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Epic Rides Part 1 - Old Ghost Road - New Zealand

This series looks at some epic international rides that we have complete.

First of all, the Old Ghost Road, an old miners trail in the North-West corner of the South Island of New Zealand, a ghost has awakened. A long-forgotten gold miners’ road has been revived as a mountain biking and tramping trail – connecting the old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) to the mighty Mokihinui River in the north. The 85km-long Old Ghost Road traverses majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys. It is incredible.

The best long single track ride in New Zealand, the Old Ghost Road starts deep in dense, mossy and gnarled native bush and slowly climbs up to a misty high alpine ridge line, passing dozens of waterfalls along the way.

Up high, there’s tight single track, exposure on trail that’s been painstakingly blasted into hard granite, all followed by a ripping descent with sharp switchbacks where you’d better stay on target.

The trail is based on a route that was surveyed for a mining road in the late 1800s when a gold rush swept through New Zealand. After finding the antique map, the trail’s founders discovered that some of the single track was ready to go— and the rest was hacked in over the years using a combination of trail building machines, dynamite, helicopters, gravel crushers, and hand tools.

It’s an impressive piece of work, the grades are all consistent and mellow, making it one of the most rideable backcountry trails around.

The trail has a swanky system of huts (with fully equipped kitchens), campsites, and helipads. So all styles of ride, from a standard self-supported bikepack, to a multi-day cruise with helicopter food drops, are all possible. Wherever you camp, you’re likely to be visited by wekas, one of New Zealand’s prehistoric-looking native birds. The wekas are famous thieves- so don’t leave anything outside that you don’t want to walk away.

For a two-day ride, the campsite at the end of the first climb at Ghost Lake, is a killer place to stay. It’s cool, comfortable, and has a phenomenal view. The lower elevation campsites are plagued by sandflies- if planning to camp there, it would be a good idea to reserve a spot in one of the huts instead.

The trail ends in Seddonville, an old coal-mining town. The pub is the only business in town, but after this epic ride, it’s all you’ll need.

Matt, my mountain bike buddy and I did this to commiserate our 50th birthdays and what a trail it was. Dislocated fingers and dented ribs aside it was just amazing. We went in December and the weather was perfect. We tacked on an extra 80km to make it a round trip from Westpoint where we had some funky back-packing accommodation. The views were stunning and the facilities just superb, the sandflies were horrific but only affected one camp area.

I would put this at a six out of ten for difficulty. You need to have a head for heights and steady control of your bike as some parts are just 1 meter wide with sheer drops. Go full suspension if you can. We both took our bikes from the UK properly bagged up and hired a van for the trip. I would say this is in the top 20 best rides in the world, its certainly in my top three that I have ridden. Read about the making of the trail before you go and you will really get the full picture of what was required to put this route together.

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