19.5km, Grade 3/intermediate, 2.5–3.5 hours
The start of the Kawakawa to Kinloch section is at the Orakau car park off Whangamata Road, 20 minutes’ drive from Kinloch. Self-drivers are advised to park at Kinloch and get dropped off although it's now also possible to ride to the Orakau car park on the new Otaketake section (below).
From the car park, the trail winds virtually downhill all the way to the lake on flowing singletrack, passing through wetlands and regenerating forest and over boardwalk and ravines.
Beautiful Kawakawa Bay marks the halfway point and is a great place to stop for a snack and a dip in the lake’s clear waters. There’s also a shelter and campsite here, which makes bike-packing an option for riders prepared to carry their tents and equipment.
It’s a 3km-climb via switchbacks to get out of the Bay. Then it’s a long, flowing descent towards Kinloch with plenty of eye-popping views across the lake to the western bays. Look out for the junction with the Otaketake Trail, a few kilometres before Kinloch.
The Kinloch Store is a good place to refuel with ice cream, snacks, and wood-fired pizza in summer; the Tipsy Trout next door also serves meals and cold beer.