The Waipapa Trail

The Mangakino Lakefront Reserve is the starting point for the Waipapa Trail,  before making your way up Lake Road to the beginning of the trail at the forest edge.


GRADE: Advanced
DISTANCE: 19.6km

Map Key

Trail Grade Info

The Waipapa Trail is 19.6km and is graded as 4 (Advanced).



Off road trails are narrow with steep climbs and unavoidable obstacles. Poor traction in places. Walking may be required. On-road trails have moderate vehicular traffic.

Advanced 19.6km
Waipapa Dam
Maraetai I and II Dams Lookout
Mangakino Boardwalk
The Trail!

The Mangakino Lakefront Reserve is the starting point for the Waipapa Trail, before making your way to the beginning of the trail at the forest edge.

The trail begins in the forest where you’ll catch glimpse of old car parts from days gone by that have been entwined in the roots and foliage of the dense forest plants. As the trail heads up and down alongside the river you’ll also catch sight of rowing crews paddling in perfect sync as they power their way along the river.

As you get deeper into the forest you’ll encounter long stretches of the concrete foundations of the Maraetai Dam that run adjacent to the trail – before reaching the remnants of the old concrete plant that was used to build the dam. This structure, overgrown with foliage and towering amongst the trees, are the old foundations of a six stories high batching plant where concrete was mixed for the Maraetai II powerhouse nearby. Locomotives with skips once sat underneath the structure ready for shoots-full of mixed concrete before travelling the railway line around and up the hill – where the skips were flying-foxed above the river to be distributed.

Not far along the trail from here you’ll exit the forest towards a viewing platform enclosure for the Maraetai I and Maraetai II dams and power stations – that are only 550 metres apart from each other. The platform provides spectacular views of the two powerhouses carved into the rock face – incredible feats of 1950s engineering and the largest hydroelectric station on the Waikato River that produces 885GWh annually.

From here, follow the road back up to the next section of the Waipapa Trail, and re-enter the forest across a small stream bridge. The forest trail continues through the thick pine forest as it follows the river towards sections of meandering wetland boardwalks. As the trail nears an end you’ll ride alongside the road to arrive at the Waipapa Power Station.

The Waipapa Dam is one of the few dams with public access available, and provides close views of the river and is shadowed by amazing sandstone cliffs – popular with rock climbers.

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