Are the kids ready to tackle some two-wheeled trail adventures? This family-friendly section of the Waikato River Trails is perfect for kids wanting to ditch urban adventures for the great outdoors.
The section ‘officially’ begins at the Pokaiwhenua Bridge car park on Horahora Road, which is about five kilometres north of Little Waipā Reserve. The trail follows the road and would suit older kids keen to get some miles in their legs. However, younger kids might prefer starting at Little Waipā Reserve to store some juice in the tank to tackle the out-and-back trail to Arapuni Village.
From Little Waipā Reserve the trails snakes alongside the Waikato River towards the small hydro township of Arapuni, with its mammoth suspension bridge dangling over a gorge.
The easy grade makes for leisurely pedalling, which is ideal for families. And, the well-graded cycle path has the perfect blend of broad flat sections with a smattering of more challenging steep parts. Kids will probably need to jump off their bikes and push on a couple of the short hurty hills (Grade 3). But otherwise, it’s an excellent trail for most abilities.
Sandwiched between farmland and the meandering Waikato River, the trail passes through patches of native bush and across wetland boardwalks on its way south to Arapuni Village.
There are plenty of picnic tables along the way for refuelling breaks and to let little legs recover before jumping on the saddle again. Don’t miss capturing a selfie at the towering tūī metal sculpture.
About mid-way along the trail, the impressive 500-metre long Huihuitaha Wetland boardwalk crosses a regenerating wetland. Hard graft by volunteers has transformed this boggy patch into a refuge for native birds including kōtare/sacred kingfisher and pīwakawaka/fantail. Take care as the boardwalk is quite narrow and bikers do zoom along it briskly.
The trail takes a short detour on the quiet Powerhouse Road before the trail passes under towering pines en route to the Village. Peek through the trees, and you’ll see the impressive but slightly nerve-jangling 54-metre high Arapuni Suspension Bridge ahead of you.
Grab something to munch from the nearby bustling Rhubarb Café which is normally chocka with biking enthusiasts during the weekends. There is cabinet food, coffee, a hearty all-day menu and plenty of ice creams to keep the troops happy.
If you dare, grab the bikes and stroll across the wobbly 152-metre long suspension bridge which dangles over the Waikato River. The bridge gives an impressive bird’s eye view of Arapuni Hydro Power Station.
Loop down across the lower bridge to reconnect with Powerhouse Road and the trail which is just up the hill on the left. Then, it’s homeward bound along the same route but this time with idyllic views north along the Waikato River.
Grade: The Karapiro section has been graded as Easy (Grade 2) and Intermediate (Grade 3). The trail is mostly flat with some gentle climbs, but there are a couple of small hills where you might need to jump off and push your bike.
Time: Little Waipā Reserve to Arapuni Village allow 45 to 60 min (6.2 km) one-way. This includes plenty of stops to clamber over the sculptures, snack breaks and snapshots of the river.
Pokaiwhenua Bridge car park to Arapuni Village allow 80 min (11.5 km) one-way.
Accessibility: The mountain bike path is a mixture of well-graded gravel, boardwalk and short road sections. The gentle gradient is suitable for kids’ bikes, bikes with kid-seats or tag-along style attachments and touring bikes, e-bikes and mountain bikes. Ideal for outdoorsy buggies too. No dogs allowed on the Waikato River Trails.
Facilities: There are toilets near the Pokaiwhenua Bridge car park (400-metres down the track), at Little Waipā Domain and Arapuni Village. Cellphone coverage along the route is patchy. Don’t rely on being able to make calls from Little Waipā Reserve.
Gear: Take plenty of water and snacks for everyone and don’t forget the essential helmets. Throw in a windbreaker or jacket as a backup even in summer.
WAIKATO RIVER TRAILS
The Waikato River Trails stretches about 105 kilometres beside the mighty Waikato River from Pokaiwhenua Stream north of Arapuni Village, to SH1 near Ātiamuri. It is one of 22 national "Great Rides" which also includes the Hauraki Rail Trail and the Timber Trail at Pureora Forest Park. The entire Waikato River Trails is made up of five sections and will take riders about three days to complete. The most kid-friendly option to explore is the Karapiro section which includes the Arapuni Suspension Bridge.
Looking for more family adventures? Discover 100+ kid-friendly adventures in our Hamilton & Waikato guidebook. Adventures suitable for little legs, buggies, wheelchairs, bikes and the family pooch - all ages, all abilities.