Riding Tips

The Old Ghost Road, NZ

New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud, sheep, and a tonne of quality mountain biking trails.  The most recent trail, the Old Ghost Road, you should definitely add to your cycling bucket list.

The Old Ghost Road is a three-day trek through some of the most beautiful scenery you could hope to see.  Placed on the West Coast of New Zealand’s picturesque South Island, this 85-kilometre ride is one you don’t want to miss.  Based on an old mining route from the 1800’s, this trail is the longest continuous piece of dedicated singletrack in New Zealand.  With all the climbing, descents, river crossings, and hairy ridgeline traverses you could hope for, this trail is not for the faint-hearted.

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Cutting through the South Islands Lyell Range, this ride has a smorgasbord of incredible scenery.

Setting off from just outside the tiny town of Lyell on New Zealand’s West Coast, and finishing over the range at Seddonville, this ride can be done in as much or as little time as you like.  I chose to do it in two nights, and as someone who isn’t terribly fit, I found this a very manageable pace.


Geared up and grinning, ready for two days of epic riding as we kicked off our journey.

The ride starts out with a day of climbing, gaining almost one kilometre in vertical elevation over 30 kilometres of distance.  None of it is particularly steep or technical, rather just sustained pedaling through beautiful New Zealand rainforest.  Towards the end of the first day you break out of the treeline and reach an unobstructed ridgeline, called Heaven’s Door, which was undoubtedly the highlight of our trip.  Unfortunately, cloud set in before I could whip out my camera, but the view was phenomenal.


New Zealand has the luxury of serviced huts along many of their overnight treks, with fires, cooking gear, and beds.

After descending down the other side of the ridge, we reached our destination for the first night, Ghost Lake hut.  The hut was warm and filled with friendly faces, and though I consider myself a bit of a mountain man, able to withstand anything nature throws at me, after riding in the rain for hours, I would not have traded that hut for a tent for all the tea in China.


The view from Ghost Lake hut, providing a glimpse of the techy singletrack to come.

The second day starts with a technical singletrack switchback descent, which was the hardest section, but my group did this in pouring rain and had no real issues, so it’s nothing to be worried about.  After a short pinch climb, the real fun begins: ten kilometres of unobstructed descending through more of New Zealand’s pristine rainforest, complete with everything from stairs to swing bridges.


The sort of ridgeline riding you can expect in spades from the Old Ghost Road.

About halfway into the day is a historic hut, built by the original hunters and trappers who spent their winters in the area.  This piece of history provides a great lunch stop, as you get to share a hut with Jimmy, who killed six deer in 1917.

The second day finishes alongside the roaring Mokihinui River, where you have an option to canoe the rest of the way out if you so choose.  Another fully furnished hut makes a great end to a spectacular day of riding.


We saw every type of bike out on the trails, from cross country race machines to our big travel enduro rigs, and there were even a few electric bikes out there.

Normally the third day is an easy, flat pedal out to Seddonville, where your car, shuttle, or lift is waiting to take you to a hot shower, but be prepared for the unexpected – as with so many other hiking trips, things don’t always go to plan.  After two solid days of rain, one of the river crossings had become inundated, so we had to cross a flooded river.  Well, they do say you don’t remember the trips where nothing exciting happened.  Doable in less than three hours, the third day can really be tacked onto the end of day two if you’re really keen.
You can always find a helping hand to get you out of a spot of bother.
I would recommend the Old Ghost Road to anyone who rides a mountain bike; it’s trip you won’t forget.  Check out their website for more info, and go see it for yourself.  Once you’ve booked your travel, check out our travel tips for planning a smooth riding trip.

Categories: Riding Tips

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