A serious adventure for fit, experienced bikepackers, this back-country epic offers deep immersion in the mountains and valleys surrounding The Old Ghost Road.
Combining with The Old Ghost Road to form a loop, this connector ride starts (and being a loop, finishes) at the northern end of the Old Ghost Road, near Seddonville, and takes in the aptly named Charming Creek (CURRENTLY CLOSED – SEE TRAIL DETAIL BELOW) and formidable Denniston Shortcut. It also intersects the Westport to The Old Ghost Road Heartland Ride, a short trip to the town of Westport.
From Seddonville, the Roundabout seeks out the Charming Creek Walkway and a short stretch of highway before climbing up to the bare and desolate Denniston Plateau. It then follows the ‘Denniston Shortcut’ through the remote Orikaka Ecological Area to the Lyell car park at the southern end of The Old Ghost Road.
The Roundabout is described here in a north to south (anti-clockwise) direction, the most common direction of travel for riders coming off The Old Ghost Road (generally ridden from Lyell to Seddonville).
Note that although New Zealand Cycle Trail signage is present at most key intersections, it is imperative to plan your route carefully and carry a detailed topographical map. A couple of vital grid references are given below.
20km, advanced, 2–3 hours
TRAIL ALERT: The Charming Creek Walkway cannot be ridden along its entire length due to a large slip, and is currently split into two tracks – Charming Creek North Walkway and Charming Creek South Walkway. Cyclists now have to follow SH67 between Seddonville and Ngakawau (16km). Updates on Charming Creek can be found on the Department of Conservation website here.
From Seddonville, follow Charming Creek Road for about 10km to reach the start of Charming Creek Walkway, which is open to bikers, well signposted, and mostly flat or downhill in this direction. It’s a heritage-filled trip through a hidden valley, complete with rusting relics and a waterfall cascading into a dramatic gorge.
The Charming Creek Walkway follows an historic rail line, so care is needed riding on and over these features in places and expect a few bumps in places where sleepers are exposed.
The walkway ends a few hundred metres from the store and hotel at Ngakawau. From the hotel, ride south down SH67 for 2km to Granity.
Note that if you haven’t the time or inclination to ride Charming Creek, simply head out of Seddonville and onto SH67 to rejoin the route where the far end of the Charming Creek track emerges at Ngakawau (or vice versa if travelling in clockwise direction).
65km, advanced, 7–10 hours
Continue along SH67 for 12km to Waimangaroa (one end of the Westport to The Old Ghost Road connector ride)
From the Waimangaroa store, ride up Stewart Street, turn left into Neighbours Street, then right into Denniston Road to begin the demanding 8km climb up the sealed road to the Denniston Plateau.
Make sure to allow time to explore the historic reserve (the Denniston Rose book trilogy is a must-read for lovers of gritty historical fiction).
At the T-intersection near the top of the hill, turn right (left leads to visitor car park, historic town and public toilets). Continue for 750m before veering left onto Burnetts Face Road, which soon turns to gravel (rough in places) and becomes Cedar Creek Road. Approximately 7km from the Denniston Visitor Centre and 200m after crossing a bridge (Cedar Creek), continue past the track on your right (grid ref 044 774) and keep heading north north/east. At or about grid ref 050 785, begin a 140m climb up onto the Mt William Range.
Having crested the range and now travelling in a southerly direction, take a left turn and follow the main gravel road down to Stevenson Stream and then Mt William Stream. At grid ref 086 738, turn left and climb, then drop to the Orikaka/Mackley River.
Be warned: this is a big river, which can rise quickly following rainfall, and it is recommended that you take extreme care. Do not attempt to cross the river if it is fast flowing and brown. Even in dry conditions, the Orikaka/Mackley River requires wading through knee deep, albeit fairly slow-moving water.
On the far side of the river, there is a very steep 1km-long climb (gaining 200m in elevation). At the top, miss the first two left turns and then a right turn. Drop down to the pylon where the wires fork. At the pylon, turn left to follow the main gravel road. Ride down the main road that follows the pylons.
At Pensini Road, turn right. After 1km, veer right and continue for 1km to SH6 at the Iron Bridge. Turn left and cycle along the highway for 2.5km to the Lyell car park and camping ground.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
Need to Know
This route is a mix of singletrack (10km), rough-and-rutted gravel road (47km) and sealed road (28km). Note that while the Charming Creek Walkway is closed, the route follows SH67 for 28km which has moderate traffic volumes. Riders should take care on this section of highway.
Do not attempt the Denniston to Lyell section if it has been raining; the Orikaka/Mackley River will be uncrossable.
FITNESS & SKILLS
This is a long and challenging grade 5 (expert) ride on a mix of single track, rough-and-rutted gravel road and sealed road. It is suitable only for fit, experienced riders.
TYPE OF BIKE
Making an assumption that you are also tackling The Old Ghost Road, your mountain bike, tools, and mechanical skills should all be in good order.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
A detailed topographical map is essential; NZTopo50-BR21 Granity and NZTopo50-BR22 Lyell are recommended.
WEATHER & RIDING SEASON
The trail is open all year but can be subject to heavy rain, cold temperatures and snow on elevated sections, even in summer, so appropriate clothing is vital. Do not attempt to Cross the Orikaka/Mackley River if it has been raining. All other cautions for the Old Ghost Road apply.
GETTING HERE & AROUND
ACCOMMODATION, FOOD & WATER
There is accommodation at Seddonville, Ngakawau, Granity and New Creek, and campgrounds at Seddonville and Lyell. There is food available from Seddonville, Ngakawau, Granity and Waimangaroa.
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 mins), filtered or treated before drinking.
There is some cellphone coverage around the coastal towns; it gets patchy and then non-existent as you head inland through Charming Creek and across Denniston and the section through the Orikaka/Mackley. It is recommended that riders carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) – available for hire from Habitat Sports in Westport – and let someone know their intentions before they set off.
There are public toilets in Sedonville, Ngakawau, Granity, Waimangaroa and on the Denniston Plateau and Lyell.