Enjoy some great riding on a choice of scenic sealed roads in and around Tongariro National Park.
Ohakune Mountain Road
(‘Hors category’) rated as NZs ‘No 1 climb’ (NZ Road Cyclist magazine)
The ‘ jewel in the crown’ is the Ohakune Mountain Road. Starting at the bottom from the railway over bridge, on the edge/entrance to Tonagriro National Park - Mountain Road offers New Zealand's only "Hors category" climb. The 17km sealed road rises just over 1000m finishing in the carpark at Turoa skifield.
This ride is a ‘MUST DO’ for any cyclist, particularly those who enjoy climbing and want to test themselves against NZs premier ascent. The official record is 44 mins 7sec set during the Kune Climb
You can divide the climb into 3 main sections:
Start to 7.5K mark: the ‘OK... this is alright, I can handle this’ stage - a gradual rise with a testing 1.2K stretch in the middle (from the 3.8K mark) before easing out again to the 7.5Km mark. You ride at a good clip through a tall canopy of beech forest with an occasional glimpse of Ruapehu.
7.5K to 11.5K: ‘the honeymoon is over’ - this is steady constant climbing of close to 90m/1K. As the forest gives way to lower bush and trees you can see the road winding up ahead with clear views of the mountain.
11.5 to the top: ‘had enough? - no? - I’m going to make you suffer’ or 'dam it!! I thought I had another gear left!' – this last section can be brutal. Constantly round the 100m/K, punctuated with steep rises that will have you on the limit with no respite. The low bush gives out to alpine grass and then volcanic rock as you make your way to the carpark. The road winds and climbs ahead of you, this is where real climbers ‘suck it up’. As you head to the top you are also more exposed to whatever wind is up, so that can add to the 'overall experience'.
The carpark is always a welcome sight, the view at the top is quite something, and the late spring, summer and early autumn provide the best opportunities with light traffic and moderate temperatures.
Enjoy the exhilarating descent back to Ohakune, but be prepared for significant wind chill. Even on a warm summer’s day the temperature is alot lower at 1690m above sea level, so it pays to have arm and even leg warmers and maybe an under shirt in the back of the jersey.
The Triangle 28K+
Try the 28km Ohakune/Tohunga Junction/Raetihi loop, you can do a couple of circuits of this which offers a gradual rise out of Ohakune to Tohunga junction, a slight gradual fall to Raetihi and a flattish 11k back to Ohakune. You can add to that (recommended) by taking a detour off the main Ohakune/Raetihi road via Pakihi Rd/Lakes Rd taking you off the main rd on good seal through farming land, before joining back about 2kms from Ohakune. Once in Ohakune turn right and think about heading out to Rangataua (or further) and back along Dreadnought Rd beside the rail track, adds another 16 kms.
Fields Track – Ohakune rtn, 91K
Head out from Ohakune to State Highway 4 at Raetihi turning left towards Wanganui. This takes you down the Parapara’s through rolling countryside for about 90mins, then turning left up Fields Track just before Kakatahi school. Fields Track offers an initial 6k climb varying between 3% and 8% before a short descent and another climb of 7k at 4 – 5% then gradually rising over rolling country before linking to the Ohakune/Waiouru highway and back to Ohakune.
Fields Track to Ohakune is stage 8 of the Wellington to Auckland Cycle race. The track has good seal however there is no shoulder, also short sections of SH4 about 10k out from the track are narrow and windy so caution is required.
Overall Fields Track is a top quality ride.
Ruatiti Road – 65K
Riding out from Ohakune to Tohunga junction then left toward Raetihi. About 4k on the RHS is a great ride to the bridge just before Ruatithi domain. Down Shorts Hill then a gradual fall through rolling country beside the river to the bridge (from here it is a metal rd to the start of the Bridge to Nowhere mntn bike track). Returning the same way it’s a gradual rise back with Shorts Hill providing a good 1.8k climb of about 6 – 7% then rolling back to Ohakune.
Road is in good condition but there is no shoulder and as you wind alongside the river below, the road is narrow in places, and mainly used by local farmers and activities operators to the mntn bike track and river.
Ohakune – Whakapapa rtn 115K
From Ohakune out to State Highway 4 then right for a gradual rise up to National Park Village, then right again to the turn up Bruce rd to Whakapapa ski field. Bruce rd offers a steady climb of about 8k with the ‘Top of the Bruce’ coffee shop and Bar at the top end loop. The return is a good descent back down Bruce rd, rolling back through to SH4 and the rtn to Ohakune. Speed is considerably up on the way back. Be aware of tourist traffic at Whakapapa village!
Ohakune - Pipiriki rtn 80K
Ride on rolling countryside through to Raetihi and straight ahead out to Pipiriki along the picturesque valley. This is a great top quality ride on good paved surfaces with two decent climbs and another short rise before dropping to Pipiriki itself.
You have an overall descent from Raetihi so on the return you will face a gradual ascent all the way back to Raetihi. This is the course of the Raetihi GutBuster event run in late March each year.
Road is good seal but there is no shoulder. The road is used by locals, activities operators heading to the upper Whanganui River, and there is logging on the Waimarino forest about halfway.
Ruapehu/Tongariro National Park Loop 160K
Ride the road out to Waiouru then left up the Desert Rd alongside the three mountains to Rangipo, left through to National Park Village and back to Ohakune. An overall ascent to the top of the Desert Rd and rolling with a gradual descent to Ohakune.
Good roads, stunning scenery, you will be on SH1 (Desert Rd), take that into account when timing rides on this course.