping at the top of a rocky bluff to enjoy a spectacular view of Lake Arapuni.
If starting your ride at Arapuni Dam, the Karapiro section is the most popular of the entire WRT. Rhubarb Café in Arapuni village is a favourite spot for coffee and lunch, located only 400 metres from the historic Arapuni swing-bridge. This amazing structure soars over the top of a working power station built in the 1920’s and is an absolute must-visit on the WRT.
The Karapiro section takes a route through native bush with short climbs and downhills then on to a unique wetland and over a 500m long continuous boardwalk, all alongside the edge of the Waikato River and Lake Karapiro. The final few kilometres of trail follows next to open farmland and pastures before finishing at the Pokaiwhenua Bridge carpark.
**There are options in the afternoon of Day 3 if the shorter ride is chosen:
- visit the ecological island Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari
- a daytime kayak tour on Lake Karapiro
- a twilight kayak glowworm tour
- We are also able to add an extra night’s accommodation at Hidden Lake Hotel in Cambridge if required.
The extra sections:
- Waipapa Dam to the Mangarewa Suspension Bridge - 10km one way.
From the Waipapa Dam end the trail quickly hits the Tumai steps – sorry to say but this means you will need to push your bike! The reward at the top is the awesome view down to the Waikato River. 9km further along is the 80m long Mangarewa suspension bridge, 42m above the stream below. As the trail ends at the northern end of the bridge, you will need to return to Waipapa Dam.
- Arapuni Dam to Jones Landing - 3km one way.
At the Arapuni Dam you can cross the road and head towards Jones Landing. This is a technical trail for riding and is more suitable for walking. Along this journey make sure you pop up to the lookout to see over Jones Landing and Lake Arapuni below.
- all shuttle transfers & hardtail mountain bike hire for 3 days
- 3 night’s accommodation at Sanctuary Lodge Maungatautari
- 3 x dinner and 3 x breakfast
- 1 x packed lunch
Priced from $899pp
- eBike upgrade $150pp
- Single supplement $260pp
- Support vehicle $349 per day
- Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari tour $38pp
- Daytime Karapiro kayak tour $89pp
- Private twilight kayak glow-worm tour $149pp