The Molesworth Muster Trail follows the Acheron Road through Molesworth Station, the largest and most remote working farm in New Zealand.
The 207km journey from Blenheim to Hanmer Springs follows the Awatere River, then crosses Wards Pass to follow the Acheron River to where it joins the Clarence.
It's a surprising and unforgettable journey through landscapes of shifting screes, wide grasslands and steep hillsides. Terminal and lateral moraines, glacial outwash plains, hanging valleys and waterfalls, cirque basins, tarns and arêtes provide stark reminders of the region’s past ice ages.
The historic Molesworth Cob Cottage (1866) and Acheron Accommodation House (1862) were part of a chain of accommodation houses placed to serve early travellers using the stock routes – and as you cycle up the valley, it’s not hard to imagine the isolation and determination they experienced.
However, for the leisurely cyclist, there is plenty of opportunity to stop along the way for lunch, a spot of fishing, bird watching, a dip in one of many swimming holes or to take some photos.
It's possible to factor this ride into a 'top of the south' tour taking in nearby rides – the St James Cycle Trail, Rainbow Trail and Hurunui Trail.
Starting in Blenheim, head south from the i-SITE to reach the bridge where you can drop down to the shared walking and cycling path running alongside the Taylor River. Crossing any bridge to get on to the 'town' side of the riverbank (there are paths both sides and numerous bridges along the way), follow the path for approximately 5km as far as Wither Road.
Turn left on to Wither Road and then right at the first intersection on to Taylor Pass Road. Stay on this road, which travels up over Taylor Pass and down into the Awatere Valley.
Hang a right on to Awatere Valley Road and follow your nose all the way through the valley and Molesworth Station.
Approaching Hanmer Springs you’ll come to a three-way junction. If you’re keen for more cycling, you could always hang a right here to connect to the St James Cycle Trail or Rainbow Trail, through to St Arnaud – this alpine town is 105km away so you'll want to restock supplies in Hanmer first if you’re headed there.
Heading left down Clarence Valley Road, you’ll enjoy a long downhill into the Hanmer Springs township and the famous thermal hot springs, which will do much to help your recovery.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
ACCESS & SEASONS
The Molesworth Muster Trail is generally open to public access from Labour Weekend until Easter, subject to weather condition and fire danger.
To request access outside of the open period, please contact DOC’s South Marlborough Area Office for an access permit; note that that cyclists are advised against riding this trail during winter or after heavy rainfall. If you do ride outside the open period, on an access permit, please keep DOC updated if your plans change (to avoid unnecessary search parties if the bad weather hits).
Molesworth Station is a working farm and access through it is a privilege not a right, so please keep to the road and do not venture on to farmland. Leave gates as you find them and respect stock and property.
This is a wilderness cycling experience and safety is your responsibility. Visit the DOC website for more information to help you prepare for this ride.
The Molesworth Muster Trail is 31km (15%) sealed road and 176km (85%) gravel road. The gravel is mostly well maintained but there are some loose and corrugated sections so a MTB with knobbly tyres is recommended.
FITNESS & SKILLS
The Molesworth Muster Trail is a grade 4 (advanced) ride. It has long climbs and steep gradients so a good level of fitness is required. The route travels through a remote area of New Zealand so will need to plan your ride in advance and go well equipped.
TYPE OF BIKE
A ship-shape mountain bike is essential for the remoteness and terrain; e-bikes are permitted but places to charge are limited. Riders should ideally have basic mechanical skills and carry a tool kit.
The Molesworth endures a continental climate of extremes. Hot and generally dry summers are followed by harsh winters. Snow may fall at any time of the year and can cover the property for up to two months over the winter. The Acheron Road can be closed due to weather or fire danger at any time.
Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather and always carry warm, wind and waterproof clothing.
GETTING HERE & AROUND
Blenheim is 28km south of Picton (and the interisland ferries) and Hanmer Springs is 134km north of Christchurch.
There are bus services available to and from both destinations. The Coastal Pacific train also passes through Blenheim on its daily return run between Picton and Christchurch.
Both Blenheim and Hanmer Springs have a wide range of services and accommodation available at the start or end of your ride.
In between, basic campsites are currently the only option for independent travellers. Those looking for an easier ride should take a guided cycle tour, which is catered and provides more comfortable bed and breakfast accommodation at farms along the route.
Between Blenheim and the entrance to Molesworth Station, camping is permitted at Blarich Recreation Reserve and a toilet is located at the Hodder Bridge Picnic Area, maintained by the Marlborough District Council.
Molesworth Cob Cottage and Acheron Accommodation House are the only sites where camping is permitted on Molesworth Station (maintained by DOC).
FOOD & WATER
There are no shops between Blenheim and Hanmer Springs so you will need to carry all your supplies.
Water can be drawn from the river and streams along the route. While it is mostly suitable for drinking, it is recommended that water is boiled (3 min) filtered or treated before drinking.
Visit the Department of Conservation website for more details about the accommodation and other facilities available along this route.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
Not only is this trail well signposted, major landmarks such as the river and mountains make it easy to keep heading in the right direction. However, carrying a map will insure against wrong turns, help time your ride, and identify points of interest.
There is little mobile phone reception outside the Blenheim and Hanmer Springs areas.
Toilet facilities are available at campsites along the route.