The Laughing Moa Cycle Trail

Not far from River Valley is the small settlement of Moawhango.

Some kilometres downstream from the River Valley Lodge, the river of the same name, the Moawhango, flows into the main river we raft on, namely the Rangitikei.

Moawhango is a Maori placename that translates as noisy or raucous Moa.

Moa were the giant flightless birds that once stalked the forests and grasslands of pre-human New Zealand. None of the nine species, some of which grew to 3.6m in height, survived the arrival of the first Polynesian settlers. However, their legacy remains in many place names.

There is also a school of thought that suggests that the second part of the place name – whango – may describe the sound that the birds made. Unfortunately, we will never know whether this was the case or not.


So What has that Got To Do With a Cycle Trail?

The inspiration for the name, The Laughing Moa” is a play on the idea of a flock of noisy, partying, laughing Moa.

The Laughing Moa Cycle Trail is a 42km loop ride that explores and traverses the mostly quiet rural backroads of several small districts to the east of the central North Island town of Taihape.

The trail is a mix of gravel and sealed road, incorporating long fun downhills, with a few climbs, though none steep. At various points, there are stunning vistas of Mt. Ruapehu, Mt. Ngauruhoe, and the flat-topped maunga, or mountain, Aorangi. A part of the route follows alongside the Moawhango River.

Other parts of the trail give riders a keen appreciation of the changes in the landscape as you ride through hill country farmland.

pukeokahu hill and the surrounding area

While the trail could be started at any point of the loop, people staying at River Valley Lodge will generally depart from the Pukeokahu Hall, 5 km up the road from their accommodation. They and their bikes are transported up to that point, saving the first 5 km uphill. However, that 5 km is a fun downhill at the end of the ride! Of course, those who thrive on long uphills can leave directly from the Lodge!

For those keen and with plenty of battery, there is a worthwhile 12 km round trip detour to the 100-metre high Mokai Bridge, which spans the deep canyon of the Rangitikei River.

Pukeokahu Landscape
Mokai Bridge

How Difficult is this Trail?

With the gravel road sections, we think this ride would be primarily Grade 2, maybe because of the gravel getting into Grade 3. We find that people spend anywhere from 2 ½ hours to 4 ½ hours riding it, depending on the number of photo stops, snack stops, sometimes chatting to locals and so on.

It is a relatively easy ride on an e-bike, but you still know you have done some exercise at the end.

There is an ever-expanding network of cycle trails in New Zealand, with The Laughing Moa being a worthwhile addition. Put it on your list.

New to River Valley

River Valley Lodge has a new cycle and accommodation package called “The Moa Goa”. This package includes two nights’ ensuited lodge accommodation, a three-course dinner each night, full breakfasts, e-bikes for the day and a gourmet lunch to accompany you on your ride. Details can be found here.

Brian Megaw

Riverside Deluxe Room 10
Farm To Table Salad
Spa - Hot Tub
E-Bike Ride Pukeokahu