THE TIMBER TRAIL CYCLEWAY - AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE
The Timber Trail Cycleway is a fantastic ride – and last year it was voted by cyclists as one of top two rides in NZ. It’s also in the Automobile Association’s list of top 100 things to do in NZ. Over half of the cyclists who do it are over 50 years of age, so it’s not too difficult a challenge – particularly the bottom half (45 km) which follows an old railway track and is mostly flat or downhill.
Despite its short history, the Cycleway now attracts over 10,000 cyclists a year and all of them end up near or in our little village of Ongarue and the Timber Trail Centre. In the past two years, we’ve noticed growing numbers of walkers walking the trail as well – many as part of the great 3000 km Te Araroha walk which starts at the top of NZ and finishes at the bottom.
Some highlights which set the cycleway apart from others:
* the forest: the Cycleway passes through one of the greatest remaining native forests of NZ, with four different types of podocarp forest and the largest stand of Kahikatea trees in the country (some 1000 years old). It is also home to many beautiful – and some rare – native birds, including the kaka, tui, kokako and North Island robin.
* the bridges: along the way you will cross eight spectacular suspension bridges, three more than 100 metres long. One, at 140m, is the longest suspension bridge in New Zealand and sways 50 metres above the valley below.
* the “Spiral”: this remarkable feat of engineering takes the cyclists and walkers in a loop around a circle and under itself.
* signage and support facilities: signage marking the kilometres and explaining the old days of the milling industry, as well as toilet/water facilities along the way, make this trail an unusually well supported one. While there is little mobile phone reception along the trail, if you have any problems, there will be many others passing by who can help and staff from the Department of Conservation traverse the distance on a quad bike towards the end of the day.
The northern half of the Cycleway (about 40 km) is rated Grade 3 and ascends nearly 1000 m through the Cloud forest to Mt Pureora (from where there are spectacular views over the Central North Island to Mt Ruapehu to the west and as far as Mt Taranaki on the east coast of NZ). The southern half, rated an easier Grade 2, is considerably easier and is the most popular option.
We can help if you need to hire bicycles or have them transported to the beginning or half-way point of the Cycleway.
There are many sites on the internet covering the Timber Trail Cycleway. Here are three of them: