Explore Waikato: Timber Trail

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Before you start planning exotic overseas trips, check out what’s in your own back yard, with the latest in our Explore Waikato series.

The Timber Trail boasts an impressive 42 bridges, stunning scenery and options for all fitness levels. It’s the perfect venue to take a relaxed stroll through or get your heart pumping; whichever is your preference.

Imagine spending a weekend or Easter break on a backcountry adventure through ancient forest with abundant birdlife, following historic tramways and over awe-inspiring bridges…

The Timber Trail is widely regarded as being the best two-day mountain bike ride in NZ and the ‘jewel in the crown’ of North Island cycleways. We are lucky enough to have this hugely popular trail in the Waikato region, kicking off in Pureora near Benneydale.

The trail winds its way through giant rimu, totara and kahikatea trees, across 42 bridges with the lonest being the 141-metre-long Maramataha Bridge, which crosses the Maramataha River near the site of a historic viaduct.

The area was once home to a booming logging industry and much of the trail follows the Ellis & Burnand Ongarue Tramway, which operated between 1922 and 1958. The tramway is the longest bush tramway in New Zealand and a highlight of the journey is the Ongarue Spiral. The spiral was built to reduce the tramway’s gradient, enabling trains to climb through otherwise impassable terrain.

The Timber Trail can be cycled in either direction, but north to south is the easier option as it is predominantly downhill.

HIGHLIGHTS
• The remoteness, stunning scenery, awe-inspiring swing bridges and historic logging tramways create epic appeal
• The trail is also a very popular walking route, with people of all ages enjoying the trail and a one day or multi-day walk (allow 4 days if walking the whole trail or see DOC’s website for the best sections for short walks).
• Follow New Zealand’s longest bush tramway and see the marvel of engineering that is the Ongarue Spiral.

TRAIL LENGTHS
•  Pureora to Piropiro: 40km, Grade 3 (Intermediate)
•  Piropiro to Ongarue: 45km, Grade 2 (Easy)
•  Total Trail length: 85km

QUICK FACTS
• Graded 2-3 – suitable for moderately experienced and capable riders.
• The trail travels over 42 bridges – eight of them suspension bridges.
• The trail is often enjoyed by weekend warriors and high performance athletes including The Chiefs who rode the trail recently as a team bonding session.
• It is recommended to ride the entire trail, riders experience the trail as a multi-day ride and consider accommodation options along the ride.
• The Ellis & Burnand Ongarue Tramway, which the trail follows, is the longest bush tramway in New Zealand.

GOOD TO KNOW
• You can start the trail from either the northern end (near Benneydale) or the southern end (near Ongarue)
• If planning an itinerary, you can team your ride with some underground adventures in Waitomo, just 45 minutes from Benneydale.
• A new lodge style accommodation is set to open in April this year at the half way point on the trail. This, and the many other accommodation options along the trail makes it easy to enjoy the Timber Trail as a multi-day ride.
• Dogs are not permitted on the trail unless they have a DOC permit. Contact the relevant DOC office to obtain a permit.


For more information on The Timber Trail visit the official Timber Trail website www.timbertrail.co.nz or to find out about the many other walking and hiking trails around the Hamilton & Waikato region visit www.hamiltonwaikato.com/experiences/walking-and-hiking-trails/

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