- Curious logging relics
- Spectacular suspension bridges
- Wildlife viewing, including the chance of spotting wild goats or pigs
- Weird and wonderful rock formations
- Hidden swimming spots
- The only rideable railway spiral in the world
Depending on where you are begin your day, you may ride a distance of up to 50km. If riding from the Black Fern Lodge, you'll ride just over 50km to Ongarue. If from the Timber Trail Lodge, which is right by the trail on the left-hand side heading south, it will be 46km or so to Ongarue. If from the Piropiro camp-site, the distance to Ongarue is 45km.
The trail follows a logging road for a couple of kilometres before reentering the forest on single-track, which twists its way mostly uphill. Parts of the trail are on packed shingle and the rest is packed dirt and rocks, but all is a grade level 2 good riding surface. Depending on the rain level, there will be a few puddles along the way!
After about 5km of riding, you'll enjoy a thrilling descent! At the bottom you’ll encounter the amazing Maramataha Suspension Bridge, the country’s highest and longest rideable suspension bridge. You might want to avoid looking down. Or maybe you should…
With the bridge behind you, it’s a steady and challenging climb to Ongarue Tramway terminus. The good news is that you’ve now conquered all the major climbs of the Timber Trail and the trail undulates in a generally downhill direction from this point on, with just a few little climbs to contend with.
Along the old tramway you’ll see remnants of logging history scattered about, including various huts, and you will cross more bridges. Parts of the trail cut through sheer rock faces shrouded in thick native bush where the sun’s rays seldom penetrate. That means mud, so be prepared for the odd splatter on this part of the trail.
Around the 75km mark is the nationally significant Ongarue Spiral, an engineering marvel explained in an interpretation panel. It is also the only rideable spiral in the world. From there, the trail continues to Ongarue, mostly downhill except for a couple of short pinches along the riverside as you burst into rugged farmland dotted with sheep and deer. The official end of the trail is located in the middle of Ongarue township, but some pre-arranged shuttles will collect you at the Bennetts Road car park where Epic Cycle Adventures has a new service centre, where you can enjoy a coffee. You may also ride on down to Flashpackers where they also serve coffee and cold drinks.
Fit riders can continue the 26km to Taumaranui via Ongarue Back Road, the undulating, farmy ‘Heartland Ride’ that forms part of the world-famous Tour Aotearoa. This is a good, and possibly essential, option for those who haven’t arranged shuttle collection.