GRADE: 4 LENGTH: 4.5km
BUILT: Marked out by Jeff Carter, and built in 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 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.
If you don't like a technical riding challenge then don't bother - you will probably hate it.