From what I’ve read/heard about the Waikato River Trail, the Karapiro section is the easiest on the 103km route, so it made sense to tackle that section on our first family mountain biking foray especially since we had to go to Putaururu (to pick up a bike for James) anyway.
Although the Waikato River Trail website is quite comprehensive, I was still at a loss as to where exactly the car parks were located (and Google Maps wasn’t much help) so after speaking to the guy we picked up James’ bike from we drove to the Arapuni Village and hoped that we’d figure it out. Thankfully shortly upon driving into the village (and passing by the Rhubarb Cafe) we saw a large sign that read “River Trail Parking” .. how convenient!
We followed the signs and parked in the clearing behind the bowling club and found that the trail and Arapuni Suspension bridge was immediately in front of us ..again, how convenient! As we were not going to cycle across the Arapuni suspension bridge (and we were so close), Elias and I walked down to check it out while James sorted out all of our bikes. On a side note I highly recommend walking across the bridge if you are not taking a cycling route that includes it, as it’s really quite spectacular!
After checking out the bridge, Elias and I headed back to find that J had all the bikes ready, so we popped on our helmets, took the obligatory photo by the track sign and headed off towards Little Waipa Reserve which is just over 6km away.
The trail starts off rather sedately, mostly flat but with a few small hills to get the the heart pumping (if you’re running) or to test out your gear and brake control if you are riding. Less than half a kilometer after starting you’ll come to the “end” of the first track and you’ll need to turn left and travel along the road for a very short distance, crossing to the other side to continue along the River Trail.
This section is far more varied than the first. You’ll traverse along flat sections that meander gently beside the river, a long boardwalk through a wetland and numerous hills one which is very steep. I walked a good majority of that particular hill (both ways) but then again, descents on a bike have always scared the living shit out of me. (Hence the reason I run).
James and I both disliked the boardwalk section (and watching Elias navigate it just about gave me a heart attack), but then again watching him ride on most of the single tracks with drop offs to the river also put my Mum nerves on edge, so much so that I’d often take the lead and I’d let James came up the rear (we kept Elias in the middle for safety). James is far less of a helicopter parent than I am. 😉
This is a very popular trail and on the cold and at times rainy Saturday afternoon that we rode along it we crossed paths with a number of other mountain bikers (many of whom also seemed “new” to mountain biking), a few trail runners and quite a few walkers. I will say that this would be a really nice trail to run along, although I’d probably still have to walk the majority of “that hill” and I despise boardwalks and the one on this section of trail is particularly long – but once you get past the boardwalk it’s relatively easy going all the way to Little Waipa Reserve, in fact the 3.5km from Little Waipa to the trail end point at Pokaiwhenua Bridge carpark is also easy going albiet extremely boring as it’s just a gravel pathway that follows the road. Unless you want the glory of doing the entire trail from end to end, I’d probably skip that section all together.
More information on the entire Waikato River Trail can be found HERE.
Till next time