Bridge To Nowhere
Trail grades are based on technical difficulty only.
About the Trail
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 best way to get to the trail itself is by shuttle from Ohakune or Raetihi or National Park. We also provide a shuttle service from Taupo.
The best place to park depends on what trail entrance you are starting from:
If you are riding the Mangapurura Track from Ruatiti Road end (ie: the south eastern entrance) park at:
Ohakune: Park 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: Park at the boat harbour near Stir Cafe (if you have arranged round trip transport from Taupo with Tread Routes), or your accommodation provider.
If you are adding the Kaiwhakauka Track starting from Whakahoro (ie: the northern entrace) park at:
National Park: Park at the Station Cafe
Taupo: Park at the Taupo Boat Harbour near Stir Cafe (if you have arranged round trip transport from Taupo 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:
- Shuttle from Raetihi (or Ohakune or Taupo) to the Ruatiti Rd end.
- You ride the 38km Mangapurua track to Bridge To Nowhere followed by the Mangapurua Landing
- Jet boat ride downstream to Pipiriki
- 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 experienced mountain bikers only. 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:
- Shuttle from National Park (or Taupo) to Whakahoro
- 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.
- Jet boat ride downstream to Pipiriki
- Shuttle from Pipiriki back to National Park (or Taupo)
For shuttles we suggest you contact Mountain Bike Station. They are a shuttle, bike hire, and tour company based on Ohakune.
For bike hire we suggest you contact Mountain Bike Station. They are a shuttle, bike hire, and tour company based on Ohakune.
No accommodation is necessary to complete the ride as it is a day trip.
For the night before or after your ride, consider staying at:
The Station Lodge or Chalets, Ohakune
The Park Travellers Lodge, National Park
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.
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.