They vary greatly. The easiest are wide, smooth and flat or gently undulating. As they get harder you can expect any combination of narrow, muddy, stony or even cobbled, as well as more hilly terrain requiring long climbs or short, technical sections where you may need to dismount and walk.
As the name suggests, Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail heads downhill overall and full trail riders are advised to ride it from the official Ohakune start to the Whanganui finish. Shuttles are available at both ends, but you can also arrange pick-ups and drop-offs in other places to skip certain sections or transfer you to accommodation off the trail.
There certainly are. The trail's six sections and the additional rides detailed on this website serve up rides to suit all abilities, interests and itineraries. Various return rides are available from the trail heads, while shuttles and the Whanganui jet boat trip make it easy to create memorable one-way journeys.
Towns near popular trail heads have bike hire, transport and tour companies staffed by locals who can help you get the most out of your adventure. Choose from freedom bike rental or unsupported tours, through to fully guided tours with all transport, luggage transfers and accommodation included. Most can also help you arrange off-the-bike activities such as hiking and paddling the Whanganui River.
Most of the trails can be ridden on a standard mountain bike with front suspension and knobbly tyres. For intermediate rides such as the Mangapurua, Kaiwhakauka and 42 Traverse, however, a full-suspension mountain bike will be more comfortable.
E-bikes are permitted on sections up to Grade 3; just make sure you have enough battery power for the distance and sufficient fitness to finish if there’s a technical hitch. Note, however, that e-bikes are not permitted in New Zealand's national parks so the Mangapurua Track is off-limits.
Local bike hire folks will provide the right bike for you, along with a helmet and any other necessary gear.
The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail passes through the towns of Ohakune, National Park village and Whanganui where there is a range of accommodation. There is more accommodation in smaller settlements such as Whakahoro, Retaruke, Pīpīriki and those along the Whanganui River Road. Nearby towns such as Whakapapa and Taumarunui also make good bases for adventure.
It’s also possible to camp along the way. There are DOC campsites in Ohakune and Whanganui National Park, and other basic campsites at Ruatiti Domain and Otumaire on the Whanganui River Road. Commercial holiday parks can be found in all major towns and at Pīpīriki.
Calling into cafes, restaurants and pubs is a highlight of many trails. Others, however, venture into remote places where there’s no food or drink whatsoever. The individual trail descriptions provide information on specifics. Be sure to plan ahead and pack a picnic or more substantial supplies, as required.
Although the trails are well signposted, carrying a map will help you identify interesting landmarks as well as keep track of your ride timing for shuttle pick-ups and suchlike. You can view and download maps from the individual trail pages.
Yes. There are public toilets in all towns, and in convenient locations along more remote stretches of trail as marked on the maps. It is wise to carry your own toilet paper for loos in out-of-the-way places.
Yes. Most of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail stays in great condition all year round, with spring and autumn appealing alternatives to summer due to cooler temperatures, vibrant seasonal colours and fewer people on popular rides. Winter is also an excellent time to ride, especially around Tongariro’s snow-dusted volcanoes (and if skiing conditions aren't great, bike riding is a great alternative).
As always, however, you should check the weather forecast and ask the locals about current trail conditions before you set off.
New Zealand’s climate is extremely changeable, so it’s vital to check the weather forecast and take appropriate clothing for all likely conditions. You can read more about what to expect in the Staying Safe section.
Thanks to government funding, along with the hard work and support of local communities, riding the Mountains to Sea trails is free. By visiting and spending money around the trails, you can contribute to their maintenance and development.