Important note: the Hunua Ranges is the last forest in Auckland to have avoided the dreaded Kauri Dieback. Please adhere to all instructions in regards to cleaning your bike and footwear (click here for the full story and those instructions) – use the bike cleaning station at the Mangatawhiri Dam carpark (where you park for riding).
If you haven’t ridden in the ARC Hunua Ranges Park, it’s time you checked it out. Only 40 mins from town, you’d swear you were hundreds of kilometres away from the Big Spoke. There’s camping facilities where you park and the MTB tracks have been growing over the last few years and continue to grow.
How to Get there
Take the Papakura off-ramp from State Highway 1 motorway. Head towards Settlement Road and turn into Hunua Road alongside Sir Edmund Hillary School. Travel all the way through to Hunua township – 6km further on and look for the yellow AA “DAMS” sign on your left, turning into Moumoukai Road. You climb via gravel road past the Waiora Dam turnoff and then drop down to Mangatawhiri Dam. Park up in the campground carpark at the foot of this impressive earth dam – then you can clean your bike at the bikewash provided by ARC Hunua.
Moumoukai Farm Loop
14km return, medium grade, 1hr 30m – highly recommended.
From the campground parking area, ride back along the road you came in on, away from the dam. Follow the MTB signs veering you left to the gate 1km from the campground (if you start to climb, you haven’t veared left). There’s even a biker’s entrance now so you don’t have to lift your bike over the gate! You then have a nice easy warm-up ride along gravel road to the start of the newish River Trail. The River Trail is the newest addition to this area, eliminating 4km of gravel road (yahoo!) and takes you into the valley proper .This is the best MTB ride in the area with great views and good technical single track. Whilst it may be only 14km, it’s sure worth a double lap and there’s plenty of swimming options along the way. Or you can even enjoy a nice dip back at the campground.
The Freaky Styley MTB Club and the Counties Manukau MTB Club have spent many a hard (but happy) hour building and weather-proofing these tracks for you, so enjoy! With the help of club members like yourself, the Hunua Rangers hope to add more tracks over the next year and beyond, eventually having a whole network of tracks that you can ride on for hours. The beauty of these tracks is that once they’re there, they’re there for good – no commercial operation is going to come in and chop chop (refer loss of Secret Trail etc. in Riverhead over the last few years).
Look out for the sweeping, good-for-all Family Trail that will weave around the flat area close to the campground. This will be a great addition to this area and has already been approved. Make sure you take every opportunity to provide MTB feedback to ARC Hunua (visit the info centre in Hunua township) so that they know we want more and more trails. And come along to a Working Bee – this does wonders for our cause.
Mangatawhiri Challenge Trail
11km return, medium/difficult grade, 1 – 3 hrs
This is the first MTB track that was opened in the area. It’s a toughie and we know it has scared off a few beginners from the area – come back and ride the LOWER MANGATAWHIRI LOOP! The Challenge Trail follows a ridge above the dam and therefore traverses some pretty steep up and downs. Only try this one in the dry! It’s hard enough walking up those slopes in the wet let alone riding!
Anyway, it’s a good challenge for a fit rider and rewards you with some stunning views – you can look north and see the Sky Tower as a tiny little stick in the distance. There are also views down either side to the Mangatawhiri and Wairoa Dams. The story goes that someone has managed to ride this one with only 2 feet-downs. I can remember my best being 14!
From the campground, ride up towards and past the dam. Follow the signs taking you on a 4km gravel road climb alongside the Reservoir – good speedy in/out up/down until the climb proper starts. At the top the signs turn you back onto the main ridge and the tough single track begins. The route then comes out onto Moumoukai Road, where you drove in. Don’t forget to take the great 7 minute single track downhill on the left of the road halfway down. There had been plans to make this downhill from the very top, but a recent subsidence has curtailed this for now.
2km (DH) Expert Grade, 5 minutes,
The Experts Downhill Track is one of the more recently built tracks. It starts at the top of the hil on the Moumoukai Road and follows the lower Mangatawhiri Tramping Track for a short way before turning left and heading down a ridge to the vale floor. Features of the track includes jumps, fast off camber corners, big berms and tight, fast sections.
2km (to Farm Loop), Intermediate Grade, 15 minutes
This track cuts out 2km of road and replaces with sweet single-track through regenerating bush. Some of the track is open and flowing while other sections are tight and steep. How many times do you have to get off your bike
Valley Loop Track
14km, Easy Grade, 1 hour 3o minutes return.
The Valley Loop Track follows Mangatangi Hill Road, Graham White Road and Moumoukai Valley Road. East grade metal roads form a loop with shady spots for picnics and good swimming holes in the river. Its and excellent ride for the whole family. Other user groups such as horse riders and walkers also use this track.
Used today for riding enjoyment and exhilaration, the hills and forests of the Hunua Ranges were used primarily by pre-Europen Maori as a source for food, timber and as a refuge rather than for permanent residence.
Following the Land Wars, the Hunua Range was confiscated by the Crown and divided into blocks. These were then granted to soldiers as a reward for their war service, or leased to settlers. The area was cleared for timber and farmed.
Rugged terrain, poor soils and difficulty of access meant this land was the last to be settled in the Auckland region.
In fact, access to and from the interior of the Hunua Range was so difficult that an arduous trip to Auckland took place only once every two or three years. If only they’d had mountainbikes!
Around 1930, the Auckland City Council began purchasing land in the area for the supply of water to the rapidly growing city to the north. As a result, farming was phased out in the Hunua Range.
Today, Watercare Services Ltd operate four dams, built between 1950 and 1977 and together they supply 61% of Auckland’s water. It’s these dams that you see lots of pictures of when there’s a water crisis.
Between five and fifteen million years ago, the Hunua Range was lifted out of the sea by the movement of rock plates. Later volcanic activity on the western edge of the Hunua Range let basalt lava reach the surface through five major faults.
At Hunua Falls, lava rose in a volcano’s throat and solidified to form a ‘plug’ of solid grey basalt. Over time, the Wairoa River has eroded away the entire northern side of the crater to create a magnificent waterfall (certainly worth a visit on the way home from a ride).
It is estimated that 2-4 years ago, certain areas have formed into areas of tight single track with signs of tricky drop offs and occasional stream crossings. Experts predict that, if we treat things right, this type of landscape will evolve into a network of interlinked systems that will crisscross much of the terrain.
The Hunua Range is the largest block of forest to be found on the mainland of the Auckland region. The forest grows from the coast to the very top of the highest peaks in the Range. In all, there are over 450 different species of native plants, 21 of which are either nationally or regionally threatened.
This is why you must stick to the tracks and preserve the fauna – it’s hard to tell a young growing native starting it’s long life when it’s just a toddler.
Although many of the large stands of kauri, matai, kahikatea, tawa, rata and rimu were removed by logging last century, they are now regenerating successfully.
That’s not to say every magnificent tree was removed in the Hunua Range. As you wander, you will see plenty of towering giants.
In 1964, the first plantings of radiata pine trees in the north west of the Range were established on what was once cleared farmland. Today, 2240 hectares of exotic forest are being logged and replanted under a forestry lease.