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Tuhoto Ariki



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GRADE: 4 LENGTH: 4.5km

BUILT: 2007 by James Dodds, Rob Metz, Mark Upshall for the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club and the Department of Conservation. A major update in Summer 2017 by the Rotorua Trails Trust has the trail in the best shape it's ever been.

GETTING THERE: Starts at highest point in Whaka Forest at the very top of Tawa Rd. From the Southstar Shuttle drop off it's a few minute's ride past the forestry gate on Tawa road to the top. You'll pass the Billy T trail entrance on your right, then have a brief flat section to catch your breath before the final short climb to the top.


Don't be fooled by the altitude you have gained getting there as it definitely is not a downhill charge the whole way. Although designated a grade 4, this is a technical trail with both climbs and descents that will challenge the most skilled of riders. It predominantly drops in elevation, but you'll earn your turns with the climb in the middle section of the trail.

The descents though - oh boy! They are root infested, raw and rough. Some sections are wider than singletrack, allowing multiple line choices for skilled riders.

Be aware that although the huge majority of people ride Tuhoto Ariki from the Tawa Rd trail head it is legitimate two-way, shared-use trail - so treat other trail users with respect if they're doing it differently to you.


Tuhoto Ariki is one of the Department of Conservation trails on the eastern edge of the Whakarewarewa forest - along with Kataore, Hatupatu and Te Tihi O Tawa. Tuhoto Ariki was a first for Rotorua, running through Department of Conservation land.

The magnificent, native forest gives the trail its unique flavour. “This track goes a long way in cementing Rotorua’s claim to being the mountain bike capital of the southern hemisphere,” says Dave Donaldson from the Rotorua MTB Club. “A mountain bike trail through native bush, so close to the city is a real point of difference. The trailhead can be reached in an hour by bike from the Rotorua CBD, yet five minutes into the trail you could be a world away.”
Opening day was important for DOC (Department of Conservation), too. “Mountain biking has become more popular than ever in the Rotorua region and to open this trail at the beginning of Conservation Week recognises the different ways people are now using the conservation estate,” says Nick Turoa, the Department’s Community Relations Ranger.

The name of the trail celebrates Tuhoto Ariki, the famous Tuhourangi tohunga who predicted the Tarawera eruption and then survived it. He was dug out of his debris-covered whare after being trapped for four days. “We consulted local historian Don Stafford and Tuhourangi kaumatua, Te Rangi Maika, to come up with an appropriate name for the trail. After much deliberation the name Tuhoto Ariki was chosen,” says Dave. “The name is a reference to an important historic event in this region and that is great." Tuhoto Ariki will be muddy at the first sign of rain and will stay that way until there is a long period of consistently dry weather. If you don't like slick riding then we suggest you only ride this puppy if there hasn't been significant rain for a couple of weeks.
See the comments below. If you don't like a technical riding challenge then don't bother - you will probably hate it.

To see the satellite view of this trail tracks.org.nz



GETTING OUT: The trail exits on Moerangi Rd. It's a relatively short climb from here to reach the Moerangi saddle and access Split Enz, Kung Fu Walrus, or the Rocky Horror/Time Warp trails.

Although you can head down the hill to go back to the core network trails, it's worth the short climb to do Split Enz, and that is an easy trail so will feel like a motorway after having done Tuhoto Ariki.


TRAIL PROFILE (click to enlarge)


Please ride within your limits, and be aware that trails can change with weather and heavy use from race events effecting their difficulty. Ride Rotorua will in no way be liable for any injury or damages arising from riding any of the trails listed on the Ride Rotorua website.




This is my favourite trail in Rotorua. I drove from Tauranga with the sole purpose of riding K2, this trail and then Split Enz. I've only ever ridden it in the rain or after a large rain and have never been stuck in any bogs. The only time I walk the bike is to cross a couple of logs that would take wings to get past. Watch out for the weird alien landing site in the middle!


Editor: We 100% agree. Thanks Allistar.


Allistar - 28/05/18 10:42am


My fave - pretty, technical, and you have to love it to get there. Never ridden it dry but look forward to it!


Cam - 11/07/15 08:01pm


I like this trail the more I ride it. Even in the wet it's doable just more technical but hey that's what makes this track so much fun and brings the challenge. The other bonus is that few ride it even in the dry so you'll pretty much have it to yourself so enjoy.


Peter - 01/04/13 10:05pm


Wicked trail keeps you on your toes and is a 5 stars in the dry and you feel like you are back country riding one of my favourites.


Kev - 13/01/13 09:06pm


I hit this trail after riding Te Tihi o Tawa (another must do trail). Again well worth the climb (a 2nd time). This is an absolute gem of a trail with a great mix of riding, very challenging and technical, but with some nice flowing sections. The hill cimbs would have been a little better on a fresh pair of legs. However I had a real blast on this track and then with the short link up to Split Enz I hit this with more speed than normal and the trail was an exhilerating ride - the best I've had. Go ride it (in the dry), you won't be disappointed.


Karl - 18/06/12 09:10am


There are so many "perfect" trails in Whakarewarewa Forest with hero dirt, great berms, well drained & are super consistent. It's awesome to have trails like Tuhoto Ariki, which offer a challenge both technically & tactically. Great bit of forest, one of the best trails, when dry.


ricardo2slim - 15/03/12 03:23pm


Rubbish!! - Massive climb to get there and all you get is a bog! I was there in May so admittedly, it may not have been the best time to visit, but there hadnít been any rain for 4 or 5 days. Most of the trail was unrideable, I spent probably only about 700m of the 5k on the bike, the rest of the time I was walking the bike through deep mud and banging my shins. Defiantly not worth the climb to get there. Doesnít look like much work has been done on the trail in a long time.


Adrian - 23/05/11 07:43am


I have to say I was dissapointed. Maybe the weather hadnt helped, but it just didnt flow for me. I was forever putting my feet down over nasty roots or coming to a standstill in bog holes. Make a better walking track than mtb track.


lyrrad - 04/03/09 09:40pm


If you miss this trail while riding in Vegas you are not doing the park or yourself any justice.


Karl - 29/04/08 12:02pm


awesome, awesome track; it provides a type of riding that you wouldn't otherwise find in the forest, and the T.A. - Split Enz - Pondy sequence is one of the best loops of trail I've ever enjoyed.


Josh - 28/04/08 01:51pm


the more I ride it the more I like it !!


ricksta - 07/12/07 03:36pm


I agree with Dave. Tuhoto Ariki is completely dry now. Lovely and cool after the hot climb up there and is the start of about an hour of single track if you carry on to Split Enz , then Pondy which are both hard and fast.


Neil P - 02/11/07 11:57am


Just rode Tuhoto Ariki for the first time in what seems like months.Nearly didn't when I saw the soft patches still in Lentil Link. Anyway, it still has it's soft patches but it's drying out nicely and totally rideable. This old slapper did it in 31 minutes with 6 dabs and two palm assists on handy trees. There's hardly a drop of mud on my frame either and amazingly no windfalls. It looks like the trail is getting major use so now's your chance to get in there for a gnarly ride.


Dave D - 30/10/07 10:54am


Still slightly damp but well worth the ride up.


Dave Balderstone - 28/10/07 08:04pm