Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023

Beginner - Intermediate

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I've done it Done

Tarawera Trail Route Recce

Rotorua, Bay of Plenty

Submitted by Rob Edkins

Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023

Beginner - Intermediate

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I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 25

Gnarl Factor: 42








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Undulating, some big hills

Native bush

Plantation/exotic forest




Run Makeup


Sealed Road

Farm Road / 4WD Track

Easy Single Track

Moderate Single Track

Technical Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +9.3%

Average Downhill Gradient: -8.7%


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Estimated Times to Run







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.

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

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




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.

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.

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Trail Reviews

Ran as an out and back (sort of as continued on the road on the back instead of going back round Blue Lake for 2nd time), so the 4.48 in FKT is a bit misleading. :-) Enjoyable run although the road section requires you to keep your wits about you. Some nice technical bits once you get to the Tarawera Trail head proper and volcanic trail means its usually pretty good even after a bit of rain, so long as no slips have occurred.

Anthony Sowerby

November 13, 2022

Great run, didnt quite manage to clock up quite enough distance after return so short run around edge of blue lake to get up to full 42km.Trails in great condition and plenty of views that changed as you went along.

Stephen Clement

May 17, 2020

Completed in reverse as part of the 2019 TUM 50km event course on a very hot February day!Have also completed the majority of this route as described (ie, finishing at Hot Water Beach) when it formed part of the 2017 TUM 50km course.

Toni Grace

January 29, 2020

I loved this run so much! A boat trip return sounds fun, but I needed the time on my feet so I did this track out and back. I enjoyed how peaceful this single track is, just myself, the birds, and a sailboat in the distance. So much variety of terrain and type of environment; exposed lake views from above, shaded bush, beach access, and hot pools (bonus). There always seemed to be a downhill just when my legs and lungs needed it. I have to agree with the previous reviewer's gnarl factor comparison. I ran most of this trail and I generally don't need too much coaxing to move into a hike. I did notice my pace was slower than usual though and I returned with some fresh wounds from a fall so maybe my impressions were different than reality.

Angie Campbell

July 5, 2018

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