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Riding the Rimutaka Cycle Trail

Wondering what your ride's going to be like? Here are the details of what to expect when you set off.

Petone Foreshore to Maymorn

Rimutaka cycle Hutt City

35 km, 3-5 hours, Grade 2 easy

The first section of the trail runs mostly along the banks of the Hutt River, through parkland on the fairly easy grade sealed and gravel paths of the popular Hutt River Trail. Suitable for families, the population centres of Upper and Lower Hutt are nearby, meaning it’s ideal for a half day casual ride, either partially or in its entirety. For more experienced riders, it’s an easy warm up before the more technical forested section.

Historic site of the Hikoikoi pā, one of the largest Māori settlements in pre-European New Zealand

Beginning at Petone Wharf. Riders then head along the  foreshore to the mouth of the Hutt River, historic site of the Hikoikoi pā, one of the largest Māori settlements in pre-European New Zealand. The trail then follows the river north-east through the park-like public corridor on both sealed and gravelled pathways.

Eventually leaving the riverbank at Te Marua, riders follow a short road section to the entrance to Tunnel Gully to begin the second part of the trail.

Maymorn to Cross Creek

Tunnel Gully Rimutaka Rail Trail

25 km, 3-4 hours, Grade 2-3 easy to intermediate

Threaded through the Rimutaka Ranges, the second section offers travels into New Zealand’s bush-clad past. Beginning with Tunnel Gully, riders travel on a metalled forestry road through the historic Maymorn Tunnel and lush green bush to Kaitoke. A short public road then connects with the beginning of the ‘rail trail’ section.

Riders plunge back into the bush, following the old railway route, established in 1878. The route follows the Pakuratahi River for much of its distance and crosses it using picturesque bridges. From Ladle Bend bridge the trail travels through plantation forestry to Summit.

Riders plunge back into the bush, following the old railway route, established in 1878.

From Summit the trail descends along the path of the historic Fell Locomotive Incline. The gradient is typically 1 in 15, a modest descent by mountain bike, but a formidable challenge for a railway. With three railway tunnels on the descent, including the 576m Summit Tunnel, some form of light is advisable.

Riders emerge from the ranges at Cross Creek, into the wide-open expanse of the Wairarapa Valley, the region’s agricultural breadbasket.

Cross Creek to Ocean Beach

Rimutaka cycle Lake Wairarapa

36 km, 2-3 hours, Grade 3 intermediate (on road)

Some riders may opt to turn north-east on Western Lake Road to the town of Featherston (12km) to finish their day’s ride.

The trail, however, turns south west and runs alongside the shore of Lake Wairarapa. This section is a gentle descent on sealed public road, easily ridden, with some care required for occasional motor vehicles.  Riders will travel through rich farmland, where sheep and cattle chave grazed since Eurpoeans first settled in the 19th century. Towards the coast riders pass Lake Onoke, part of the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands Park, home to indigenous and migratory waterbirds, and a historically productive food and material resource for local Māori.

Riders reach the big blue of Cook Strait at the settlement of Ocean Beach.

Ocean Beach to Orongorongo

Rimutaka Cycle Trail coast

18 km, 3-5 hours, Grade 3-4 intermediate to advanced

The final section of the trail runs along the South Coast of the North Island, with the Cook Strait on your left and hill country to your right . On a clear day, the snow-capped peaks of the South Island’s Kaikoura Ranges are visible across the water. Much of the land is part of the Orongorongo Station, one of the oldest established operations in the country.  The landscape is one of stark and rugged beauty, but do keep an eye on the weather while planning and riding, as this section is exposed to southerly winds off the ocean.

The headland is also home to a colony of up to 500 fur seals each winter.

The southernmost point of the trail is at Turakirae Head, where riders will find the unique geological formation of the raised beaches. Formed by a series of tectonic uplifts over the past 7000 years, three of the five ‘beaches’ are visible as distinct ridges on the coastline. The headland is also home to a colony of up to 500 fur seals each winter.

The trail then runs north to the mouth of the Orongorongo River where the Wainuiomata Coast Road provides a road link back to the city of Wellington.

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