Ohakune Mountain Road
Freewheel down Mt Ruapehu on one of New Zealand’s most spectacular roads. This exhilarating 1000m descent is a fantastic way to kick-start your Mountains to Sea adventure. Catch a shuttle to Turoa Skifield – 1700m above sea level – and experience the winding swoop through to Ohakune.
Take in the weird and wonderful landscape of World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park as well as jaw-dropping views across the volcanic plateau.
- panoramic plateau views
- exhilarating 1000m descent
- unique volcanic landscape
- forest & waterfall walks
Catching a ride from Ohakune up to Turoa Skifield is by far the best (and least energetic way) to tackle Ohakune Mountain Road . Luckily, local shuttles are happy to oblige and can point out the highlights and lookout points along the way.
However, masochistic Tour de France wannabes can cycle up the road. The record is a smidge over 44 minutes (on a road bike of course), but even a fit mountain biker should allow three hours for the 17 km uphill. This is, however, New Zealand’s only ‘hors category’ climb, so bragging rights are in order for those that make it to the top under their own steam!The downhill start is at 1700 m above sea level, from where there are mind-blowing views across the flanks of Mt Ruapehu and across the volcanic plateau. On a fine day, riders will see the near-perfect volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki way out west.
Speedy riders can make it back down to Ohakune in a little over 30 minutes, but why the rush? A series of walking tracks off the Mountain Road allow riders to savour this UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscape. If you want to see the highest waterfall in the national park, factor the Waitonga Falls Track (1.5 hours return; 6km from the top) into your ride.Other worthy stops include the Mangawhero Falls (5–10 mins return; 4km from Turoa), and the Mangawhero Forest Walk (1 hr return) and Rimu Walk (15 mins return) that start near the bottom of the Mountain Road.
The scenery changes dramatically as the road winds down the side of Mt Ruapehu. The trail starts above the treeline, amidst an otherworldly volcanic landscape of old lava flows and alpine gardens featuring peculiar shrubs and red tussock. Further down, thicker vegetation takes hold in the less extreme conditions with stunted beech trees eventually giving way to lowland forest dominated by beech and lofty rimu.
Around 1km shy of Ohakune is DOC’s Mangawhero Campground. With plenty of pretty picnic spots, it’s a good place to rest and relax after your exciting downhill.
Te Ara Mangawhero Trail coming soon
We are working on a new trail for you to take down the mountain and off Ohakune Mountain Road. This spectacular Grade 3 trail will wind it's way down the slopes of the mountain using a network of rediscovered tracks and tramlines.
Expected completion date 2022.
Need to Know
- Unless you’re riding up to the top, very little fitness is required to complete this Grade 3 (intermediate) ride.
- The trail is on a sealed road. Although it’s not generally that busy, riders should be prepared to meet vehicles at all times.
- Family groups should take extra care to ensure that only children with road sense and downhill cycling experience attempt this ride.
- Mountain bikes, hybrids, tourers, road bikes, e-bikes and even unicycles have made it safely down the Ohakune Mountain Road. However, if you’re riding other sections of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail, a mountain bike is your best bet.
- This is an alpine environment, so the weather can change quickly and it can get cold. Riders should always check the forecast in advance and take clothing for every eventuality.
- During the ski season (June–late October), the upper section is likely to be blanketed in snow and is off-limits to cyclists.
- There is no food and water along the road, so riders should carry their own supplies. During the ski season there is a cafe at the Turoa base, but the upper Mountain Road will probably be closed to cyclists during this time. Ohakune is a great place to fuel up, or wind down with post-ride refreshments.
- There is cellphone reception, although it may be patchy in places.
- Shuttle transport is readily available from Ohakune and should be booked in advance. Shuttle drivers and other local operators will gladly update you on current track conditions or hazards.
- Public toilets are available in Ohakune, and at the Turoa skifield base during the ski season.
This is Section connects with the Ohakune Old Coach Road at Ohakune