An 85km trail in the Pureora Forest in the North Island of New Zealand, the Timber Trail is designed mainly for mountain bikers but people do ask the question – can you walk the Timber Trail?
And the answer is absolutely you can! In fact, it is also now part of New Zealand’s national trail – the Te Araroa Trail.
Beginning at the Pureora Village in the northern section of the Pureora Forest Park, the trail makes its way south-west where it ends in a small town called Ongarue.
I think there are three things that I really like about this trail:
- It’s well-signed
- It’s well-formed and easy to follow
- There are plenty of places to stay (huts, campsites, and lodges)
- The many bridges and swing bridges that you cross
There is nothing worse than hitting a trail that has little-to-no signage on it. You won’t have this issue on the Timber Trail in New Zealand.
In fact, every kilometre is marked out as are all the campsites and various side trails too.
If you are hiking the Timber Trail, it’ll take you roughly 3.5 days to complete averaging around 20kms every day.
The first day is probably the hardest day beginning with a 5km wander through the only untouched section of the Pureora Forest which includes native trees that are 2,000 years old.
It is exactly what the entire forest would have looked like before it was logged for timber.
From here it’s slow grinding ascent until you come across the side track to Mount Pureora (1,183m) which I would highly recommend doing.
The track to the summit is pretty much a goat track and is incredibly steep most of the way but I promise you the views are worth the grind.
On a clear day, it’s said you can see Lake Taupo, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Tongariro, and sometimes Mount Taranaki off in the distance.
Come back down the same way you went up and continue on your way until you reach the 20km mark of the track.
There’s a sign at this point that’ll direct you to your first night’s accommodation – the Bog Inn Hut.
This four-bed hut is only a short 30-minute walk from the trail if you’re heading south and also has plenty of room to pitch your tent out the front.
However, be sure to keep an eye out for rodents in the hut! You’ll need to hang your food up to ensure they don’t get to it.
The following day will see you do yet another 20km stretch of walking and finishing at Piropiro with a number of accommodation options available to you.
To get back to the trail from Bog Inn Hut follow the trail back to the junction you would have passed yesterday which will point you back to the trail and continuing on your way south.
It’s only a 500m stretch of trail but a really nice wander through some pretty dense green podocarp forest.
It’s worth noting that from here on in it’s a gradual descent to the end of the trail at Ongarue so you should find that the going is a little easier across the next three days.
Now, if you are struggling for water at this point, my advice would be to push on for a couple of hours until you find yourself at Harrison Creek.
Here there’s an opportunity to stock up on water from the creek but you will have to either purify or filter it to ensure you weed out any nasties.
Harrison Creek is also a good spot for camping and has a toilet block available to0.
The other campsites available on the Timber Trail are:
- Piropiro campsite; the main campsite at the 40km mark (there’s a tank but you still need to filter)
- The Timber Trail Lodge; located near Piropiro campsite
- Camp Epic; located at the 40km mark which is owned and run by Paul and Julian from Epic Cycle Adventures
- No. 10 campsite; at the 65km mark which is a basic campsite that includes a fairly decent drop toilet
If you are hiking and camping on a budget, the Timber Trail Lodge may not appeal to you, however, if you are going to ride the trail on a mountain bike, this may be ideal for your accommodation.
Their rooms are incredibly comfortable, their breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are plentiful, the views from their decking are amazing and their in-house bar is stacked with plenty of great beer, wine & spirits.
As I mentioned earlier in this blog, there are plenty of bridges on the Timber Trail – 35 to be exact!
And while there are the usual wooden bridges to cross, the eight large suspension bridges are the best.
One in particular – the Maramataha Bridge – is incredible. It’s 141ms in length and 50ms in height from the water below.
You’ll come across the Maramataha Bridge roughly an hour or so after you’ve left the Piropiro area and it’s easily the highlight of the entire 4-day walk.
Trust me, you’ll easily spend at least 15 minutes on these suspension bridges as the photo opportunities are too good to pass up.
They can be a little daunting if you’re no good with heights, but the views are absolutely spectacular.
Your accommodation for the third and final night on Timber Trail will be the No. 10 campsite which, as previously mentioned, is a basic campsite with a drop toilet and a small shelter.
Unfortunately, there’s no water tank at the campsite so make sure you stock up on plenty of water at Piropiro.
Furthermore, roughly an hour or so from the No. 10 campsite there’s a decent little creek underneath a bridge where you’ll be able to get some water to filter.
This should see you through to the end of the trail at the 82km mark.
While the trail can be done from either Pureora Village or Ongarue, the easiest way to do it would be southbound to Ongarue.
If you are hiking it and plan on continuing on to nearby towns such as Taumaranui, or if you’re heading back to the start, be sure to get in touch with Paul and Julian from Epic Cycle Adventures.
While they typically take cyclists from either end of the trail, they will take hikers for a small fee.
If you are heading into Taumarunui, they will drop you wherever you need to go into town.
So who would the Timber Trail be suitable for? First and foremost, it’s absolutely marketed as a cycling trail and therefore it will always attract cyclists from the most casual or to the enthusiasts.
There are a number of ways that the trail can be cycled:
- Either over 2 days staying at Piropiro
- One day from Pureora to Piropiro
- Or one day from Piropiro to Ongarue
In saying that, since 2017 it has become more of a hiking trail given the Te Araroa trail now goes through there.
As it becomes more well-known for its hiking, I envisage more people will visit New Zealand to hike the Timber Trail.
So, if you are keen to hike it from end-to-end, you’ll need to do it as a pack carry across four days.
I’ve heard of people – mostly TA walkers – walking it over two days but that’s probably a little too much if you really want to enjoy it.
To walk it across four days, I’d suggest breaking it up like this:
- Pureora Village to Bog Inn Hut
- Bog Inn Hut to Piropiro
- Piropiro to No. 10 campsite
- No 10. campsite to Bennett Road Car Park/Ongarue
Regardless if you are cycling or hiking the Timber Trail, be sure to engage Epic Cycle Adventures at least for their shuttle service from the end of the trail to the trailhead.
Your car will be kept safe at their car park facility at the end of the trail and will allow you to continue on your journey when you finish.
As always if you’re keen to hike the Timber Trail, and wish to get an idea of the elevation etc., you can download our tracks from our Wikiloc account below.
- Pureora Village to Bog Inn Hut – Day One
- Piropiro to No. 10 campsite – Day Three
- No 10. campsite to Bennett Road Car Park/Ongarue – Day Four
The Stats – The Timber Trail, New Zealand
Length (km): 85kms (according to WikiLoc)
Time: 21hr 20mins
Moving Time: 13hr 17mins
Difficulty: Moderate (Grade 3)
Maximum Elevation: 1,183m
Return/Loop/One Way: One Way