Great Lake Trail FAQs

Here are a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the riding the Great Lake Trail. Check out each section's page for more detailed information.

Where is the Great Lake Trail?

The Great Lake Trail is an epic 71km mountain biking and walking journey situated along the western and northern shores of Great Lake Taupo, the largest lake in Australasia. Great Lake Taupo is situated in the centre of the North Island in New Zealand. Most people will access the trails from Taupo or Kinloch. Check here for more details about getting to the Great Lake Trail.

See the interactive Google Map below for trail location and more information. 


Why should I ride the Great Lake Trail?

The Great Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails of the Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail network, with around 35,000 people riding or walking the trail each year. The Great Lake Trail traverses some of the most remote areas of Great Lake Taupo’s shore, taking you through ancient lands interwoven with Maori history and stories from a time past. 

You can feel the history surrounding you as you ride into the forest and the landscape unfolds to reveal stunning views across the water to the majestic volcanic mountains of the Tongariro National Park. Dramatic scenery combines with serene lake views, powerful waterfalls, native bird song and incredible trail quality to deliver an unforgettable experience. 

The Great Lake Trail is proud to be a 2015 Runner Up in the Bike Wise Favourite New Zealand Cycle Trail and part of Taupo’s IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) Silver Ride Centre Accreditation, the first in New Zealand. 


How difficult is the Great Lake Trail? Can absolute beginners ride it?

The Grade Lake Trail is categorised as a Grade 3 ride, and should be ridden by regular, experienced cyclists with a good level of fitness and over 12 years of age. Children should be accompanied by an adult. 
It is not recommended for absolute beginners. Fit, experienced cyclists should have no problems riding the entire Great Lake Trail in two days. Alternatively, you can choose to ride the entire trail in three days or break the trail down into smaller sections. 

Absolute beginners would have a better riding experience along the Lions Walk (aka The Great Lake Walkway) or the beginner trails at Craters Mountain Bike Park. If you are unsure about your riding abilities, check in with the friendly Taupo i-SITE team for more information. 


What is the best way to ride the entire trail?

The Great Lake Trail is made up of three main sections - Waihaha (30km)Kawakawa (20km) and W2K (21km). We recommend that you ride the entire trail from west (starting with Waihaha) to east (ending with W2K) for the best ride experience.


How long does it take to ride the entire Great Lake Trail?

The Waihaha section is 30km and takes about 4-5 hours to ride. The Kawakawa section is 20km and takes 2.5-3.5 hours to ride. The W2K section is 21km and takes 2.5-3.5 hours to ride.

You can choose to ride the entire Great Lake Trail in either two or three days, or choose to ride each individual section. If you choose to ride the trail in two days, ride Waihaha on day 1 and Kawakawa and W2K on day 2. If you are riding the trail in three days, ride Waihaha on day 1, Kawakawa on day 2 and W2K on day 3. 


What are the logistics involved to ride the Great Lake Trail? 

The Great Lake Trail is made up of three main sections. You can park your vehicle at Kinloch and arrange for a shuttle to drop you off at the start of the Waihaha section. You will also need to pre-book a water taxi at the end of the Waihaha trail to take you back to Kinloch. 

For the 2nd and 3rd sections, park your verhicle at Kinloch and arrange for a shuttle to drop you off at the start of the Kawakawa section. If you are doing both the Kawakawa and W2K on the same day, arrange for a pick up (either water taxi or shuttle) at Whakaipo Bay (the end of W2K). Check here for more details about shuttle operators or book them from the Taupo i-SITE.


Are there places to stay along the Great Lake Trail? Can I purchase food and drinks along the trail?

At the moment, there are currently no accommodation available along the trail. Please arrange to stay at one of the many B&Bs, lodges or holiday homes at Kinloch or any of the accommodation providers in Taupo. 

There is a popular camping spot at Kawakawa Bay (middle of the Kawakawa section). Long drop toilet and shelter available. You will have to bring your own tent and there are no cooking facilities on site. Please do not light any fires.

If you are travelling in a self contained vehicle, you may park your vehicle at the Whakaipo Bay Recreation Reserve (end of the W2K section). You may stay no more than 4 nights in any single calendar month. There are toilets at the reserve and a fire ban is enforced all year round.

There are no places to purchase food and drinks along the trail so please ensure you pack enough food and drinks to sustain you throughout your ride. 


What should I wear and what should I bring for the ride? Is there mobile coverage?

The Great Lake Trail is one of the few trails in New Zealand that can be ridden all year round due to the free draining pumice soil surface. This means that there is normally little mud even in wet weather.

Please check the weather before you go and be prepared with all weather gear as the conditions can change very quickly. Layers are best. Winter is a great time as the air is crisp and clear and the mountains look incredible.

There are no places to purchase food and drinks so please pack your lunch and snacks and make sure you have enough water. It is also a good idea to carry an emergency locator beacon. There is mobile coverage at certain parts of the trail.   


Are there any hazards I should look out for?

The Great Lake Trail is a shared mountain biking and walking trail so please keep a look out for walkers, especially around tight or blind corners. Although we recommend you ride the trail from west to east, the trail can be ridden in any direction so share with care and courtesy.  

The Grade 3 trail is generally in excellent condition but be mindful of high cliffs, loose soil, uneven ground and tight or blind corners at certain places. 


Who can I contact for more information?

Pop in to the Taupo i-SITE or give the team a call. They would be able to tell you more about the trail or arrange bike hire, shuttles or book your accommodation. Another great source of information are the local bike shops. Staff there are very passionate and knowledagable about the surrounding trails and will be more than happy to answer any bike related questions you have. You can also contact Bike Taupo, a cycling advocacy group who built and maintain the Great Lake Trail.  


Towering volcanic rock cliffs, spectacular views and a waterfall hidden deep in the Waihaha Valley are highlights of the Waihaha section


Ride across boardwalks, past waterfalls and over ravines as the trail makes its way down towards the lake shore


W2K climbs steadily up through native bush and onto the headland, providing spectacular views across Lake Taupo

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