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Western Okataina



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The Western Okataina Walkway (WOW) It is a part of The Department of Conservation (DOC) initiative to provide more recreational opportunities, increasing the amount of users on existing trails and working with the wider community in growing the region. 

Local mountain bikers have worked alongside DOC to address the flow of the trail - particularly installation of culverts to improve a couple of the larger creek crossings.

The WOW is an old logging road that dates back to earlier last century when the area was logged for rimu, totara, rata & kahikatea. It varies between wide and well formed to rutted singletrack with the occasional rocky or rooty section. Overall the trail rates as a grade 3 in terms of technical difficulty. 

The trail is shared use, and two way. Although it sees less traffic than the Whakarewarewa Forest trail network, it is not unusual to encounter walkers and runners - particularly towards the Okataina end of the trail.

The track is accessed from three entry points (two on Okataina Road: the Okataina Education Camp and Waipungapunga car park) and from Millar Road, Lake Okareka, with a total ride of about 16.5 kilometres, one way.

From Millar Road
it is mostly an undulating 11.5 km, with a solid climb towards the Whakapoungakau junction. From the junction it is a short detour of 1.4 km up to the trig where views of the surrounding area, Lakes Rotorua & Rotoiti abound. Or turn right at the Whakapoungakau Junction for 4.8 km of mainly downhill to the Outdoor Education Centre and Waipungapunga car park.

From Lake Okataina
steel yourself for the main climb. After a short traverse through native bush at the lake there is a steep 3km section to reach the Whakapoungakau Junction. The rolling terrain out to Millar Rd offers some excellent sustained gradient descents.

Simon Alefosio-Tuck has ridden the walkway in both directions. He reckons Millar Road to the Education camp is the best direction for a one-way ride, starting with 11.5 kilometres to the Whakapongakau Trig track junction. This is mostly undulating with a solid uphill nearing the junction. From there it’s an exciting 4.8 kilometres downhill all the way to end.

“It’s a great endurance/back country track just 15mins from Rotorua city” says Simon. “Mainly grade 3, but the climbs are solid in length and gradient. Expect to find a couple of un-ride able sections (stream crossings and rutted trails) unless you’re a skilled rider”

A challenging ride that has proved popular in the past is from Millar Road to The Clearing and back (18 kilometres).

“The Clearing is an old skid site that is an open grass field,” says Simon. “It’s similar to the clearing on Tuhoto Ariki, just ten times bigger.”

There is signage at all the entry points explaining the trail conditions and a map to show the area concerned.


This track differs considerably to the majority of the trails in the Whakarewarewa Forest. It isn’t in pine forest, the trail hasn’t been carefully constructed and maintenance doesn’t include a fined toothed comb. It is mainly in native bush, drains water slowly, can stay boggy in places for weeks, has large ruts that virtually never get any attention, the vegetation/gorse gets trimmed irregularly. However, if you are up for adventure, enjoy a challenge and the satisfaction that comes with ‘knocking the bastard off’ (quote thanks to Ed Hillary) then this track is for you.


Check out the ride profile - from the bottom of Tarawera Road out to WOW, the walkway and back and then return to Lynmore - a good day out...


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.




Rode from okataina to okareka. Uphill quite steep. You ll have to walk 500m or 1km before the junction. Bit boring. After that it is a long ondulating not very technical track. Mostly downhill. And a nice adventure alone in the bush. No pine trees here. Birds, wallabees,ferns, native trees. Climbing to trig is not that difficult. Viewpoint on rotoiti partially hidden by trees. You wont see the okataina!


Tom - 26/03/20 08:00am


I have ridden this track several times and it has the potential to be a fantastic ride.However owing to washouts,very deep ruts up to a metre deep and several places where you have to carry your bike I have stopped riding it.It is a great pity,this track has the potential to be the jewel in the crown.I imagine cost and time to construct and maintain the track are the issue.However still a beautiful place to be.If you are young,fit and bulletproof go for it!!!


Ross Parkes - 14/03/20 07:00am


Have ridden this a few times in 2019. I great uncrowded trail that gives you a good workout. Not overly technical, but the top of the downhill has some deep tyre tracks that should be avoided. Saw three live wallaby's on the last ride in different sections of the trail. If you don't mind a bit of tarseal thrown in it is a good scenic loop ride to carry on out the back of Lake Okataina and bike along the lakes past Hells Gate and back to Vegas.


Greg Thompson - 18/02/20 12:20pm


Rode the WOW 30/9/18 from Millar Rd to the Okataina camp. The trail pixies have been hard at work


Clint - 01/10/18 12:07pm


Not being aware of the valuable comments on this web I tried the trail from the Millar Road on 8/9/2018. Because of my later start I planned to ride for about 1,5 hour one direction and then turn back. No ambition to complete it. The weather has been dry for about one week. The surface was good, two patches of deep mud that probably never dry out. Both on quite flat surface so easy to go through/round. Open/sunny pieces of trail were great, good grip, up and down undulating, manageable and pleasant. After the initial climb on the bike there were uphill places with previously mentioned deep fissures (even up to one meter) where the bike had to be pushed on the side grassy or rocky paths. After about 45 minutes on the trail there was a fallen tree laying over. Need to bypass through the forest, not pleasant. Should be cut, would improve everything. Two streams to cross, good marking raising the awareness ahead. After about 8 km I turned back and the ride was great. The tracks next to the deep sections and fissures were great to ride mostly downhill, I remembered the problematic or challenging places from the pushing the bike uphill in the opposite direction, enough chance to plan the strategy on the way back. Safe return to the car park. At the end enjoyable day on the bike, different challenges from those well groomed tracks in the Whakarewarewa forest. I am not sure if more frequent riding by many more cyclists would form a better surface or if the destruction of those existing use able paths next to the fissures would happen quicker and to the point it is not possible to ride at least in one direction.


Igor - 16/09/18 12:58am


First time ride from Millar Rd one week after that heavy rainfall event Rotorua. First 5/6 kms were great but after this what may once have been ruts have turned into deep fissures on any approaches to stream crossings (themselves reasonably intact).Mainly pushed my bike to the junction although slightly more rideable on return. The same day I WALKED the 4km from Outdoor Centre to Junction where the steeper slopes were even worse than the earlier mentioned. Strangely I did still enjoy this trail but as a RIDE can't rate it highly as it currently presents!


Editor: Thanks Garth. It is definitely an outback adventure. Good on ya for giving it a go.


Garth - 10/05/18 05:20pm


Yes a great wilderness experience but anticipate having to manhandle your bike up the erosion ruts which are too deep and narrow to peddle, going down they are not such a problem. Presently the track is overgrown in places; expect to have to push through gorse, toi toi and chest high grass.


Art - 17/12/16 12:02pm


Rode this trail from Millar Rd end on the 8.1.15. 3 hours to the trig and back, with a lot of walking up hill on the way out due to the deep ruts. On the return all rideable and good downhill runs. Great veiws from the Trig Ralph - 8.1.15


Ralph Heading - 19/01/16 02:19pm


Rode Millar Rd to the Trig and back yesterday. The trail was dry and riding well. There are technical sections that make it interesting. It is harder getting to the Trig than the return which has some excellent downhill. Great adventure for the fitter rider (with some skills).


Gregg - 02/11/15 01:16pm


Did this as a there and back yesterday. The trail was 99% good, in the middle of winter, until I got to the downhill. The steep sections of this have been destroyed. Big DEEP ruts down the middle, now basically unride-able. This is due to 2 things, 1) The surface being made of loose coarse volcanic grit and sand which erodes VERY easily. 2) Too many people riding on their brakes. A bit gutted as it was SO good 3 years ago.


Martyn - 26/07/15 06:02pm


Did the ride on a Sunday morning. Well recommended! After reading comments I was a little hesitant but 98% of the track is ride-able and a great adventure ride. Not as difficult as comment suggest. May be a little dodgy in the wet but now on my list of 'best rides ever'!!


Chris - 19/01/14 03:28pm


I came from the education centre end. It's a good "honest" climb to the trig but great fast down hill on the return trip. Looking forward to returning at xmas and doing the ride to Millar road.


John K - 02/10/13 10:04pm


Fantastic ride. We rode this in mid July and started from Okataina. Yep, there's a bit of uphill in the first 4km and we walked a bit but were rewarded with 11km of fun grade 3 downhill to Okareka. The trail had recently been cleared and there were only one or 2 spots that we need to get off to cross a stream or duck under a tree. Really clean ride. We'll definitely be back for more.


Andy Fuller - 22/07/13 09:32pm


Truly one of the classics. A real Mtb ride. we did it as a there and back from Okareka. 35km plus minus return trip. Really awesome. Not sure about some of the unsafe comments. Will def do it again. well done..


victor Haupt - 01/04/13 08:11pm


Congratulations DOC and volunteers. This is a REAL mountain bike trail for real mountain bikers. Sure, you have to walk, push and carry your wheels on little parts of this ride but if you can\'t handle a bit of rough then leave the bike at home, it makes a fantastic walk also. Eight of us rode from the Okataina end (Education Centre) through to the beautiful Lake Okareka end via the trig. I think we all agreed that starting as we did from Okataina up the 4km plus hill climb to the trig is the best direction. From there on it is mostly down hill with the last 4 - 5km a fantastic down hill ride. I hope you keep it open to bikes Mr DOC. We only saw 2 walkers/runners (and lots of wallaby)on Sunday 27th Jan. so bikers will help keep the trail usable. Good job. Thank you.


David - 29/01/13 08:15pm


This is a great adventure style ride. I say Adventure as some of the trail is unrideable and one stream crossing in particular is interesting at best. Still a great ride if your looking for something a little more testing.


MIke H - 24/10/12 08:19am


Having run from the Education Centre to the Trig several times some years ago I really looked forward to my ride from Millar Rd to the Trig return (26.3ks). Most disappointing; the track is almost non existent in places, unrideable in others, and the two water crossings verge on being dangerous. Much needs to be done to consider this goat track suitable for bike riders - including getting rid of gorse; its certainly nothing like a Grade 3 - I ride 4-5 times weekly on steep Timberlands tracks and roads and struggled to make the return ride. Not recommended, won't repeat.


John, Rotorua - 15/10/12 03:19pm


Awesome adventure ride... Some tricky bits and a couple of awkward portages across creeks, but a great day out... Nice change from the groomed trails in the forest if you're up for something rugged.


Megan Dimozantos - 07/10/12 04:43pm


Down hill from the junction to Okataina is great. Steep and fast Gr4. Some sections not ridable due to hoof damage and big stepped ruts. 95% good. This is not a groomed track. No trail pixies have been here. rugged Gr3. If you hate Tuhuto Ariki you probably wont like this. Old School.


Martyn - 29/09/12 08:22pm