Winding around the north-western corner of New Zealand’s largest lake, this intermediate, all-seasons trail features lush forest and wetlands, waterfalls, beaches, a volcanic gorge and ever-changing views from elevated lookouts.
This trail threads around the edge of Lake Taupō – the massive crater formed through one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in history. It’s a landscape of spectacular gorges and waterfalls, lush native forest and strange rock gardens. Headlands and outcrops afford amazing views over the lake and Tongariro National Park’s volcanoes, while beautiful bays offer picture-perfect picnics and swimming.
The trail is divided into four sections, all easily accessible from the pretty lakeside settlement of Kinloch, a short drive from Taupō.
Ride all four over two or three days or pick individual rides according to your fitness, experience and available time. Shuttles and our water taxi can help you piece it together.
Note : Be careful not to confuse the Waihaha Hut Track with the Waihaha section of the Great Lake Trail. The two different trails are signposted.
Make sure you pre-arrange for all your bike shuttles and logistics beforehand for a hassle-free experience.
TRAIL STATUS & ALERTS
FITNESS & SKILLS
Overall, the Great Lake Trail is smooth, free-draining and flowing, but moderate hill climbs, high cliffs, loose rocks and mud in some places make it most suitable for people with some mountain biking experience. Fit children over 12 should manage just fine. The trails are shared so riders should keep an eye out for walkers, especially on sections close to Kinloch.
TYPE OF BIKE
A ship-shape mountain bike is recommended. E-bikes are also welcomed.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
There are giant maps and information boards at the start and end of each section, all of which have good on-track signage. Carrying a trail map, however, will enhance the experience by pinpointing landmarks and assist with timings for transport pick-ups, etc.
Alternatively, the map can be purchased from local bike shops and the Kinloch dairy.
WEATHER & RIDING SEASON
The lake’s surroundings and nearby mountains are subject to a wide variety and often quickly changing weather conditions, so be sure to check the forecast in advance and pack clothing for all possibilities. The trail serves up terrific riding all year round, thanks to free-draining pumice soils. Winter can be particularly stunning when the air is crystal clear and Tongariro’s volcanoes are blanketed in snow.
DROP-OFFS & PICK-UPS
The trail’s remoteness and non-continuous nature mean that a shuttle and/or water taxi will likely be required. Riders with their own transport are best to park in Kinloch and organise shuttles to pick them up from there. The Waihaha section requires a boat transfer at the Waihora Bay end to link up with the Kawakawa section or to take riders back to Kinloch. All shuttles and boat transfers need to be pre-booked.
FOOD & WATER
Other than Kinloch where there are a couple of places to get food supplies and meals (it will pay to check ahead for seasonal opening hours), there’s no food and drink along the Great Lake Trail. Riders should therefore be entirely self-sufficient and carry plenty of water and more than enough to eat.
There is good coverage close to Kinloch on the W2K and Headland Loop; it gets patchy beyond that.
There are toilets dotted in convenient places along all trails.