Great Lake Trail • Grade 3 • 73km

Join a group on our scheduled tours, or book your own custom dates if you have a group of your own.

Guided and self-guided package tours available.

The Great Lake Trail is one of the 23 Great Rides of the NZ Cycle Trail. It is 100% purpose built singletrack that crosses the ridges of Lake Taupo's western bays and drops down to lake level in between. The Great Lake Trail has been rated as "the best Grade 3 trail in New Zealand". The Great Lake Trail has 3 major sections: the Waihaha & Waihora section, the Orakau to Kinloch section (via Kawakawa Bay), and the Whakaipo To Kinloch (W2K) section including the Headland Loop. This Grade 3 trail is challenging in its climbs but is generally not a very technical ride. It includes spectacular lakeside scenery as it weaves thorugh the remote shores of Lake Taupo's western bays.

FEATURED VIDEO: Waihora Section of the Great Lake Trail 

Map of the Great Lake Trail

Profile of the Orakau to Whakaipo Section of the Great Lake Trail

Profile of the Waihaha to Waihora Section of the Great Lake Trail

Tread Routes provides shuttles, guiding, bike hire and all inclusive package trips with the boat transfer. We are the one stop shop for your Great Lake Trail adventure. Whether you are looking for a shuttle, or the full guided experience, we are the local experts who know the trail best. Hire a bike from us, or bring your own and rest assured that your bike will be in the best of care in our enclosed trailer with custom bike rack. We also provide multi-day tours throughout the North Island bringing you all the best rides in one customizable package.

Most common boat pickup location: Kotukutuku Beach in Waihora Bay

Most common boat drop of locations: Kinloch Village, Kawakawa Bay, or Taupo

***The boat transfer from Waihora Bay is essential to the logistics of the Waihora section. The Waihora section of the trail ends at the lake. There is no other way out, you must take the boat, unless you want turn around and ride back. Tread Routes will arrange your boat transfer for you when you book a shuttle with us.  The boat service will drop you back to Kinloch but can also drop riders off at Kawakawa Bay so you can ride an extra 10km before finishing in Kinloch. The price of the boat transfer is $70 per person.

Guiding: Tread Routes is the only company with guides for the Great Lake Trail. 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, we will gather the correct information to get you on the right size bike. Helmets are provided with bike hire.

The best way to ride the Great Lake Trail:

Over two days: 

Day 1, 34 or 43km: Park at Whakaipo Bay. Ride from the Orakau Car Park via Kinloch to you car to Whakaipo Bay.

Day 2, 30km: Park in Kinloch. Ride from Waihaha Bridge Car Park to Waihora Bay. The boat will take you back to your car at Kinloch.   

In one day:

Option 1, "full trail", 62km: Park at Whakaipo Bay. Take our shuttle to the Waihaha Bridge Car Park. Ride to Waihora Bay. Take the boat transfer to Kawawkawa Bay. Continue riding over to Kinloch and on to your car at Whakaipo Bay. Inlcude the option 9km Headland Loop on the W2K section. (In this option you skip the 10km from the Orakau Car Park to Kawakawa Bay.)

Option 2, "half" of the trail, 34 or 43km: (This is still a full day ride for most people) Park in Whakaipo Bay. Take our shuttle to the Orakau Car Park. Ride back to Whakaipo Bay. The trail will take you via the reomote Kawakawa Bay and the holiday village of Kinloch where you can enjoy a lunch/coffee/swim break. You also have the option of adding the Headland Loop on the W2K section.

Great Lake Trail Sections:

 Trail Section: Start:  Finish:  Length: 
 Waihaha to Waihora Waihaha Bridge Car Park  Kotukutuku Beach in Waihora Bay  30km 
 Orakau to Kinloch Orakau Car Park (Whangamata Rd)  Kinloch Village  20km 
 Kinloch to Whakaipo (aka: W2K) Kinloch Village  Whakaipo Bay  14km
 Headland Loop Junction A (on W2K track) Junciton B (on W2K track) 9km

For an in depth description of the Great Lake Trail scroll past the pricing photos below.

SHUTTLE PRICING & LOGISTICS - CONTACT US TO BOOK

ROUND TRIP / TWO WAY SHUTTLES:

To ride the Orakau to Whakaipo Section • 34km* • Grade 3
(*You can also add the 9km Headland Loop)
Logistics for this ride with a round trip shuttle:
Shuttle from Taupo to the Orakau Car Park (30min)
Ride to Whakaipo Bay (3 - 6 hrs)
Shuttle from Whakaipo Bay to Taupo (20min)
$120 per person

To ride the Waihaha to Waihora Section • 30km • Grade 3
Logistics for this ride with a round trip shuttle:
Shuttle from Taupo to the Waihaha Bridge Car Park (1hr)
Ride to Waihora Bay (4-5hrs)
Boat transfer to Kinloch (30min)
Shuttle from Kinloch to Taupo (30min)
$190 per person (boat included at $70)

To ride the Waihaha to Whakaipo “Full Trail” • 54 - 63km • Grade 3
Logistics for this ride with a round trip shuttle:
Shuttle from Taupo to the Waihaha Bridge Car Park (1hr)
Ride 54 - 63km* to Whakaipo Bay (6 - 8 hrs)
Boat transfer to Kinloch or Kawakawa Bay (30min)
Shuttle from Whakaipo to Taupo (20min)
$190 per person (boat included at $70pp)


ONE WAY SHUTTLES:

To ride the Orakau to Whakaipo Section • 34km* • Grade 3
(*You can also add the 9km Headland Loop)
Logistics for this ride with one way shuttle:
Meet at Whakaipo Bay (park your own vehicle there)
Shuttle from Whakaipo Bay to the Orakau Car Park (30min)
Ride from Orakau back to your vehicle at Whakaipo Bay
$50 per person

To ride the Orakau to Kinloch Section • 20km • Grade 3

Logistics for this ride with one way shuttle:
Meet in Kinloch (park your own vehicle there)
Shuttle from Kinloch to the Orakau Car Park (20min)
Ride from Orakau back to your vehicle in Kinloch (2hrs)
$50 per person

To ride the Kinloch to Whakaipo Section • 14 or 23km • Grade 3
Logistics for this ride with one way shuttle:
Meet at Whakaipo Bay (park your own vehicle there)
Shuttle from Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch (30min)
Ride from Kinloch to Whakaipo Bay (1.5 - 3hrs)
$50 per person

To ride the Waihaha to Waihora Section • 30km • Grade 3
Logistics for this ride with one way shuttle:
Meet in Kinloch (park your own vehicle there)
Shuttle from Kinloch to the Waihaha Bridge Car Park (45min)
Ride from Waihaha Bridge Car Park to Waihora Bay (4-5hrs)
Boat transfer / water taxi from Waihora Bay to Kinloch (30min)
$140 per person (boat included at $70pp)

To ride the “Full Trail” • 54 - 63km • Grade 3
Logistics for this ride with one way shuttle:
Meet in Kinloch (park your own vehicle there)
Shuttle from Kinloch to the Waihaha Bridge Car Park (45min)
Ride from Waihaha Bridge Car Park to Waihora Bay (4hrs)
Boat transfer / water taxi from Waihora Bay to Kawakawa Bay or Kinloch (30min)
Continue riding to Whakaipo Bay (2 - 4hrs)
$140 per person (boat included at $70pp)

The Great Lake Trail passes through remote areas and there is very limited mobile reception on the trail. There are only a few locations where the trail is road accessible. In many places you will be out of mobile reception and a long way for roads and services. For this reason we recommend that you hire a guide or at minimum a Personal Locator Beacon.

Best places to park: 

To ride the Waihaha and  Waihora section: Kinloch Village

To ride the Orakau section: Kinloch Village

To ride the W2K and Orakau section: Whakaipo Bay

VIDEO: Waihaha Section of the Great Lake Trail 

PHOTOS: Check out the Great Lake Trail!

The following is an in depth description of the 3 major sections of the Great Lake Trail:

The Waihaha & Waihora section, 30km:

The Waihaha and Waihora sections of the Great Lake Trail are a combined total of 30km in length starting from the Waihaha River bridge on the State Highway 32 (Western Bay Rd). In the car park there is a shelter with map. There is a toilet 50m down the track. These sections are best ridden together to make a 30km one way ride ending at the lake where riders can be transferred by boat to Kawakawa Bay or Kinloch. See our Shuttles page and/or Contact Us for round trip transport from Kinloch or Taupo or your location of choice.

The Waihaha section follows the Waihaha River towards Lake Taupo. The Waihaha Section of the Great Lake Trail is undulating with no big climbs but lots of small ones. Along this section of the Great Lake Trail riders will discover amazing views of the steep Waihaha River gorge and it’s dramatic rock cliffs. At 7.5km along the trail there is a stunning view over Tieke Falls from an elevated viewpoint. Shortly after this, observant riders will see views of the expansive flats of Waihaha river mouth and beach. At 10km the trail takes a turn northwards towards Waihora Bay. The Waihaha Section ends at a remote trail access point with a toilet and small car park 14km from the start. This is where the Waihora section of Great Lake Trail starts.

The Great Lake Trail continues to undulate and has many small to medium climbs along the way. At around 17km (from the Waihaha Bridge car park/start of the Waihaha Section) riders will come to the first major viewpoint looking over the lake. There is a steel guardrail here and limited mobile reception. Cyclists are rewarded with an expansive view of the lake and the mountains of the Tongariro National Park are visible on a clear day. At around 20km riders will descend and climb out of the Otupoto Stream valley. Later in the ride Waihora Bay comes into view from the many cliff top viewpoints. At about 28km there is a junction: left goes to a campsite under construction 2km away while taking the main track right takes riders down towards the final descent to Kotukutuku beach, located within Waihora Bay. The final descent is a masterfully built section of trail that includes wooden structures that cross the Kotukutuku Stream and provide views of a waterfall just before reaching an isolated beach.  At the beach cyclists are collected by a boat service (must be booked in advance) that will take them to Kawakawa Bay to continue the ride or to the village of Kinloch to finish.

The Orakau & Kawakawa section, 20km:

This section of the Great Lake Trail includes a newer 10km (completed mid 2012) and joins the upgraded Kawakawa track (formerly a tramping track). This section (just like all the rest of the Great Lake Trail) is a two way track, however it commonly ridden from west to east.

From the Orakau Car Park on Whangamata Rd the trail follows the Orakau Stream through farmland on either side. At about 1.5km from the car park there is a boardwalk with a view over a flax covered stream bed while pastureland is also visible on the nearby hillsides. Later on, after passing though a small tunnel the Great Lake Trail leaves the farmland and begins to descend into a larger area of regenerating native bush. The trail continues to be flowing grade 3 single track and gradually loses elevation but has some small climbs along the way.

The trail surface is well graded and is a nice mixture of packed soil and packed pumice. Lake Taupo comes into view and then at about 7km where there are a couple of seats for riders to stop and enjoy the vista of New Zealands largest lake. On a clear day the mountains of the Tongariro National Park make the perfect backdrop to great Western Bay of Lake Taupo. The Orakau section then continues it’s trend making a gradual descent to the lake. 

At 10km from the Orakau car park cyclists reach the fine pebbled beach of Kawakawa Bay. At this location there is a small campsite with a shelter and toilet. On the left of the panoramic view over the lake some large cliffs can be seen that are often used by rock climbers. Cyclists can take a quick swim here before tackling the 2.5km climb to the “rock lookout” at the top of the ridge. This viewpoint at 12.5km boasts an impressive view over the Western Bay looking towards Waihaha. From here the Great Lake Trail descends again towards the village of Kinloch. This well built flowing single track through native bush is dominated by Rewarewa and Five Finger. There are a few short climbs on the way down and once the trail gets near lake level it crosses a couple of small streams that are bridged. The last kilometer of the trail is a grassy track that parallels the beach of Whangamata Bay. At 20km cyclists reach the Kinloch Domain and boat harbour. There is also a store and cafe/bar where cyclists can enjoy a coffee or meal. This is another great spot to have a swim.

The Whakaipo To Kinloch (W2K) section, 14km (or 23km with Headland Loop):

Just like the name suggests this section was built to link Whakaipo Bay with Kinloch. This track pre-dated the NZ Cycle Trail, but is now a part of the Great Lake Trail. When the W2K is combined with the rest of the Great Lake Trail it is ridden from west to east (just like the  rest of the trail). From the Kinloch Domain, or the Great Lake Trail car park & shelter (opposite the Kinloch boat ramps), the trail follows a footpath towards the center of the boat harbour where cyclists ride over an arched bridge before following the beach again. The trail then turns away from the beach onto a boardwalk before climbing up a grassy gully and crossing a paved residential road. 

After crossing the road the W2K section of Great Lake Trail starts the climb up towards the headlands. Among mixed regenerating bush the trail switchbacks climbing steadily up the ridge. There is a distinct viewpoint part way up the climb, where riders can take a break and look back over Kinoch and Whangamata Bay. From here the trail climbs gently to the signposted “Junction A” - the first junction of the Headland Loop at 5km. To stay on the main W2K track stay left and you will reach “Junction B” (the other end of the Headland Loop) in just under 1km. Here there is a shelter with a rainwater tank, a map, and a toilet. From “Junction B” follow the signpost to continue to Whakaipo Bay. The Great Lake Trail now starts it’s descent to the lake again however there is one significant climb on the way down with a high point at about 8.5km. Expect a few more small climbs on the way down as well. The trail is flowing single track all the way and includes some great views over Whakaipo Bay. The final descent involves some fun switchbacks before reaching a small cattle stop. From here follow the dirt track downhill through the paddock to the car park, shelter, and style at the Bay. This is the eastern most extent of the Great Lake Trail.

Headland Loop: The Headland Loop is a 9km two way trail, it can be ridden in either direction.  The headland loop is part of the Great Lake Trail, however it is narrower and more technical than the rest of the W2K section. On the Headland Loop there are no major rooty or rocky sections, just tighter corners with plenty of fast flowing descents. When you are riding fast it’s one of those rare gems that feels like there is more descending than climbing. A masterfully built trail. To ride the Headland Loop in a counter clockwise direction: At “Junction A” follow the signpost that says “Headland Loop”, in less than 1km you will come to a another signposted junction: turning right will take you to a viewpoint with bench looking over Kinloch. If you stay left the Headland Loop continues and climbs for about another 3km to a viewpoint that provides a panorama of the lake. The Karangahape cliffs command attention directly across the lake while the mountains of the Tongariro National Park are seen in the background on a clear day. From here there is a fantastic flowing descent that take you to another viewpoint looking eastward over Whakaipo Bay at about 7km from the start of the loop (“Junction A”). Some gentle climbing to finish the loop brings riders to “junction B” with the shelter, map, and toilet.