Following the shores of the Waikato River, The Waikato River Trail runs for 100km & passes five hydro-lakes, through native bush, exotic forest, and open farmland. Along the way there are many interesting rock formations, swingbridges, boardwalks and a heap of great views.
Waikato River Trail Map
Download your own River Trail map & elevations from Karapiro to Atiamuri courtesy of Waikato River Trails
WRT_map & elevations.pdf (3.24MB)

KARAPIRO SECTION

Intermediate – 15km Arapuni Dam to Pokaiwhewnua Carpark. Sth - Nth

Predominately downhill or flat. 15km mark to 0km on elevation detail above.
Leave Arapuni Dam & head north towards the Swing Bridge on tree lined tracks along the top of bluffs . The trail comes up to the road where there are toilets.
Or take in a coffee at Rhubarb Cafe in the Village, and then re-trace along the road towards the toilets, re-enter the track & ride on heading north. (There are also toilets on the other side of the Arapuni Dam.)
At this point you can opt to either cross the Swing Bridge to see the Powerhouse - commissioned in 1929 - and turn right downhill on the access road & rejoin the trail on the left, approx 1.25km on, or follow the trail (from the right hand path as shown in the photo on the left) and then cross the road and drop down to river level by the junction of the Waikato River & ???? Stream.
Cycle along the river edge & onto the Huihuitaha Wetlands boardwalk on to Little Waipa Reserve.
Cycle out from Little Waipa Reserve to Horahora Rd and ride beside the road & river to Pokaiwhenua Bridge and carpark.
Or - you can collect a kayak & drift / paddle downstream to the Pokaiwhenua Stream & spend time exploring the stream canyon and then visit the submerged Horahora Dam. Commissioned in 1913 to supply power to the Waihi Gold Mines it was flooded by the rising Lake Karapiro in 1947.


ARAPUNI SECTION:

Advanced - up to 36km. Arapuni Dam - Waipapa Dam. Nth - Sth

Here you cross the road and ride the 2.5k track to Jones Landing. This part of the trail is fairly steep with stairs and narrow walkways - it is for more experienced riders only though it is in the process of being re-aligned.
We sugest walking this portion and be meet by shuttle at the other end to go to Waotu Quarry (that's the high point on the above elevation detail). You walk under an umbrella of Kanuka trees, but do take the time to view the pink hues of the ignimbrite bluffs across the lake. The view from the lookout is worth the trip! There is a toilet and nearby picnic area at Jones Landing.
(Our TriVenture drops you off at Jones Landing to walk this portion (South to North) before picking up your bike at the Arapuni Dam, and then cycling on to Little Waipa to then get on a kayak for the remainder of the Trail. )
Alternatively you can ride 15km along sealed roads to Waotu South Rd. Follow the blue markers.
Here you are once again reconnected with the cycle track. This part of the trail descends steeply via a series of switchbacks, (300m drop) past the quarry to the river below. Follow the trail through native forest and over the 80 metre Mangarewa Suspension Bridge, along old logging tracks and pine forest to Waipapa Dam. Approx 16km from Quarry to Waipapa Dam.

WAIPAPA SECTION:

Advanced 14.6km.
Waipapa Dam - Maraitai Dam. Nth - Sth

Follow the trail off to the side of the road for a couple of kms & then leave it to drop into a gully of native trees.
Cycle along the tree lined tracks by the river edge, taking time to pause & listen to the tuis whilst enjoying the great views of the river.
Drop down to lake level & then climb again - the views are worth it....
As you get close to the Maraitai dam, you enter a pine block & onto old forestry tracks. covered with pine needles.
Cross the access road & continue on to see some of the dam construction history - the concrete mixing site.
The ewnd is near - a shuttle can pick you up there or continue on the main road (Waipapa Road) to Mangakino. Approx 3kms

MARATAI SECTION:

Intermediate. 12.1km Maraitai Dam - Whakamaru Dam. Nth - Sth
From Maraitai Dam there is a 3km road trail to Mangakino.
Head on to the lakefront, stopping if you wish at the Truck Stop Cafe on the Mangakino Lakefront for some of the best food & refreshments in town!
Carry on south along Lake Maraitai through magnificent native plantings, cross the 70m long Mangakino Suspension Bridge and head to Whakamaru Dam. Your option here is to turn right to Whakamaru Village for more refreshments, or turn left & continue on the trail.

WHAKAMARU SECTION:

Intermediate – 23.5km Whakamaru Dam - Atiamuri

Head south over the dam onto a gravel roadway through a pine studded free camping area to the track beyond. Here the track alternates between pumice and clay tracks hugging close to the river there are plenty of places to stop for a picnic & just listen to the water lapping.
Veering close to the road at times and then back along the river you reach the Lake Whakamaru Christian Camp which is about 1/4 of the way along this portion of the trail.
Then through a combination of native bush and pine forest alongside Lake Whakamaru, over boardwalks & around many corners you eventually reach the car park near State Highway one (Atiamuri Dam).