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Riverhead Forest

Contact: Sam Middlemass, District Forester.  Rayonier Forests  Phone: (09) 437 4082

Riverhead Forest is located in Rodney District, North West of Auckland central.  It can be entered from several locations in Coatesville, Riverhead, Waimauku and Waitoki. 

This is working pine forest, with logging and other forestry activities during the working week. Originally planted between 1929 and 1932, on poor kauri gum land; the forest covers just under 4000 ha.  It is Crown Land, the licencee is Matariki Forests, with Rayonier Forests performing the management.  Like other crown leases, this forest includes a recreation specification in the Crown Licence, however this does not guarantee riders or any other group the right to use the forest. 

Horse Riding Permits

riverhead forest signRayonier seem friendly towards horse riders and recreational use of their forests.  Horsegate keys are available with a permit to ride.  All registered riders receive emails from Rayonier about any activities in the forest (operational or events) and a map of the forest. 

Entry is daylight hours only on any day except those notified where there is some other event on in the forest (or the part of it).  There is an expectation that signage is followed and operational areas are not approached.  E-mail notification attempts to keep forest users informed of where operational areas are and which routes trucks wil be using.

There are some terrific views out across the city, and the surrounding countryside.  Roads and tracks are all shared with walkers, cyclists etc but there is generally a nice collaborative attitude.

See the bottom of the page to get a permit application with all instructions on it...

Free Riding - Ararimu Valley Rd

If you are looking for somewhere to ride for free and don't mind a bit of natural terrain.  There are very wide berms (firebreaks) around the edge of the forest on Old North Rd, right around to Ararimu Valley Rd.  Approx 10km of riding if you go all the way around - you can park in spots around the edge of the forest.  I haven't had any problems in all my years in this area, but do take all the usual precautions against theft. i.e. don't leave you purse in the front of your vehicle or obviously in view...

Terrain and Trails

Riverhead is a clay based pine forest, on hilly terrain.  This means that trails that cut through the forest will be wet and can be slippery. 

The forest roads are formed from a variety of metal (rocks and roadbase).  Some can be hardgoing for horses, but if you are prepared to ride at walk and trot it makes for good fitness work, and there are places to have a good canter.   

Forest Roads are well signposted but there are no specific horse trail markers or loop track markers. 

Riverhead Forest roads

Rayonier do spend quite a bit of time and effort making the forest pleasant for recreation.  They have recently (2011) sprayed and cut back gorse along a lot of tracks, making riding many trails a lot more pleasant than it was.

Map and Directions

There is a map of the forest and horse gates provided when you register to ride.

Access and Parking

Access to the forest is by a number of horse gates. 

NOTE:  There have been problems with hunters and motorbikes entering the forest through horse gates.  We do not want to lose our access to this forest because of trespassers. 

Horse gate keys are for horse riders only; please do not lend out your key to others.  When riding in the forest, please lock the gate immediately after you enter,  so that others cannot steal the padlocks while you ride.

Rayonier do not have to give us access, this is a privilege not a right, so please do not abuse it. 

If you see any vehicles entering the forest or anyone tampering with gate locks please report it to Sam Middlemass.

Horse gates 

(keys) are located at:

      • Escott Rd
      • Deacon Rd East (Off Mill Flat Rd)
      • Forestry Rd
      • Barlow Rd & Strip Rd (Off Ararimu Valley Rd)
      • Robinson Rd


The best parking can be found at the following locations:

Western Side

Ararimu Valley Rd entrances - Strip Road, Barlow Rd (shown right) and Campbell Rd  provide roadside (laybys) parking for 3-4 horse trucks or floats at a time.  There is a wide firebreak running all the way around the forest on this side (as far as Barlow Rd), so if you park in any of these locations you can ride along the firebreak, or into the forest at a horse-gate. 

NOTE: If you park at Campbell Rd (approx 2-3 vehicles) you will have to ride along the road, either back to Barlow Rd (Zanders Rd) or to Chatham Rd.  There is no horse-gate at Chatham, but there is a rock that is easy to pop over.

Eastern Side

Berenice Ave (a small cul-de-sac off Mill Flat Rd) provides parking for entrance through Deacon Rd East horse gate.

Riverhead Forest Parking - Mill Flat Rd

Robinson Rd is a b*gger of a hill to tow up, but does flatten out at the top


Forestry Rd has parking (at the top near the horse gate) for vehicles. 


Permit $60 p.a. 
Gates require key 
Many kms trails
not marked 
Forest roads are signposted 
Hilly and can be muddy off roads
Entry Daylight Hours Only

No Formal Parking, but there are places to park floats - see map 

Riverhead Forest NZ Bridleways