Trail updates – Summer 2020/21

Published 2020-12-08

Here’s the latest news from the Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails. Read on for even more reasons to get riding this summer – including brand-new sections of trail, fresh interpretation panels, a memorable new tour, and exciting events.

New 16km off-road section on the Alps 2 Ocean

A spectacular new trail section from Sailors Cutting to Benmore Dam in the Waitaki Valley will open just in time for the Christmas holidays.

The 16km section combines DOC’s Benmore Peninsula track with purpose-built gravel cycle trail that weaves through the Waitaki high country, following the Ahuriri arm of beautiful Lake Benmore. View-filled picnic spots offer a chance to pause and soak up the scenery.

From the finish at the car park above Benmore Dam, riders can continue their Alps 2 Ocean adventure with a return trip to Ōtemātātā or continue onwards across the dam to Kurow and Ōamaru.

Most of the trail is grade 2 (easy), with around 6km of grade 3 (intermediate); it’s suitable for experienced cyclists over twelve with a decent level of fitness. The section takes around 2–3 hours to ride and is also open to walkers.

The opening represents a major milestone for the A2O as it takes even more of the trail off State Highway 83. All 320km+ should be off-road within the next five years.

Spectacular new trail between Sailors Cutting and Benmore Dam under construction (Hamish Seaton)

New bridge over the Whanganui River on the Mountains to Sea

The long-awaited bridge across the Whanganui River at Upokongaro is a gamechanger for the Mountains to Sea Ngā Ara Tūhono Cycle Trail. The graceful 130m span allows riders (and walkers) to access the quieter side of the river where a new section of cycle trail allows a safer journey downsteam to Whanganui city centre, around 10km away.

Local school kids helped cut the ribbon and were some of the first people to cross the bridge (Lynley Twyman)

St James Cycle Trail in ‘tip-top condition’ for summer

There’s been a spring-cleaning frenzy on the St James Cycle Trail with more than 140 culverts cleared and heaps of trail maintenance and upgrades. Mark Inglis of Hurunui Trails is thrilled with progress on ‘resetting the whole of this Great Ride back into tip-top condition’.

Feedback from riders is already positive but is likely to get even better as the summer season rolls on and the track continues to improve. Other worthy projects underway include a community-led, native-tree planting programme around the historic homestead that will be dedicated to the stockmen and musterers of the St James, and a fab new archway to welcome riders and walkers.

The new arch at the Homestead end of the St James Cycle Trail (Mark Inglis)

More accommodation around the Great Lake Trail

Riding off the back of the new Otaketake Trail that opened at the end of 2019, three new accommodation options offer overnight stays with character in spades. All are conveniently located on Kawakawa Road, close to the mid-point of the fabulous Otaketake–K2K Loop (32km, 4–6 hours, grade 3/intermediate). 

Kawakawa Hut – a simple yet stylish, off-the-grid getaway for two (linen, towels and cooking facilities provided)

Kinloch Glamping – luxurious, safari-style tents perched on the hillside of a 500-hectare family farm (linen, towels and cooking facilities provided; breakfast included)

Totara Perch – two beautifully appointed huts on a bush-clad hill overlooking the lake (sleeps four; linen, towels and cooking facilities provided, incl. BBQ); Totara Perch is also the home of the Beehave Craft Meadery – delicious!

Food, views and bean bags – just the ticket after a day in the saddle (Kinloch Glamping)

Easy Kinloch logistics on the Great Lake Trail

Making it even easier to enjoy the Great Lake Trail this summer, official partner Four B will have a base in Kinloch offering bike hire, plus shuttles to the start of the Waihaha section trailhead.

Cheeky mid-weekies on the Timber Trail

Did you know… not only did 2020 Tour Aotearoa riders vote The Timber Trail the best Great Ride of their journey, trail-counters show that user numbers have more than doubled over the last year. This has put a serious squeeze on weekend accommodation this summer (other than the DOC campground at Piropiro), however, there’s still plenty of capacity during the week. Plan your cheeky mid-weeky adventure here.

Multi-day Motu Trails magic on the new Raukumara Traverse

Motu Trails’ official partner Cycle Gisborne has created an awesome new multi-day tour, The Raukumara Traverse – 175km of riding between Ōpōtiki and Tarāwhiti Gisborne taking in the Motu Trails’ Dunes Trail, Motu Road and Rere Falls Trail Heartland Ride. As well as memorable riding on quiet country roads over the rugged Raukumara Ranges, highlights include Gisborne’s world-class wineries (and brewery), the Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Rere Rockslide and numerous waterfalls.

This three- to six-day tour is available as a guided, supported or independent experience, and can be tailored to suit riders’ fitness, skill levels and interests; find out more and book your adventure here.

The Motu Road in the Raukumara Ranges (New Roads Home)

West Coast Wilderness trail gets new storyboards

A series of new interpretation panels is being installed at the Greymouth end of the Wilderness Trail. Enriching the already fascinating pathway along the riverside floodwall, wharves, lagoon, dramatic bar and the stretch of coast out to the aerodome, they recount the area’s history of shipping, fishing, aviation and more.

Waikato River Trails’ Summer Sizzle

The Summer Sizzler returns to the Waikato River Trails on Saturday 9  January 2021. This super-fun running and walking event is a lovely way to experience this Great Ride and take in the beauty of Lake Whakamaru and Lake Maraetai.

Choose from three distances (6km/11km/22km) and multiple age groups, with a medal for every competitor who crosses the finish line at Mangakino Lakefront. Relax and have fun at the finish with spot prizes and food stalls. Find out more and enter the event here.

'Number 2258 & number 2259, stop having so much fun!' (Summer Sizzler)

New Waikato River Trail section

Between Arapuni Village and Waipapa Dam, the trail now follows the western side of the Waikato River along quiet, mainly sealed country roads. There are some long, steep climbs but riders are rewarded with lovely views plus a fun downhill to the dam. Download the Arapuni section map here.

The old trail on the other side is now permanently closed except for Arapuni Dam to Jones Landing (4km), and Waipapa Dam to the Mangarewa suspension bridge (10km), and while there's no through-route, these sections make excellent day rides or walks!

The Motatapu returns to Queenstown on 6 March

One of New Zealand’s favourite off-road sporting events, the annual Motatapu sees mountain bikers and runners race through stunning high country between Wanaka and Queenstown. 

Choose from four different race categories depending on your appetite for scenery and/or suffering, and savour the fact that a significant portion of entry fees goes to the Queenstown Trail Trust for maintenance and development of the Great Ride. Enter here if you dare!

Around the Mountains on the up

Repairs to flood damage are now completed, providing a smoother and more enjoyable riding experience.

On the section between Mavora and Mt Nicholas Station, shelters and toilets have also been installed, which will no doubt be a relief to riders. It’s also now possible to stay at Mt Nicholas Station, spectacularly situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The lakeside house sleeps four, while the cozy cottage is a romantic bolthole for two.

Click here to plan your Around the Mountains adventure.

New shelter and toilets – what a lovely place to attend the call of nature (Around The Mountains)

Tapawera to Murchison Heartland Ride now open

Mainly following country backroads, this new cycle touring route makes a picturesque alternative to biking along busy SH6. Winding beside the great wildernesses of Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes national parks, there’s majestic scenery most of the way, with the bonus of visiting pretty Lake Rotoroa nestled in forested mountain surrounds.

This trail also links with the Tasman's Great Taste Trail at Tapawera, and is not far from The Old Ghost Road, and the Golden Downs Trail and Rainbow Trail Heartland Rides.

Plan your ride here.

Lake Dunstan Trail closer to completion

Construction work is progressing well on this ride that will connect the Otago Central Rail Trail in Clyde and Cromwell. Around 30km of trail is already open (Smiths Farm to Bannockburn bridge and beyond via the Cromwell Heritage Precinct), while the official opening of the whole 52km is scheduled for March 2021 – we can’t wait! 

Whet your appetite for what awaits in this great video. The cantilevered trail sections and swing bridge will blow your mind! In the meantime, why not try out the open sections – they’re a wonderful way of exploring cute Cromwell and getting amongst the vines of Bannockburn – one of New Zealand’s most prestigious winegrowing sub-regions.