Rainbow Trail

OverviewTrail Status: Open

URGENT Safety Message:
Please note that traffic volumes in the area have increased significantly since the Kaikoura earthquake due to the close of State Highway 1. It is NOT RECOMMENDED for riders to use State Highway 63 between Tophouse Road and St Arnaud village due to these increased traffic volumes.

St Arnaud — Hanmer Springs (2-3 days, 112km)

The Rainbow Trail connects St Arnaud to Hanmer Springs via the Wairau-Hanmer Springs Hydro and Tophouse roads and has long been a popular cycle touring route. It offers cyclists a remarkable wilderness experience with craggy, beech-covered mountains, flowing tussock lands and vast screes spilling from ridge crests to the valley floor in a remote high-country landscape.

It also connects with the St James Cycle Trail, one of the Great Rides of Nga Haerenga – the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

The road was built in the 1950s when the electricity pylons were installed to supply power to the Nelson and Buller regions. It was also the original stock route between Marlborough and Canterbury.

There are three basic campsites and three back-country huts available for accommodation along the trail. These are all located in Department of Conservation land, so visit the DOC website for more details.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa

There’s no better way to ease aching muscles at the end of your ride than by relaxing at one of the best outdoor thermal retreats you’ll find anywhere. At Hanmer Springs you can enjoy the natural thermal water, pure air and surrounding mountains all year round.

Open-air thermal pools and sulphur pools allow you to soak up the rich minerals and the views, or truly relax in your own private spa. For more indulgence treat yourself at The Spa where massages and beauty treatments ensure the perfect pampering experience.

Lake Tennyson

This scenic high-country glacial lake sits in a beautiful, isolated spot at the headwaters of the Clarence River on the eastern fringe of the Nelson Lakes National Park. You can go camping and fishing here.

Be Prepared

There are no shops in between towns on the Rainbow Trail, so you will need to carry all of your supplies.

MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: No mobile coverage available.

DRINKING WATER: Drinking water is scarce along the route. Some huts may have water supplies, although this is not assured in spells of dry weather. There are many clear streams along the way.

IMPORTANT: Access to Rainbow Road is seasonal and can be closed due to heavy rain or fire risk. 

The best time to ride the Rainbow Trail is when it’s open to public access (from Boxing day to Easter Monday). While access can be obtained outside of the open period – cyclists are advised against riding this trail during winter or after heavy rainfall.

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