The Great Lake Trail was constructed by Bike Taupo and includes the popular W2K Track from Whakaipo to Kinloch, K2K from Kinloch to Kawakawa Bay, and the Waihaha trail further around the western side of Lake Taupo.
W2K - starting from Whakaipo Bay (you can also start in Kinloch and return)
The steep climbout includes a couple of short, sharp switchbacks. But it is over quickly and the long run along the top section and the final 4km into Kinloch is a lot of fun.
Over the first 5km the total height gained is around 190 metres, but it’s gradual and steady.
Built by the Taupo mountain biking community, W2K was opened in 2008. It’s dual usage and two-way, so you really have to focus and be aware you may meet oncoming walkers, runners or mountain bikers.
Trail width is variable – at times it’s singletrack - and sight lines are marginal in places. But it’s a mountain bike trail first, and the runners and walkers you meet are usually friendly and happy to give way. Once you get to the highest point between 540 and 550m, the trail plateaus out and you can get a good flow on. At the 13km mark, you start a steep and sharp descent. In the final kilometre, the drop is around 120m - you will be fully aware that you will be climbing this on the way back!
W2K is well constructed, signage is good and it’s worth the road trip to Taupo.
It’s not technical, but you do need a reasonable level of fitness to enjoy the round trip.
Bike Taupo has a comprehensive maintenance plan in place for W2K and the Craters of the Moon, the mountain bike park north of the town, which is a good model for other clubs.
Kinloch to Kawakawa Bay - you can do this after W2K or as a separate ride out and back. Park up at Kinloch.
This is a beauty. A legal, dual use trail that is not in a commercial forest is rare enough in this neck of the woods, but one that is a lot of fun is unique - even when ridden at a safe speed (the walkers you may meet will appreciate this feature) and rewards the rider with drop dead views.
Kinloch is a plush little boaties holiday village on the north shore of Taupo, take SH1 north out of Taupo and follow signs.
Head west along the lake shore. At the end of this grassy park you will come to the trailhead, all signposted with the mountain bikers' code.
Keep your speed under control, to preserve the shared status of the trail we dont want any terrified trail walkers.
At the high point you get an overlook to Kawakawa Bay, don't worry you will not miss it. You will know when you get there. From there it is a fantastic downhill to the water and a bit of a grovel back up - but worth it. Then there is a fast run back to Kinloch. This trail has been widened and softened to match W2K and the result is a ride that anybody with reasonable bike handling can complete.
Otaketake and Orakau Loop
From a short way along K2K you can take a right turn to a climbing trail that leads all the way out to Whangamata Road, 12 kilometres of rolling terrain that includes some great views and some very nice bush. A short section of quiet road gets you to the Whangamata Road carpark, where you can jump onto the Orakau section of trail, that brings you back to the K2K. It is a 30 kilometre loop from Kinloch, which can ridden in either direction.
Waihaha and Waihora trails
The Western section of the Great Lake Trail is a bit of a logistical challenge, but well worth either booking a shuttle and boat transport, or pinning your ears back for a big day on the bike. Beginning at Waihaha on State Highway 32, the Waihaha section takes a spectacular route along the top of a canyon, and eventually gets you to an overlook on the lake. The Waihora section meanders along the lake, but taking some up and down deviations along teh way. It finally drops to the lake, and a stunning beach, via the side of a waterfall. A boat can then ferry you to Kinloch, or Kawakawa Bay, if you dont want to turn around and head back to the highway, It is an honest 30 kilometres each way.
There is a great carpark at the start of the Waihaha Section, but be aware it is remote and there have been break-ins to vehicles.