This week I took a trek from Hamilton over the ranges to Rotorua to ride Tuhoto Ariki, one of the more 'epic' trails in the Whakarewarewa trail network. With a couple of keen bike shop crew (Morgan Moore and Levi Johnson) who'd managed a day off we were set for a good day out in the bush. With our GoPro in hand we were keen to hit the trails and get some footage!
"Tuhoto" as it's known has been developed in a block of DOC governed native bush at 'the back' of the forest, atop Tawa road and the highest point in the 'Whaka' trail network. The trail winds its way around the hill and pops out on Moerangi road, roughly halfway between the end of Billy-T and start of Split-Enz.
Being in native bush the trail base is dark dirt (ie mud when wet) and roots, especially through the first half as you work your way to the 'top' of the trail. The trail is predominantly downhill, with a couple of minor climbs and a few short pinches that are strewn with roots to make them a bit more exciting / technical. Being that the trail is quite dense bush to begin with its pretty dark in there so be sure you have plenty of daylight to play with, yesterday was pretty dark and overcast when we headed in.
Another feature of the track is the mud, it never seems to entirely disappear in spots, even mid-summer there are still remnants of "the bogs". DOC and the RMTBC have taken steps to stop a couple of bogs getting worse, putting a small bridge over one and planning a bridge over the other. Don't worry all you mud dogs, there are plenty of smaller bogs to catch you out and give you a mud fix. One descent in particular is a high speed (for the terrain) number that drops down over a series of off cambered root beds and mud bogs, providing you are a strong enough rider to cary speed over the roots and keep your speed up you'll love this section.
While we were riding the trail Morgan commented "Its kind of like a mini epic" and I couldn't agree more, its just like those walking tracks that you know you shouldn't ride but that too good not too. If you like your riding technical, rough, fast, slow and slippery then Tuhoto is one for you. If you only like riding the "core" trails in Whakarewarewa or similar bike parks then flag this one as its probably not your thing.
If you're not so sure if it's your 'bag' but you want to find out, best wait until summer when most of the bogs dry to more of a "mush" than a full blown bog hole. During winter the trail is well rideable immediately after rain while the mud is still 'wet' but once it dries a bit can get quite boggy and slow in areas, and of course if there's any moisture around the roots will be slippery.
While the track is predominantly a descent there's one distinct climb in the middle but the trail builders managed to tame it down and with some handy benching and a couple of switch backs its no biggie, just watch the couple of root beds that are waiting to slip you up!
This trail polarizes riders, they either love it or hate it and this is usually a reflection of the strength and technical ability of the rider, so if you're an upper intermediate to advanced rider and you like a challenge go check it out!
Access: The easiest way to Tuhoto is to catch a Southstar Shuttle up to the top of the road, ride up past the top gate about 1km and the trail head is on your left, marked with a DOC sign. Alternatively you can do some actual riding on your way to the trail head and take in some of the other great trails Whaka has to offer. In our case we rode into A Trail, Tickler, Direct Road and across to Frontal Lobotomy, up the hill to where we linked onto Tawa Rd and upwards to Tuhoto. Track elevation profile HERE.
Grade: 4, or you can turn right 3/4s of the way through and ride Hatupatu to take this to a grade 5 is you are that way inclined. We'll be looking at Hatupatu another tuesday.
Ideal bike: 5"+ travel full suspension Trail bike. Good suspension and will maximise your fun on this trail but don't be fooled, this isn't a downhill track so 'huck bikes' and downhill bikes need not apply. A 32 tooth single chainring will make a couple of the 'pinches' burn the legs but you'll get through most of the trail without the need for a granny ring. If you've got a granny ring though you'll probably use it.
All vid and photos thanks to GoPro Cameras.