Tales From the OG: Riverhead-Muriwai Loop

When everything's peachy...

The vision: connect the Riverhead Forest trails with Muriwai Beach via an assortment of gravel and sealed roads, and a few mystery trails.

With a full morning to play with and spring in the air, I set off with Matt and Tad for a spin on the same-old country roads of Auckland. At least to start with. Like many OG adventures, this route was concocted with a combination of known routes and suggestions from algorithms optimising for dirt. 

So it was the algorithm which first sent us through a vineyard for no reason. Surely the confused vintner would have been sympathetic if we’d stuck around to find out.

Not long after, we entered Riverhead Forest. What it lacks in natural beauty, it makes up for with its vast labyrinth of unmarked trails. We trusted the GPS and took the most direct route north. It’s a wild place full of lumps, logs and always a few lost-looking mountain bikers.

Miraculously we made no wrong turns, and eventually popped back out onto familiar roads.

However, disaster soon struck.  After turning southwards at Kaukapakapa, the bright sun clearly exposed a crack.

Fortunately for him, I’m not the kind of guy who would make a big deal about it.  And would especially never mention it on the internet. So like a band of brothers bonded by bib banter, we proceeded on our merry way.  

Having ridden past the gravel turnoff to Inland Rd many times near Helensville, it was fun to finally explore it.  And even more fun to immediately get dropped after doing all the work on the seal.  Possibly inspired by my bib-banter, the Peach goes even better uphill.

The good thing about being in charge of directions is the Peach must wait for me.  Only to drop me again, but I accept my fate.  

The big gravel drop down Kiwitahi Rd wasn’t that fun last time on my road bike, but the gravel bike flew down.  And we popped out near the turn-off to Woodhill Mountain Bike Park. The mission here was to cut through to the Coast Rd north of Muriwai. The map showed so many little options, but reality was a bit more complicated. If anyone repeats this route, take Pulpit Rock Rd to avoid the horse and logging trails.

Can’t see the coast on Coast Road

Down at sea level for the first time all day, the Peach aimed a suspiciously timed splash from a mud pool my way.  So I proceeded to drop him on the flat. Until I was lured by some black sand dunes to stop and get a first proper sea view.  And a truce.

Then Tad took us off-course with his knowledge of the local mountain bike trails. A steep climb in the hot sun up a questionable access road led to some slightly more flowy downhill singletrack than I’m comfortable with. Being the last man, no one will ever know if I came off…

Finally arriving in Muriwai after 3.5 hours, it was time for refreshments. A long black with a side of chocolate ice cream absolutely nailed it.

Typically from Muriwai, there are two options for riding out. One is steep, the other steeper, and both trafficky on the weekend. But we took a new route which we absolutely loved: up a paved cul-de-sac, then onto the steep but rideable Lookout Track.

After the remarkable viewing platform, the freshly groomed trail continued climbing at an easy gradient through lush bush. This route felt like a revelation after years of riding the usual way out of Muriwai.  I’d even try it on my road bike.

It’s possible to avoid all of the Muriwai traffic by taking the gravel back roads from the top of this trail. Taiapa Rd is ok on a road bike but a real blast with 40mm tyres - and another chance to put pressure on the climby boys on the flat rollers.  

There was one last gem before the final trek home. This was the Kauri Crescent turnoff. It’s a senseless gravel diversion, but connects through with a short and sweet trail. Yet another gravel road I’ve ridden past on my roadie many times but never before explored.

From Auckland this route is ~140k, but it could be done in 95k if starting and finishing from a cafe in Riverhead. But will they do you a chocolate affogato?  I’m peachy keen. 🍑

Carl's Tip 1:

When ordering a mid-ride coffee, don’t go for a big milky bowl if you have a steep climb immediately afterwards.

Carl's Tip 2:

Apply sunscreen liberally to both cheeks when your bib-shorts are past their expiry date.

Loop from Riverhead:

95km, 1,700m

Route Link