Matemateaonga Track, Whanganui National Park

Updated: May 10, 2019

Where do I start... The Matemateaonga Track... Rideable or non rideable on a mountain bike..?

I think its pertinent to give a few descriptions of this trail that we found on the internet before attempting to ride it. We chose this trail as it was one of the best ways to showcase what New Zealand has to offer, dense native forest with spectacular views as far as Mount Taranaki and Ruapehu, endless views of the Whanganui River and the peacefulness of a remote location, only to hear the birdsong at dusk and dawn. It was beautiful, but unfortunately we did not do it justice as we had our bikes and heavy backpacks, for which about 80% was unridable terrain. At one stage we were hopeful our bikes would get stolen so we could run after them with a decent pace and forward momentum…this didn’t happen.

Here is our description of the trail, plus the descriptions we stumbled across beforehand:

Department of Conservation

‘Using an old Māori trail and settlers’ dray road, you are able to penetrate deep into the remote interior of the park. Following an old road line, the track has a relatively even gradient, no river crossings and passes through native forest for most of its length, providing shelter from the worst of the weather. The track traverses an expanse of thick bush clad hill country between Taranaki and the Whanganui River. The track follows the original Whakaihuwaka Road built in 1911 to create a more direct link between Stratford and Raetihi and the Main Trunk Railway. A pilot track was first cut along the range. This track was to be widened to a more substantial road, but with the outbreak of World War I, the work was abandoned. The original Whakaihuwaka Road was hewn from papa and remains reasonably intact. The 43 km track is usually tramped in three to five days’

The Matemateāonga Track does not currently lend itself well to mountain biking activities therefore would suit only experienced riders who know the track well.

License to Ride

The 43 km track for the most part follows an easy grade and is sheltered and well benched, but can be very muddy with slips and windfall making forward progress difficult at times. Short sections of the track are quite gnarly in places as it only receives basic maintenance due to its low use status. In short, a jungle trail, but this makes for a great adventure ride for those who like a challenge and with four good huts along the way to choose from, there are plenty of overnight options. There is a steep carry up from the riverbank to where the track flattens out on the ridge top, with great views back down to the river and just a short ride to Puketotara Hut.

You can enjoy good sections of trail between Ngapurua, Pouri, and the Omaru Hut with fleeting glimpses of the Tongariro National Park volcanoes. There are some steep and gnarly sections thrown in and expect the odd bit of windfall to clamber over. Finally we descended down to Kohi Saddle and the mettled Upper Mangaehu Road and the end.

(this description of the track gave us far too much hope and unfortunately I do not think it’s a true reflection of what the track was like in April 2019).


Whanganu river to Pouri Hut is 20km of 90% unridable terrain Especially the first 3km from the river to the track is a 400m climb where you will need to carry your bike in most places.

From Puketotara Hut to Pouri Hut has lots of slips, large obstacles, very uneven ground. You will spend more time pushing with a few places that require bike carrying. There are rare ridable sections, these are more frequent when you get close to Pouri Hut.

Pouri Hut to start of track is excellent technical bush riding in most places, 95% ridable

(a closer description to the truth, however the distance on trailforks is incorrect).

ApproachLife Description

Start: Whanganui River, opposite Tieke Kainga

Finish: Kohi Saddle, Upper Mangaehu Road

Distance:43km (trailforks states 29.9km- this is incorrect)

Terrain:Native forest, thick bush clad hill country. Single track, overgrown for the first 28km. Opens up from Pouri Hut to a wider more rideable trail.



Advertised MTB Grade:No grading advertised.

Ridability: 80% unrideable terrain. The first climb from the river involves your bike on your shoulder and you hauling yourself up steep technical terrain- an advanced tramping trail until the first hut. From here until the Pouri Hut, overgrown, dense single track with numerous large windfalls and tree roots. Steep pinches up and down, more carrying of your bike. To summarise- I couldn’t lift my bike onto my back after 20kms, averaging 2km an hour (we did have packrafts in our backpacks too, so the extra load may explain the average pace). I have never had so many bruises on my legs from the pedals hitting them.

Training Purpose/Use:Mental strength, Crossfit work out, bicep killer. This trail would be an excellent trail run, either as an out and back, or using the jet boat/packraft/canoe option. The huts are all well maintained and serviced- a perfect way to break up the run if needed.

Would We Ride Again:No, nu uh.

Would we run again, yes most likely- packing light and utilising the huts and Whanganui River

Additional Thoughts/Recommendations:

- This track is stunning, true NZ native forest which when you’re on the track has the true sense of being in the middle of nowhere

- At times the track is really overgrown or tricky to follow due to lots of windfall. Generally the track is well marked, but a good sense of direction is also needed at times.

- We would class this as a technical running trail, plenty of tree routes and a few good scrambles, especially the first part from the river which ascends ~400m in 1.7km.

- There are only a couple of trails that go off the Matemateaonga trail, but a side trip to the trig point of Mount Humphries is only a couple of KM detour (out and back). There is also a 30km (ish) loop to the Puteore Hut from the Kohi Saddle and back via the Matemateaonga trail, but we are uncertain of the condition of this trail.

Training Ideas:

- Long technical trail run

- Packraft /padde the Whanganui river, get out at the start of the Matemateaonga trail and do a few hill reps over the first 1.6km… and get back in your packraft

GPS/Ride Details Here:

- Unfortunately I only managed the first couple of segments. The files are separated as I thought my watch wasn’t working properly….but it was, we were just that slow (we had heavy backpacks, tired legs and our mountain bikes…).

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