Happy Days on the Headland Mountain Bike Trail

One sunny summer’s day in Taupo we got lucky. Lucky enough to have our children hijacked by friends who live in Kinloch, conveniently close to the start of the W2K mountain bike trail. A-ha, we thought, the perfect opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the 9.5km Headland Track, which is part of the W2K (Whakaipo to Kinloch) trail.

Slathered in sunscreen and armed with plenty of water and snacks, our ride started with a leisurely pedal through the quiet streets of Kinloch. We made our way round the Kinloch Marina and over the bridge to the lake front. It’s a stunning lakeside ride for a few hundred metres before reaching the end of the path, heading up a gully past the rock climbing crag and onto the start of the track on Boojum Dell.

Bike Lake Taupo

We knew straight away we were on a Bike Taupō track – it’s typically well built and maintained and is a good gradient for riders of all abilities. I was a little apprehensive at the start of this ride as it had been a while since I’d been out on my bike, and beginning with a climb is not my ideal way to start out. But, after a couple of minutes my fears of struggling breathless and red faced to the top were allayed. As the track wound its way gently uphill through the regenerating native bush, I was surprised to find I was not even close to my granny gear and the climb was a rather civilised affair! Nice one track builders. 

On our way up the hill, we met lots of people either cycling or walking the track. It was so nice to see that everyone was more than happy to stop and chat or at least smile and give us a cheery hello. It seems that harmonious shared use of trails is alive and well in Taupo!

Once that first climb is over, the track flattens out a bit so we stopped and took a break at some big rocks that provide a natural lookout over Kinloch Bay. On such a beautiful day we could see for miles across Lake Taupo, and we also had a good view back down the hill over the climb we’d just done. There’s something pretty satisfying about feeling like you’re on top of the world and being able to see where you’ve come from – the climb looked pretty massive from where we stood but in fact required little effort which I found amazing.

From this point, the fun really begins on the W2K trail. Any minor suffering I had done on my way up the hill was now forgotten. Now nicely warmed up, my legs had taken on an energy of their own and the flow of the trail, the lush scenery and the glimpses of the lake and mountains kept me zooming along nicely. We reached the junction of the W2K and Headland tracks (approx. 6 km from Kinloch) and turned right so that we were riding the Headland track in a clockwise direction (the jury is out though on which direction is best). There are plenty of long gradual descents and the odd easy and short climb as you make your way round the peninsular, but again it only took a couple of bananas to refuel and minimal effort in the leg department to make it round.

At the top of the headland there is a well-placed seat overlooking the lake and mountains, the perfect place for a quick rest before continuing on the adventure. I love this seat as it’s a legacy to everyone who was involved in building this trail. The names of track builders, pen pushers, the hard core few that ventured out to deliver home baked muffins to the crew, and even the dogs that accompanied the track builders are inscribed on the seat. It’s a brilliant piece of Taupo history that I hope will be preserved for many years to come.

Before you reach the end of the Headland Track there is a short lookout track that is well worth the diversion. We ducked down and were treated to some epic views over Kinloch and out towards the western bays of Lake Taupo. Then it was back out to the Headland track to ride the last kilometre or so before meeting back up with the W2K. If I had to describe the Headland track in one sentence, I would say it has stunning scenery, fantastic flow, some really nice corners to tuck into and easy descents which set you up nicely for the next corner. There are a few ‘pinches’ on the track just before you get back to the W2K but overall it’s fairly even handed and is achievable by almost anyone.

Riding back down the W2K to Kinloch is brilliant fun, and most of the time you can get up some decent speed as there is enough visibility around corners to check if anyone is coming the other way. Don’t go crazy though, as there are lots of walkers that use this track too! On arrival back in Kinloch, we couldn’t resist a dip in the clear blue lake to wash off the dust and sweat and cool down to a normal temperature again. We then headed over the road to the Tipsy Trout and had a lovely chat to the super friendly owners Simone and Ricky Ratana. The coffee was good and so was the food, and I thoroughly recommend the gourmet pies if you feel you’ve earned enough brownie points on your ride to indulge! Rowan was looking rather satisfied with himself as he leaned back in his chair with a good ride under his belt, a Corona in one hand and a gourmet pie in the other! Now that’s the definition of a good day’s riding. 

For more information on mountain bike rides in the Taupo region see here.

Maps are available from www.biketaupo.org.nz or for $3 from bike shops in Taupo or in a downloadable version online at

Shuttle transport is available to/from Taupo, Kinloch and most other tracks around the region. Contact Peter Hart at Great Lake Shuttles.

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