The Ruapehu region is a great place to get on your bike.
Mention outdoor sport in relation to the central North Island and most people immediately think of skiing, followed closely by trout fishing and tramping.
But for those active types keen to embrace the great outdoors without skidding down a snowy slope, the Ruapehu region is also a great place to get on your bike.
Two of the trails in the area - Mountains to the Sea (open now) and the Central North Island Rail Trail (to open in time for summer) - are part of the Government's "Great Rides" national cycle trail project. Here's a wrap-up of what's on offer:
1. Mountains to the Sea
Also known as the Ruapehu to Wanganui trail, this ride currently covers 269km in three sections: Ohakune Old Coach Rd, Fishers Track and Mangapurua Valley. There is 54km of track still in development.
Ohakune Old Coach Rd connects Ohakune with Horopito along a track once used by horse and carriage. This 14km section is mainly at a grade-two level, although some sections would challenge beginners.
Make sure you have time to stop and admire the Hapuawhenua Viaduct, a rare, curved-lattice viaduct.
Fishers Track starts from National Park Village with a gentle 3km climb over a saddle before descending 520m into the Retaruke Valley and ending at Oio Rd Junction.
Key features include views of the central plateau and its mountains. The trail then follows Oio Rd to Whakahoro for 27km, 18km of which is gravel. This is a scenic ride along a back country road following the Retaruke Valley.
The Mangapurua Valley/Raetihi Loop is a two-day, grade-four track that includes the Bridge to Nowhere via the Mangapurua Track.
The initial up-hill and remote nature of this track makes it more for adventurous, competent riders.
Riders start the trail climbing for about an hour to the Mangapurua Trig and from there the ride is downhill through the valley. The second day includes the Bridge to Nowhere and a jet boat ride to Pipikiri.
2. Central North Island Rail Trail
This is a new two-day, 77km cycleway on the western side of the Hauhungaroa Range between Pureora and Ongarue. Much of the route will be in Pureora Forest Park. Some parts of the track should be open for summer 2011-12 but the official opening is down for March next year. The cycleway will use the the historic Ellis and Burnand Ongarue Tramway as well as old logging roads and new sections of track through Pureora Forest Park. The route will include the restored Ongarue Spiral, a triumph of engineering, and a new 85m-long, 30m-high suspension bridge over the Mangatukutuku Stream.
3. The 42 Traverse
This grade-three, 46km track is one of the country's best mountain bike rides, known for its long, often rutted downhills. Entry is from Kapoors Rd, just off SH47, and follows old logging tracks through remote back country and state forest before emerging at Owhango. Highlights include the stunning Canyon Valley and several river crossings.
4. Rangataua Forest
This 12km grade-three track weaves through Rangataua Forest incorporating the lower southern slopes of Mt Ruapehu. There are several tracks and access points for this ride each with their own flavour.