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Last Updated on December 9, 2022
The Timber Trail is one of the 23 great rides in New Zealand. It is located in Pureora Forest Park (Central North Island) and it is Grades 2 to 3 (Easy to Intermediate). This 83 km trail is usually done within 2 days with an overnight stop at Piropiro campsite (free basic DOC campsite). If you are a fit and experienced mountain biker, you may even compress the whole trail in 1 day!
This trail is just incredible and it offers diverse views and environments throughout the whole way. To me, the most exciting part was riding in the native podocarp bush (looking like a magic forest) with amazing trees and vegetation. It is a very fun ride! The trail keeps meandering in the forest with lots of ups and downs but not too steep.
The stunning ride also has some longest and highest suspension bridges in New Zealand, for example, Maramataha Bridge which is 141 m long and 53 m high. The bridges are the main attractions apart from the forest and the ride itself.
Here’s the elevation profile for Timber Trail.
The Trail starts at Pureora car park and ends at Ongarue car park. It is a part of the historic Ongarue Tramway.
The most convenient way to do the trail is from Pureora to Ongarue because in this case, there’s more downhill, and it’s easier. Most bikers do it in this way.
Timber Trail starts at a little bit over 500 m and keeps going up to the highest point of 971 m for the first 13 kilometers. After that, there’s a gradual decline with a few steepish ups and downs, until the campsite is reached.
The second day is way easier as it’s mostly smooth downhill. There’s a decent climb up at the very start of the day though.
Anyone who knows how to bike can do the Timber Trail. If some parts are too steep or too strenuous, you can always walk your bike. By the way, there are quite a few walkers-backpackers on the way because Timber Trail is a part of Te Araroa Trail.
The first biking day takes the most of your energy and strength as it goes up into Pureora mountains at least for half of the day.
Timber Trail is in good condition in most cases. We were biking in the rain, and even then (with lots of paddles and mud) it was OK to ride.
It is more enjoyable to split the Timber Trail in 2 days as this allows us to take in the moment and the scenery. At the mid-point, there are a few accommodation options listed further below.
The best way to start your preparation is to book a shuttle. This is a one-way trail, so you will definitely park your car at the very end (Ongarue car park), and you will have to be shuttled to the start (Pureora car park). As for your luggage (sleeping bags, tents), you can either drop it at the campsite on the way down or include this in the shuttle arrangement. We booked Epic Cycle Adventures (that was a great service, by the way) and we got our luggage picked up and dropped by them on Days 1 and 2. Overall, we didn’t have to worry about the luggage at all.
Day 1 starts with a tough climb over 13 km. This is a gradual incline but it’s not very steep. There are a couple of shelters to stop over, at on the way. We were quite aware of all the things that are waiting for us ahead since the driver of Epic Cycle Adventures (Paul) explained to us in detail all the “hazards” – steep slopes, places with no reception, and where to seek shelters as well.
After the 11 km mark, there’s a turn for a walking track to the top of Mount Pureora. It usually takes 1.5 hrs return. On a clear day, you will enjoy the views of Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Tongariro, and Mt Taranaki. We didn’t do that because it was cloudy and a bit rainy. In fact, there were quite a few clearings along the trail itself from where views could be observed.
After the highest point of 971 m, we experienced great relief as the trail started going down. Actually, to me, the toughest kilometers were 11 to 12. Kilometers 12 to 13 were mostly flat and the forest was truly amazing. That was the best part of the trail for me!
The first suspension bridge (Bog Inn Bridge) is at the 22 km mark, Orauwaka Bridge is a bit further, and that’s where the fun begins! Bridges are the coolest part of this trail! They are so massive and scary. Somewhere around this bridge, that’s where bikers usually have lunch as it’s right in the middle of the first-day ride.
The Timber Trail keeps going downhill with a couple of steepish ups and downs. A few kilometers after Harrisons Creek (26-27 km), it slowly comes out of the forest and keeps going on the driving gravel road, then goes back into the forest and back to the road again. This is a very smooth and pleasant ride. Piropiro campsite is at 39 km mark, it is a great spot with lots of spaces. In fact, when we were there it was almost empty.
Day 2 starts with an impressive Maramataha Bridge at 44 km – the longest and highest bridge of the trail (141 m long and 53 m high).
After that, there’s a decent climb up with quite a few canyons in the dense forest. Though the bush does not look as magical as it was around the highest point.
Then the route follows Ongarue Tramway with a few Historic Camps and information points on the way. The Timber Trail is a very important area and it’s full of history!
The next great bridge is Mangatukutuku Bridge (69 km). After the bridge, the fun ride downhill is following the gorge with impressive views.
Then it keeps sloping in the forest and finally comes out to the farmlands towards the end of the trail. This final part of the ride is fast, smooth, and boosted with some great views of the gorge.
A very cool little tunnel expects at 74 km (Ongarue Spiral). A torch would be handy in there. The Timber Trail ends at Ongarue car park at the 83 km mark.
At the moment, there are 3 accommodation options:
We opted for Option #3, and it was a great choice because that’s all you need during this remote ride in nature.
The weather can get very unpredictable in this part of New Zealand. As mountain weather changes quickly, a rain forecast doesn’t mean that it will be rainy all day. On the other hand, even a sunny day can have quite a few drops of rain. It’s always good to have some good rain and sun gear for any occasion.
The Timber Trail is one of those rides that anyone would love to do again. It is truly epic and incredible, and it is accessible to bikers of any level.