Rain­bow Moun­tain, New Zealand –

The pure def­i­ni­tion of up and down.

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents -


Rain­bow Moun­tain is a rel­a­tively new ad­di­tion to the rid­ing land­scape in New Zealand. Orig­i­nally a walk­ing loop the trail has only been open to the moun­tain bik­ing com­mu­nity re­cently. The climb up is a shared path with walk­ers and the de­scent a hand­crafted trail made purely for moun­tain bik­ers. The loop is just off the ther­mal high­way and there is plenty of geo­ther­mal ac­tiv­ity to wit­ness here, start­ing with the crater lake as you ride in. You soon come across the Te Tihi O Ruru hill climb. Whilst the ride up is a shared path it is any­thing but easy, the gra­di­ent con­sis­tent all the way to the top with lit­tle to no breathers but with three or four look­outs along the way. At the sum­mit there is a weather sta­tion and an as­tound­ing 360 de­gree view, from Ro­torua to Mt Tarawera to the dis­tant peaks sur­round­ing Taupo. When you’ve had time to re­fuel, you can then jump onto one of the most plea­sur­able de­scents you’ve ever rid­den. The up­per slopes are on geo­ther­mal ac­tive lands and were hand-built to pre­serve the area. This also puts you right in the thick of it, sul­phur pits and steam rub right up against the trail and along with the smat­ter­ing of roots, it is also the most tech­ni­cal part of the trail. Af­ter a few min­utes you cross out and into nat­u­ral re­growth rain­for­est, where the speed opens up and so too do the trails. The fast berms and the slip­pery na­ture of the soil will put a smile on nearly any rid­ers face. You can ac­cess this trail from two car parks, i would rec­om­mend start­ing from the high­way com­plet­ing the loop and re­turn­ing for a soak in kerosene Creek hot springs. if you have a camper def­i­nitely take this op­tion as the road down into kerosene Creek is one of the most pot holed i have ever been on. While you can eas­ily stay a week in the Red­woods, it is well worth the trip out to Rain­bow Moun­tain to ride amongst the geo­ther­mal ac­tiv­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence the al­ter­nate ter­rain on of­fer here.

Get­tinG there

Rain­bow Moun­tain is per­fect for a day trip out of Ro­torua or for a stop off on your way to Taupo. Head out of Ro­torua along State High­way 5 or sim­ply fol­low the signs to Taupo out of town. From the edge of Ro­torua it is about a 25 - 30 minute drive to Rain­bow Moun­tain, there are signs but it’s best to use a map, GPS or your phone to make sure you don’t over shoot it. It’s eas­i­est to start from the Rain­bow Moun­tain re­serve rest stop, from here the trails are well sign­posted and you get an ex­tra view­point along the way. Al­ter­na­tively you can start from Kerosene Creek, a hot spring, by driv­ing 50 me­ters ex­tra up the road, turn­ing left and fol­low­ing the pot­holed road to the end. Ap­par­ently thieves are preva­lent at the Kerosene Creek en­try, so lock your be­long­ings up or take them with you. Be aware this trail goes by sev­eral names, th­ese in­clude Rain­bow Moun­tain or Maun­gakakaramea Moun­tain Bike Loop. They will also of­ten be shown as two dif­fer­ent trails. They are the same place. Don’t be fooled.

tech­ni­cal na­ture

The trails are one part rain­for­est, one part vol­canic bush­land and there is plenty to keep you on your toes through­out the jour­ney. The grade 4 climb here is prob­a­bly one of the most abrupt and of a con­sis­tent gra­di­ent I have ever rid­den – or at­tempted. The as­cent can be a lit­tle per­ilous af­ter rain, the slick white and red mud par­tic­u­larly easy to slip on when you begin to fa­tigue. Thank­fully there are a few view­points you can use as breathers along the way. once you’ve ad­mired the view at the top weather sta­tion it’s time for the pure down­hill. The de­scent here can be eas­ily split into two halves, the up­per tight and steep with plenty of roots thrown in whilst the lower is fast flow­ing berms through rain­for­est. The trail suits an in­ter­me­di­ate rider but can be done by a be­gin­ner look­ing for the next chal­lenge.

You’ll need

Take your gen­eral trail pack of tubes and spares plus a few ex­tras. Make sure to take plenty of wa­ter and food, there are no nearby shops to re­stock. A rain jacket is ad­vised, es­pe­cially if it’s over­cast, rain seems to come and go reg­u­larly in this re­gion of the world. Pack a cam­era for the views at the top, plus swim­mers and a towel for a dip at Kerosene Creek af­ter.


Start­ing from ei­ther the car park by the high­way or Kerosene Creek, a re­turn loop is around 11km.

lo­cal Knowl­edGe

Check out each of the look­outs on the ride up, the vol­canic ac­tiv­ity will change with ev­ery ride. If you spy the white sul­phur area just off the trail don’t go walk­ing into them – they’re del­i­cate and not safe. It’s pretty much a given but make sure to un­wind at Kerosene Creek with a nice soak af­ter your ride and be­ware of thieves.

Best time oF Year

You can ride Rain­bow Moun­tain year round but ob­vi­ously the warmer months are go­ing to be in your favour.

while in the area

Rain­bow Moun­tain is best done as a day trip be­tween Ro­torua and Taupo, but you could also go and check out Waio­tapu Ther­mal Won­der­land, or the Waio­tapu Tav­ern fur­ther down the road.

lo­cal BiKe shops

There are none in the im­me­di­ate area but if you head back to­ward Ro­torua, the shop in the Red­woods MTB car park called Moun­tain Bike Ro­torua is the clos­est. If not there are a host of bike shops in Ro­torua, in­clud­ing Bike Cul­ture, nZo, Cy­cle­zone Ro­torua, Bike Barn, Avan­tiPlus and a few more.

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