The Hūnua Traverse opened in full on Friday 1 December, with riders from across New Zealand expressing enthusiasm for this new Ngā Haerenga Heartland Ride connection between Auckland and the Waikato.
The 44.5km connects Clevedon and Kaiaua via the Hūnua Ranges Regional Park and, with its inclusion in the official Tour Aotearoa Cape Reinga to Bluff cycling route, it is set to become a key bikepacking connection.
The two-way ride utilises existing sealed and unsealed public and private roads. While it has been partially open as a limited preview ride these past five months, a slip in the centre of the route meant that the full end-to-end experience can only now be enjoyed for the first time.
“We’ve been thrilled to see so many riders and walkers out utilising the limited access over the past few months, but this full opening is what we’ve been working towards for nine long years,” says Franklin Local Board Chair and Wairoa Ward representative, Angela Fulljames, who has championed this project from its inception.
Angela says the feedback from riders to date has been terrific. “One rider described it as ‘the best gravel riding in Auckland Region’. With reviews like that we’re looking forward to welcoming riders from across the city.”
But with a cumulative elevation gain of over 1100m, it’s not for the faint hearted. The Hūnua Traverse is classified as a Grade 4 ride suited to intermediate and experienced riders, reflecting the steep terrain, slippery gravel surfacing and off-camber corners and a shared road environment. An appropriate level of fitness and bike handling skills are essential.
Suited to mountain bikes, ebikes and gravel bikes, riders are encouraged to take a cautious approach to the ascents and descents.
“The roads within the Hūnua Traverse are live and unpredictable. While they might seem quiet we remind cyclists to share with care and keep left – you never know what’s going to be coming around the next corner,” cautions Angela.
The Watercare and Auckland Council Regional Parks teams have worked closely to provide safety signage and mirrors along the route. They’ve also signposted side roads that remain closed to riders.
Another key consideration for riders is the strict biosecurity rules to prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease.
“Our beautiful Hūnua Ranges Regional Park remains free of kauri dieback disease and we want to keep it that way. A clean bike is a condition of entry. All riders are advised to arrive with a clean bike, sterilise at every hygiene station and stay on track,” advises Angela, revealing that this is going to be a focus area for Auckland Council staff over the busy summer months.
In Clevedon, where the trail starts and ends, the Chair of the Clevedon Community and Business Association, Victoria Richards, is looking forward to seeing more riders stopping in at local businesses.
“In our online survey, 76% of respondents said they stopped and spent money in our local community, whether it be for a sit-down meal, snacks and coffee to go or petrol. We’re hoping local businesses will expand their offering to provide more cyclist-friendly services and facilities. Whether it be offering a bike stand for ride-in customers, a place to charge an e-bike or cell phone, or accommodation options for riders exploring our area. We encourage the residents of the Wairoa Valley to welcome cyclists to our corner of Auckland.”
The full Hūnua Traverse opening is supported by an informative new website which details information about the full end-to-end ride, as well as on-road loop connections, easy rides for novice riders and details about how you can stay overnight in the Hūnua Ranges Regional Park (bookings essential).
A note to weekday riders, Otau Mountain Road is used by logging trucks Monday to Friday. Cyclists are strongly advised to use this access road on weekends and public holidays only. Alternate access to the Hūnua Traverse is available from Moumoukai Hill Road, via Ness Valley.
Temporary closures of the Hūnua Traverse may be required at times to accommodate forestry operations, pest control, maintenance or on occasion to mitigate fire risk during the fire season. Riders should check the Hūnua Traverse website or Facebook page for up-to-date access information.
The Hūnua Traverse has been funded by the Franklin Local Board and is delivered in partnership with Watercare, Auckland Regional Parks and Ngā Haerenga NZCT.