Top Town- Rotorua

What is New Zealand’s Top TRAIL Town?
We are chatting with a few folks that rate their local spot as the top trail running spot in the country.

This week for “Top Trail Town” we head back to the North Island and get the low down from a man that has arguably had the biggest impact on trail ultra races in New Zealand, Tarawera Ultra race director Paul Charteris

A little taste of what is on offer on the trails of Rotorua- NZ’s top trail town? Image- Paul Petch-

“The bread and butter run”- a quick and easy, no brainer option for scoring some nice off road/single track close to home. Ideally with little to no drive time - The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest. Overlooking Rotorua, the Whaka forest contains a few hundred km of trails ranging from twisty-turny single track, open forest trails through to forestry roads. If you have an hour to kill, I’d recommend starting at the Redwoods Visitors Centres and running the yellow track (there are several well sign-posted and colour coded tracks), you’ll get a great view of the town and some sweet redwoods action.

From the Redwoods Visitor’s Centre there are a number of narrow single track trails that weave their way through the forest. Look out for these. It’s a “hidden trail system” that 99% of people never discover – but they are incredible fun to run.

“Fortune favours the brave”- long , endurance, adventure run – whatever you call it- what is the training run than gets you excited- the most work, with the biggest reward. Steep, long climbs, big loops, and high peaks, all with top notch NZ scenery are the highlights here-  The Black Track is the big loop in the Whaka Forest – it’s a 30+km training run that’ll give you plenty of variety and great views of both Blue and Green Lakes. Combining the Western and Eastern Okataina walkways with the Northern Tarawera track and through to the falls is probably the best of the local trail runs. In December, DOC plans to open the Tarawera Track on the southern shore of the lake, it’ll be a spectacular run with great views of Mt Tarawera.

There are great trail runs along the lakes other lakes too. The Sulphur Point walkway (Polynesian Spa sits about half way along this walkway) connects the town to the redwoods and passes through some steamy territory alongside Lake Rotorua. A new track has just opened circling Lake Okareka.

Paul cranking it on on of his local trails around the Redwoods.

To gain some elevation, you could ascend Moerangi in the Whaka Forest, taking in the Tuhoto Ariki track. Or, summit Mt Ngongotaha via the bush walk on Paradise Valley Road.

The best runs to find a wilderness hotpools are Rainbow Mountain to Kerosene Creek or the Tarawera Track to Wairua Stream or Hot Water Beach. The Tarawera Track is not open yet.

“The biggest show in town”- the main attraction event wise- when people think of a race in your home town/area this is what they think of- (Grant – don’t make me toot my own horn here) the Vibram Tarawera Ultra. in mid-March attracts 400 runners from all over the world. Some other notable events include the 3D Multisport Festival in mid-winter and the Tikitapu Trail Runs in spring. The Rotorua offroad half marathon in early March also attracts a big field.

“Après Trail”- whether it be a good coffee, local micro brew, or the best thick shake in town- where is the best post run hang out- Abracadabra’s café and bar and Zippy’s café are two popular hangout joints for the trail crowd. At the Waipa end of the Whaka Forest a new coffee shop has just opened – right at the trail head – talk about convenient. The team behind Crouchers’ beer recently opened ‘Brew’ in down town Rotorua – a great place to hang out for liquid refreshment after a day on the trails. Oppies Fish and Chips on Fenton St. have won a stack of national awards.


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A Backcountry Running Community for New Zealand trail, mountain and ultra runners- We want this to be the place you come for all things trail running including race previews and reports, interviews with New Zealand runners and hopefully a whole lot more! Our aim is to provide as much original content- previews/reports/interviews on New Zealand trail, mountain and ultra races. We can't be everywhere- so feel free to get in touch if you have the scoop on a race or event.

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