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5 of the Best Mountain Biking Trails in New Zealand

New Zealand, Aotearoa (in Maori), land of the long white cloud and home to some of the world's most stunning scenery and challenging mountain bike trails.

With native bush, mountains, beaches and campsites aplenty, it can be tough to decide what path you take. Our good friend Sarah Hammond (@flexgoogly) recently completed a tour of this stunning country and inspired us to list 5 of the best Mountain Biking trails that you should ride (or at least attempt) while in New Zealand.

1. Queen Charlotte Track
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Distance: 70 km
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Best time to ride: Biking is permitted all year round, although some parts are closed during the busy summer season 1st Dec - 28 Feb for hikers.

The Queen Charlotte Track is located in the scenic Marlborough Sounds, amongst the native bush, and is also known as one of the best hiking tracks in New Zealand. More recently, the track has been opened up to mountain bikers and is now regarded as one of the best single track mountain bike rides in the country. If you are a fit, experienced mountain biker, then you will find most of the track very rideable although there are still some challenging hill sections, steep slopes and narrow parts. If you are a seasoned camper and want to take your time, there are several campsites along the way and local water taxis are available to take your pack for you to the campsites so can really enjoy your ride.

2. The Old Ghost Road
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Distance: 85km
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced
  • Best time to ride: The track is open all year round, but head there in peak summer to make the most of it!

If you're looking for the ultimate challenge, this cross-country mountain bike trail is for you. What was once an old gold miners' route has now been transformed into New Zealand's longest single-track bike trail consisting of 21 bridges which starts from the ghost town Lyell (where the name originates from) and finishes in Seddonville on the West Coast. Rugged, long and narrow, the Old Ghost Road trail is set amongst the wilderness and is recommended only for more experienced riders. With remote, rocky terrain ranging in altitude from near sea-level to more than 1300 metres, there are some big drops so this track is not for the faint-hearted. Make sure you take a good map and phone (Quad Lock!) to navigate as even though the track is well sign-posted, there is only limited coverage just incase you get lost along the trail.

3. The Timber Trail
  • Time: 1-2 days
  • Distance: 87km
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Best time to ride: October through to May

Created from old tramlines and logging roads, the Timber Trail is rated as one of the easier bike trails as it has been smoothed and widened out using modern trail-building techniques meaning you don't have to worry about too many bumps or ditches! The trail is fairly remote and covers 87kms of native bush, thrilling suspension bridge crossings and the odd hut or campsites where you can put your feet up for the night. It is recommended that you have a good mountain bike, warm clothing and wet-weather gear as there are still a few steep climbs and tricky sections along the way and the trail passes through a mountain environment which can get cold regardless of the weather.

4. Dun Mountain Trail
  • Time: 1 day
  • Distance: 43km
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Best time to ride: October through to May

The Dun Mountain Trail is one of New Zealand's most accessible back country alpine trails in the country. It only opened in 2011 and is based on the line of New Zealand's first railway which was used to transport minerals from the eastern slopes of the Wooded Peak. It can be easily completed in a day and the views are totally worth the ride but as it is steep, the trail has an intermediate difficulty level rating so it is vital that you are a confident, experienced and fit mountain biker as the descent is a fairly technical and challenging one.

5. Heaphy Track
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Distance: 78.4km
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Best time to ride: May 1st- November 30th

The Heaphy Track is one of the most popular mountain biking trails which also doubles as one of New Zealand's nine great walks. Until recently it wasn't open to Mountain Bikers, but now riders are permitted to ride the track between May - November. The track is divided into sections so you can choose to just do a day trip or a multi-day ride to get a fuller experience. Consisting of dense beech forests, expansive grass plains and limestone cliffs along the Heaphy River, this ride won't disappoint. Most of the trail is well formed and maintained, however, there are some steep slopes and avoidable obstacles so it is recommended that you are an intermediate level rider. Make sure you have a good puncture repair kit handy and some spare tubes incase of any punctures as the abrasive silica sands along the Gouland Downs section is very hard on brakes.

A massive thanks to Sarah Hammond for the awesome pics. To see more of Sarah's trip head to @sarah___hammond

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