Motu Trails loop
Be Set Free
- Combines the Dunes Trail, much of the Motu Road Trail, and the Pakihi Track sections of the Motu Trails
- Grade: Advanced/4 (due to the Pakihi Track)
- Distance: 90km
- Time to ride: five hours to two days
- Start: Opotiki, or connecting from Motu
- There are no shops and little mobile coverage
- See the individual trail pages for full descriptions.
The Motu Trails loop is a diverse journey, with riding that ranges from beach-side to forest interior. The 90km loop takes in all three sections of the Motu Trails Great Ride (though not all of the Motu Road). This ride is mapped on the Great Rides App.
You can start and finish your ride in Opotiki, or Te Waiti. Or you can ride in-and-out from Motu, adding another 30km to the loop.
Riding from Opotiki, you cruise the full length of the Dunes Trail, which links directly with the northern end of the Motu Road Trail. From here it is mostly uphill riding, heading inland on Motu Road for 38km.
On the Motu Trails loop, there are two major climbs, of approximately 6km long (Meremere hill) and 3.5km long (Papamoa/Toatoa hill). After 1km of a third climb, you get to the start of the Pakihi Track.
The Pakihi Track offers you just over 20km of stunning riding, mostly downhill. See the Pakihi Trail guide for more information and photos.
From the end of the Pakihi Track, you have 23km of gravel and long, straight sealed roads, then Otara Stopbank Trail, back to Opotiki. If it's hot or there's a headwind, it can be a challenging finish.
You can do this loop in one day if you are fit. Many people take two days, staying at Toatoa Farm Stay, or (adding more distance) heading up to Motu Community House. Staying in Motu is a great way to turn the loop ride into a three-day experience: day one ride Opotiki-Toatoa; day two ride Toatoa-Motu with a side-trip to Motu Falls; day three ride Motu-Opotiki via Pakihi Track.
You can also stay in the Pakihi Track hut.
If you are riding the loop in one day, don't underestimate the distance — it's a long 90km. Start early. Especially when you get to the Pakihi, have a break, take your time, it's not a track to rush.
Total elevation round the 90km loop is about 1100 metres; if you add in a visit to Motu, total elevation is over 2200 metres. Keep in mind that while the Dunes Trail and Motu Road Trail are graded 2-3 (easy and intermediate) the Pakihi Track section is graded 4 (advanced).
There are no shops or cafes for most of the loop. The Motu Road has some traffic, vehicle counts are low but always ride with care.
This is remote terrain with little mobile coverage. It can get cold and damp, even in summer. Be prepared. Take repair and basic medical kit. A PLB is advised, and available for hire from Opotiki and Gisborne i-SITEs.
Bike hire, packages
Motu Trails Limited offer bike hire.
Bushaven offer bike hire and a loop package
Toatoa Farm Stay offer bike hire and a loop package
Cycle Gisborne offer bike hire and a package including the loop.
Accommodation close to the trail
Before and after your ride, you have many accommodation choices, so check the A-Z. On the loop, your options include:
Toatoa Farm Stay (includes meals)
Motu Community House (option of meals)
Pakihi Track / Te Waiti:
Weka Wilds (option of meals)
Bushaven (option of meals)
Food close to the trail
Toatoa Farm Stay and Motu Community House can arrange meals. In Opotiki, options include:
You’ll find further historic detail on the individual trail guide pages.
The Motu Trails loop takes in parts of four historic crossings from Opotiki-Gisborne:
The first crossing was an unformed Maori track, Te Kowhai track, appearing on maps until the mid-1880s. From near Motu, Te Kowhai track came down a ridge near the confluence of the Pakihi and Te Waiti streams, and followed the Otara river valley north to Opotiki, as does the road today.
The first formed route from bay-to-bay was the Ormond-Opotiki Road, first linked in 1876/77. From Opotiki, this route went along the beach for about 10km, parallel with today's Dunes Trail. If you go to Motu and Motu Falls, what’s now Motu Falls Road and the Whinray Scenic Reserve are also the old Ormond-Opotiki road.
The first true road was the Motu Road. The first car went through 1914. The present course of the Motu Road is much the same as it was back then, so you’re again riding through history.
The Pakihi Track was first cut through about 1906. This was relatively well-formed by 1914 but, after a storm, in a very poor state by 1918. The present course of the Pakihi Track is exactly as it was in the early-1900s. Much of the original track benching remains.