The North Island of New Zealand is ground to a variety of many different landscapes, and somewhere near the middle is Tongariro National Park. In some places within the park like the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike, it could be regarded as one of the busiest places to visit, whereas other hikes/bikes have been some of the most peaceful backcountry eske places I have been.
In an earlier post I talked about a backcountry bike trip, The 42 Traverse. It was a full day bike through some amazing sections of forest, crossing streams, and with several views of the surrounding hills and famous volcanoes. No worries if you missed it, check out the post here: NZ Backcountry Biking: 42 Traverse
After The 42 Traverse trip, I continually was on the look out for trips similar to it and nothing really came up until a local in Rotorua pointed us towards Tree Trunk Gorge, Pillars of Hercules, and Mt. Urchin. Driving out to the gorge and hiking around near the parking area was easily enough to make the trip worth it. We parked for the night in a dark quiet part of the woods and just prayed the rain would stop for the next day.
The rain did just that and we unloaded the bikes to set off for the day. It was mostly dual track, but there are single track sections that are plenty fun and challenging. It’s regarded as a Grade 4, as some sections require a competent rider or else walking will be required.
Below is a trail profile for the main Tree Trunk Gorge / Pillars of Hercules track.
The Mt. Urchin track is not included in the Doc pamphlet as a bike trail, but was rather suggested to me by a local from Rotorua. It should not be taken lightly and only biked by fit competent riders, especially when wet! It starts from the Urchin Campsite up a gravel road for about 2 km’s and then it becomes a massive bike push up a steep rooty walking track. The trail itself is 3.3 km long with about 550m of elevation. Marisa opted to stop pushing her bike at about the halfway point, and I pushed mine up to tree line and B-lined for the summit on foot as energy levels and day light were running out. The summit presented amazing views of the surrounding volcanoes and hills. After pushing up for 2 hours it was all down hill, a bike ride less than 15 minutes to the trail head. Reaching the bottom I was ready to bike out the Tree Trunk Gorge back to the van.
All in all, it was an awesome day of biking, river crossing and hiking, and the only people we saw were at the campsite. From waiting in line at the Alpine Crossing walking track to having this entire ~18 km return track all to ourselves, it made for a memorable day. Definitely recommend to hikers or bikers coming to check out the area!
Posted by Mitch