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Tarawera Trail Route Recce, Bay of Plenty

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Tarawera Trail Route RecceBeginner - Intermediate

Submitted by Rob Edkins

Info Info
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Trail Information





Bay of Plenty


Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Undulating, some big hills

Native bush
Plantation/exotic forest

Beginner - Intermediate

4:00 (Slow)
3:00 (Moderate)
2:00 (Fast)



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This can also be run as an out and back, or in reverse, beginning with the boat ride in to Hot Water beach.

The start is on the shore of the Blue Lake just opposite the Top 10 Holiday Park, which is actually a pretty good place to stay if you want to do a few runs in the area. From here, head to your right and follow the shore around to the edge of the forest where the track starts. Take the lower (left) path and head anti-clockwise around the lake. Bypass the first trail on your left that drops down toward the lake at about 2km, then take the next left just a bit further on where three forestry roads join. 

Keep following the road to the left, anti-clockwise around the Blue Lake until you reach the Tarawera Road at the south-east corner of the lake. This is all a pretty pleasant easy run so far, mostly in exotic forest, with a bit of native and some good views of both lakes. Turn right onto Tarawera Road for a kilometre or so downhill to the start of the Tarawera Trail. Be careful on this stretch, as it is a main highway and cars go pretty fast. There are some pretty good views down the Green Lake on your right.
The Tarawera Trail head is pretty easy to spot, as there is a large car park and a carved entrance to the trail (If you get to Buried Village, you've gone too far!).

The trail starts off in a scrubby area and makes a short climb into bush. You will skirt the edge of the Buried Village grounds. On the race day you go through a gate into the village itself and do a bit of a run through to the Aid station and your Devonshire Tea, then climb past the waterfall back onto the trail, but for this run you will circle around the back of the village and head down a steep gorge toward Lake Tarawera. Near here you will see a signposted side track on the left, which leads to the Landing, which is an option if you choose to park at the Landing and start or finish the run from there instead of Tikitapu.

From here you basically just stay on the track as it follows the southern edge of Lake Tarawera through beautiful native bush past a succession of bays to Hot Water beach. The track is sort of pumicy soil and pretty free draining so it's seldom very boggy.

The terrain undulates a bit and there are three pretty grunty hills to negotiate, the last and tallest of which is just past Wairua Bay, about 4km from the finish. The good news is that once you get over it, it's all downhill in a steep plummet to the lake where there is just a couple hundred metres or so around the sand to Hot Water Beach itself.

At the far end of the beach a boiling spring comes down into the lake and as long as you're careful you can paddle around and find a pleasantly warm spot, but try not to dig your toes in too much on the bottom because as you sink into the sand you can suddenly find a hot spot lurking a few millimetres beneath. There's a bit of grass to sit on while you wait for your boat ride back to civilisation.

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Features of interest

Blue Lake, Green Lake and Lake Tarawera.
Native Forest.

Make Up of Run

Technical Single Track: 25%

Moderate Single Track: 35%

Easy Single Track: 30%

Farm Road / 4WD Track: 5%

Sealed Road: 5%

Route Data


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  • Access

    Head out of Rotorua on Highway 30 towards the airport, then turn right onto Tarawera road and follow it to the Blue Lake (Tikitapu).
    The start point is the public carpark beside the lake, opposite the Top 10 Holiday Park.

    There is a fair amount of public parking at the Blue Lake along the shore and beside the park. It can get pretty busy in summer or during holidays such as Easter.

    The trail guide is written as a point to point run finishing at Hot Water Beach and catching a Water Taxi back across Lake Tarawera, so you may want to leave a second car at the Landing (down a side road on the right about 2km past Buried Village). Alternatively, you can take the Water Taxi in to Hot Water Beach and run the trail in reverse back to the Landing, Tarawera Trail head (right beside Buried Village) or Blue Lake.
    The Water Taxi can be booked here

    11 km

    14 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    The trail is easy to follow and about the only thing to watch for is the left turn from the Blue lake path onto the farm road that come through from Green lake 2km into the run.

    Very patchy.

    Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, Short-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map.

    Probably best to carry own water supplies.

    It can be quite cold in winter, so take warm layers and watch the forecast.
    If the weather is bad and the lake is too rough, the boat will not be able to pick you up.

    Stay on the track and avoid going into any areas showing signs of thermal activity.

    There is little or no cellphone reception except on some of the hill tops.

  • Post run indulgence

    Fat Dog Cafe
    A Rotorua classic. Great food and atmosphere. Open late

    10 Tarawera Rd. Rotorua
    Nice food and handy to the Redwoods

    Eat Street
    At the Lake end of Tutanekai Street Rotorua
    An arcade of restaurants and gastro pubs serving crsft beer and all kinds of food.

  • Sponsor this trail

    If you are interested in learning about sponsorship opportunities, please get in touch below:


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