The Bridge To Nowhere has been an iconic central north island adventure ride for many years. This mountain bike ride boasts all the characteristics of a good adventure: amazing native bush, rivers, suspension bridges, intriguing history, and a variety of tracks once used by pioneers. There is a long drive into the middle of nowhere just to get started, and at the end of the ride you need to catch a boat to get back to civilisation. The Bridge To Nowhere ride has been upgraded in recent years to become part of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail which is one of the 23 “Great Rides” of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.
The Bridge To Nowhere ride has options, there are two start points to choose from. Both start points to the ride are also in the middle of nowhere. You can start from the northern trail entrance at Whakahoro or the south eastern trail entrace at Ruatiti Road end. These two start options each add different elements to the ride and have different difficulty levels.
The Bridge to Nowhere ride has 2 main sections:
1) The Mangapurua Track - this goes from Ruatiti Road end to the Bridge to Nowhere and on to the Mangapurua Landing
2) The Kaiwhakauka Track - this goes from Whakahoro to the Mangapurua Track (it joins the Mangapurua Track at the Pou which is near the trig / high point of the Mangapurua Track)
This map is of the northern sections Mountains to Sea Trail which includes the Bridge To Nowhere:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is the Mangapurua Landing?
It is the place where trail meets the river and where the jet boat shuttle will pick you up. It is just 3km passed the Bridge To Nowhere. The landing is in the middle of nowhere, there are no shops no cafes and no mobile reception. The old river boat service in 1917 used to drop off passengers at the landing who would then travel up valley to the farms.
Where is the Bridge To Nowhere?
It is just beside the Whanganui River about 26km upstream from Pipiriki. The Bridge To Nowhere crosses the Mangapurua Stream which is a tributary to the Whanganui. There is 3km of track between the Bridge To Nowhere and Mangapurua Landing.
What’s the big deal about this bridge?
The Bridge To Nowhere is the iconic symbol of the failed settlement of the Mangapurua Valley. It’s a famous example of a government initiative that was never going to work. The bridge itself is a 1930s State Highway bridge that was built to allow pioneering settlers to get from the Landing to the track that goes up valley to the farms on the other side. The attempt to settle the Mangapurua Valley was the last large scale poineering venture in New Zealand. Parcels of land were given to servicemen returning from World War 1.
Do I have to take a boat and a shuttle to do this ride?
Yes. Once you get to the river at the Mangapurua Landing you need to get a jet boat (or canoe) to travel downstream to Pipiriki where there is road access. From Pirpiki our shuttle with pick you up and take yo back to your car in Raetihi, Ohakune, National Park etc. Therefore you also need a shuttle at the start of the day to be dropped off at a road end to start the ride. Tread Routes will arrange your jet boat for you when you book a shuttle with us.
I hear a lot of people start from Ruatit Road end, why should I ride from Whakahoro?
Because you add the more adventurous Kaiwhakauka Track. This 12km track adds an overall 4km to your ride for the day (making a total of 42km). It has grade 4 sections and encompasses more interesting terrain and more singletrack. For intermediate to advanced rider this is a must do.
Is this a very hard ride?
The Bridge To Nowhere ride used to be much harder.
Today, the Mangapurura Track is grade 3 (intermediate) so it is suitable and enjoyable for most riders, as long as you have a good level of fitness and at least some mountain biking experience.
The Kaiwhakauka Track from Whakahoro is harder than the Mangapurura Track. It has grade 4 sections and is narrower with tighter corners and more exposure to steep valley on the track edge. More experienced mountain bikers will love this addition to the ride.
Is the Bridge To Nowhere singletrack?
There are sections of singletrack, and sections of 4WD and quad bike track. For those seeking more singletrack, definitely add the Kaiwhakauka Track into your ride (ie: start from the northern entrance at Whakahoro).
I’ve heard it can be done as a loop, is this true?
Yes, but it’s a massive ride. Look up the details in the Kennett Bros book Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides.
Guiding: Tread Routes is your Central North Island mountain bike guide, we have the largest range of trails to choose from and offer the most options. Our expert guides will not only show you way and provide insight into our land, but also teach you some bike skills as we go. With our guided experience you can be assured that you are in the best of care while in our remote wilderness.
Bike hire: We provide high quality hard tail mountain bikes for $60 per day. Most of our hire bike are in the $1000 - $1500 retail price range. High end dual suspension bikes are available on request. For your enjoyment it is important that you hire the right size bike, so we are here to help. When you contact us to make your booking the right information to get you on the right size bike. Helmets are provided with bike hire.
***The jet boat shuttle from Mangapurura Landing is essential to the logistics of the ride. The trail ends at the river. There is no other way out, you must take the boat (or canoe). Tread Routes will arrange your jet boat ride for you when you book a shuttle with us.
Several kilometers downstream (but only part way to Pipiriki) is the Bridge To Nowhere Lodge, which is only accessible from the river. Tread Routes can arrange for you to stay the night there, if it suits the logistics of your experience.
In Pipiriki, the village where the jet boat drops you off, there is nice campsite with a kitchen, lounge, and a couple of cabins. This great place is the HQ of Whanganui River Adventures, who operate a jet boat service.
Please note the Mangapurua and Kaiwhakauka tracks are in a very remote area. There is no mobile reception on the trail, except for a very limited amount at the Mangapurura Trig (the high point of the trail).
Best places to park depends on what entrance you are starting from:
If you are adding the Kaiwhakauka Track starting from Whakahoro (ie: the northern entrace) park at:
National Park: park at the Station Cafe
Taupo: the boat harbour near Stir Cafe (if you have arranged round trip transport with Tread Routes)
If you are riding the Mangapurura Track from Ruatiti Road end (ie: the south eastern entrance) park at:
Ohakune: at the Cycle Trail car park in between the The Junction and the Railway Station (near the Powderhorn) There is a big New Zealand Cycle Trail sign here.
Raetihi: park in the center of town, near the cafe, check the parking time allowances.
Taupo: the boat harbour near Stir Cafe (if you have arranged round trip transport with Tread Routes)
LOGISTICS of the Bridge To Nowhere ride:
Option 1: Ride Mangapurua Track only, starting from Ruatiti Road end (the south eastern entrance):
Park in Raetihi or Ohakune or Taupo. Our shuttle will pick you up from either of these locations.
There 4 parts your round trip journey for day:
1)Shuttle from Raetihi (or Ohakune or Taupo) to the Ruatiti Rd end.
2)You ride the 38km Mangapurua track to Bridge To Nowhere followed by the Mangapurua Landing
3) Jet boat ride downstream to Pipiriki
4) Shuttle from Pipiriki back to Raetihi (or Ohakune or Taupo)
Option 2: Ride the Kaiwhakuka Track and the Mangapurura Track, starting from Whakahoro (the norhtern entrance):
This is our recommendation for intermediate to experienced mountain bikers. The logistics are similar (to the easier trip described above), but the round trip is best started from National Park (or Taupo).
The 4 parts of the round trip journey are as follows:
1) Shuttle from National Park (or Taupo) to Whakahoro
2) You ride the 42km to the Bridge To Nowhere followed by the Mangapurua Landing. This includeds the Kaiwhakauka Track and the best part of the Mangapurura Track.
3) Jet boat ride downstream to Pipiriki
4) Shuttle from Pipiriki back to National Park (or Taupo)
Below is an in depth description of the Kaiwhakauka Track and The Mangapurura Track:
The Kaiwhakauka Track:
This ride in to the bridge to nowhere track starts the unique location where the Oio Road end meets a meander of the Wanganui River. At this cool place you will find The Retaruke Station, Blue Duck Lodge, and DOC campsite. The beginning of the Kaiwhakauka Track is uphill along private farm track through the Retaruke Station which is a huge working sheep and beef farm that spreads through the valleys. The track follows the east bank of the Kaiwhakauka stream to the large swing bridge that has been built directly in and over the original “Depot Bridge” which is the last standing truss bridge of its type in the district. Just after the truss bridge the track passes by the old depot building which was originally built to store supplies that came off the river boat service and were destined for the valley settlers. The track winds through pasture lands, regenerating bush and hugs the hillside around many steep banks above the river. The track narrows for a few km before arriving at the Wanganui National Park boundary.
The track changes significantly as it goes into the Whanganui National Park. The Kaiwhakauka track is an upgraded tramping track, so it is narrower than the farm 4WD track and has many bridges of variying sizes, some cross dips and muddy holes whereas others allow riders to cross streams that pour off the valley walls down to the Kaiwhakauka stream below. Much of the track is benched so there are significant drops to the left side provided superb view of the fern lined valley in all its green splendour. Much of the trail surface is packed soil and there are some rocky corners and tight approached to some of the bridges. Along the way riders will notice many signs with the surnames of the people who once settled the land. The Kaiwhakauka track was once the access way to all these homesteads and was traveled on foot and with pack horses with heavy loads. Eventually the Kaiwhakauka comes out of the bush onto a laneway that opens up into what was the Tobin homestead, a freestanding chimney marks the spot. From here there is a climb up a wide 4WD through mixed podocarp forest for another 3km the junction of the Kaiwhakauka track and the old Mangapura road, which has since become known as the Mangapura track (or "Bridge To Nowhere Track) as the majority of it is only accessed by cyclists and trampers.
The Mangapura Track / Bridge To Nowhere Track:
The Mangapura track, or "Bridge To Nowhere track" is most often accessed from Ruatiti road end, coming from the south west. The track goes through old lanes on private farmland traveling through scrub land and pockets of native bush as it enters the hill country. On a clear day there are stunning views of the Tongariro National Park so be sure to stop for a break and look back at this worlds heritage site. At the junction of the Mangapura and Kaiwhakauka tracks there is a Maori Pou (carved pole). The Pou symbolizes the Ngahere (forest) and was set up to provide cultural and spiritual safety for visitors. It also acts as a tribute to the families who once tried to settle the land.
From the junction cyclists climb up to the Mangapura trig where there is a good stopping point for lunch or camping if you are carrying a tent. This is the hight point of the Bridge To Nowhere track. There is a nice clearing a view of the valleys beyond. Water is available from a spring and there are toilets up a side track where there is also a clearing that provides panoramic views of the Tongariro National Park and Taranaki to the east. From the trig the Bridge To Nowhere track (Mangapurura track) heads steadily down hill trough on the only section of uncut native forest in the valley and towards the first swing bridge (on the Mangapura track), on another 1.5km the track reaches Johnsons. Many of the papa clay bluffs are named after the settlers, there is a settlement map produced by the “Friends of the Wanganui” that outlines these details. Common sights through the valley are rows of exotic trees that mark the laneways to house sites of the early farmers. 3.4km down the Bridge To Nowhere track we find the house site of Edward Johnson who use to collect mail from Mangapura landing and distribute it twice a week throughout the valley to the settlers. Later on cyclists come across the Tester house which was the site of the first school in valley started in 1926 with only seven children at the time.
Bettjemans homestead is marked by a row of poplars along the track and was once thriving location. Bettjeman was the first to arrive and the last to leave the Mangapurura valley in 1942. In its time there was a family house, and bunk room and tennis court, but all that remains today is the brick chimney and exotic tree and plants that surrounded the property. About 1.5km from Bettjemans is Bartrums swingbridge; access for quad bikes stops here. From here on the Bridge To Nowhere track (Mangapura track) narrows and travereses steep clay bluffs, extreme caution should be taken as it can be up to 70m down to the Mangapura stream. One in particular is “currant bun bluff” named because of the rounded exposed boulders that protrude from the curved surface of the bluff. A short distance farther along the Bridge To Nowhere track is waterfall creek (with Hellawells on the other side) which was once the location of choice for hockey games and community picnics for the settlers. A 1.5km walk along a side track up the creek provides a view of the waterfall.
Eventually the Bridge To Nowhere track (Mangapurura Track) arrives at “battleship bluff”, named as it can resemble the bow of an old battleship. This bluff was great challenge to the original road builders, it took them two years to carve out the bluff making terraces for people and horses to pass. The Bridge To Nowhere track then continues to undulate and cross small streams and bridges down the valley. Suddenly, round a corner, travellers come across the famous “Bridge to Nowhere”. This massive concrete structure in the middle of the bush stands like it was built yesterday and seemingly comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. Built in 1936 it was of great importance to the settlers as it linked the valley to the Mangapura landing and permitted vehicle traffic, all important to the developing settlement. However, the bridge was finished after the settlers had already started abandoning the area. Previous to the concrete bridge was the wire cages that were used from the transport of all supplies.
The connecting track between the Bridge to Nowhere and Mangapura landing is nearly 3km and is built to walking track standards as it is commonly used by tourists accessing the area by jet boat or canoe. Cyclists should use extra caution as there will likely be walkers going either way on this section of track. The Mangapura Landing, where the track meets the Wanganui river was the place where the paddle steamer boat dropped off supplies and equipment. Everything that came into the valley from the south came off the river boat service here. From the landing cyclist should take the jet boat down river to Pipiriki where there is a small village and campsite. From Pipiriki mostly paved roads provide a way to either Raetehi to the east or Wanganui to the South. The Mountains to Sea cyclway takes the Wanganui river road southwards to SH4 and onto Wanganui town and the black sand beaches.