Trail Tales – Rimutaka Incline

For Wellingtonians this favourite ride is right on your back doorstep.  It is a great family ride and easily completed by riders of all levels.  Suitable for families with one caveat: if you have a cycle trailer you’ll need to be able to lift it over the gates (two near the start).

Part of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail, the incline is a gradual ascent following the path the old railway took prior to the current tunnel through the Rimutaka’s being built.  At one point you pass by an exhaust vent for the current tunnel.  Along the way there are remnants of railway history to explore, and informational signs highlighting the history and points of interest.

The trail is wide with a pretty good surface.  Some parts are pot holed, and you need to take care of the deeper/looser surface on either side and the middle of the track.  It is quite manageable and a good place for kids to learn about riding on this type of surface, providing they can exercise some restraint on the downhill.  The natural environment is pretty and varied, with some pretty spots to stop for a snack.

When we do this ride we drive to the start, which is signposted off SH2, on your right past the Kaitoke turnoff.  We park and ride to the summit and then enjoy the coast downhill back to the car.  We usually clock it at about 22-24 km return.  For years we did it with children in tow, firstly with trailers, and then on the trailgator.  The first time I ever did it not towing a child was a revelation.  Not that it is all that hard – gentle gradients were required to accomodate the steam locomotives that plyed the tracks up until 1955.


A picnic lunch, plenty of water and snacks are essential, as are jackets as it is often a tad chilly at the summit.  There are toilets near the start, and again at the summit.  See also: What’s in the bag?

Bring a torch or bike lights – just beyond the summit is the summit tunnel.  And what child can resist a tunnel, especially a good long one like this! (584 m long).


MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: The areas between Tunnel Gully and Cross Creek and around the south coast are remote and have little or no cellphone coverage.

DRINKING WATER: Carry enough water and food for your trip, as there is none on the way.

CHANGE OF CLOTHES: there is plenty of water nearby, including one water crossing with a choice of bridge or ford.  If your kids are like mine, and magnetically drawn to water, then a change of clothes back in the car might be a handy thing to have.

WALKERS use this trail too, so mind your manners and speeds on the descent.

Resources: Printable Map, Closures and Repairs info, Trail information website.

Going the Distance

The incline is just part of the whole adventure available to you:

Named one of the world’s hottest travel experiences for 2015, by travel guide Lonely Planet, the Rimutaka Cycle Trail is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides.

It’s part of Nga Haerenga – The New Zealand Cycle Trail and starts near the coolest little capital Wellington.

Through a broad river valley to bush-clad hills and gullies; from lakeside farmland to rugged southern coastline, the Rimutaka Cycle Trail is a 115km journey through distinctive New Zealand landscapes in the Wellington and Wairarapa regions.


We have ideas of doing it as a four day family adventure, so stay tuned for the full story.

Have you cycled the Rimutaka Incline or other parts of the Rimutaka Trail?  What did you think?

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