Lyell — Seddonville (2-4 days, 85km)
Where else can you ride past mining relics of a bygone era, ascend through swathes of native forest to reach breathtaking views, descend into open river valleys scattered with lakes and tarns, weave through giant podocarp rainforest inhabited by abundant wildlife, sidle along a cliff-hugging trail in a stunning river gorge and stay in huts occupying the most commanding of positions? Welcome to The Old Ghost Road.
The Old Ghost Road is quickly becoming known as one of the premier backcountry mountain biking routes in the world. This is unlike most other trails in The New Zealand Cycle Trail – this 85km trail is a very serious adventure with technical terrain and plenty of climbing and descending. While not for the faint-of-heart or inexperienced rider, if you match your experience level to this trail and prepare appropriately, The Old Ghost Road will reward the fit and experienced adventurer with an other-worldly experience.
To broaden the audience and to make The Old Ghost Road more accessible to a wider range of appetites, a set of new exciting packages – Old Ghost Adventures – has been created. Old Ghost Adventures include such options as helicopter assists to the astounding alpine tops, helicopter luggage assists, rustic luxury accommodation to start or end your journey, end-to-end transport shuttles, heli-biking or heli-hiking and even rafting the Mokihinui Gorge as the final leg of your journey. Visit the official trail website for more information.
The past is never too far from daily life on the West Coast, New Zealand’s pioneer frontier, and there are endless opportunities to explore the rich mining heritage throughout this region.
The Old Ghost Road trail follows the paths taken by miners and passes through the ghost towns left behind by several mining operations. Keep your eyes peeled for mining relics, historical artefacts and information panels explaining the significance of the area – you’ll really get a feel for life as a miner in the late 1800s.
When dining at a restaurant on the West Coast, be sure to check the menu for the local delicacy, whitebait. This native freshwater fish is a West Coast specialty and it tastes delicious.
- GIVE A LITTLE If you would like to assist with the on-going maintenance and enhancement of The Old Ghost Road experience, please check out our Givealittle donations Page.
RIDING THE TRAIL
All three sections of The Old Ghost Road Trail are now open to ride. It is recommended that The Old Ghost Road be ridden in a south to north direction starting at Lyell.
- The 30km section from Seddonville to Mokihinui Forks and on to Goat Creek Hut
- The middle 20km section from Goat Creek Hut to the Ghost Lake Hut
- From the south, the 30km section from the Lyell campground to the Ghost Lake Hut
Allow two to four days to ride the trail and keep an eye on The Old Ghost Road’s official trail website for regular updates on trail condition. Hut accommodation must be booked in advance through the trail website.
The Old Ghost Road is a Grade 4 (Advanced) trail. Because of its remoteness, significant distance and the steep sided nature of the trail in places, it’s recommended that it only be attempted by technically competent and fit riders.
The Old Ghost Road is rideable throughout the year, but extreme caution should be taken in winter as parts of this trail traverse exposed subalpine areas reaching 1280m elevation. Occasional snowfall should be expected above the treeline.
Care is advised regarding weather conditions. On average the wettest season is spring (September-November) and the most settled weather is late summer to early winter (February- June), although as with weather conditions throughout New Zealand, the weather can vary throughout the year and hazardous conditions can be experienced in the height of summer.
The trail is obvious (being a 1m-to-2m wide path) and is accessible at the southern end at the Department of Conservation’s Lyell Campground (signposted off State Highway 6 in the Buller Gorge) and at the northern end adjacent to the Rough and Tumble Bush Lodge (4km beyond Seddonville). Trail elevation data, trail maps and hut bookings are available on the official trail website.
Riders (and trampers) will need to carefully plan the duration of their trip based on distance, elevation, fitness levels and weather. Trail users should avoid over-estimating their abilities.
Six huts are located along The Old Ghost Road. Bookings via the official trail website are essential. You will find a toilet located at each hut.
“In my mind this is a very, very special trail. Due to its remoteness and grade, it’s not for everyone and you need to pick the weather, but the visionaries behind this trail have given New Zealand a world-class tourism asset.”
Richard Leggat – Chair of the New Zealand Cycle Trail Inc.
The Old Ghost Road is located on the upper West Coast of the South Island. The nearest domestic airports are in Westport and Nelson. There is an international airport in Christchurch. There are also daily bus services from Nelson and Christchurch to Westport.
The southern end of The Old Ghost Road starts at the Department of Conservation’s Lyell campground (State Highway 6) in the Upper Buller Gorge. If you are not driving, you will need to arrange a shuttle or bus to drop you off or pick you up.
Distances (and estimated driving times) to the Lyell campground:
- From Nelson – 160 km (2 hrs)
- From Christchurch – 325 km (4 hrs)
- From Westport – 62 km (50 mins)
From Nelson/Murchison: Follow State Highway 6. The Lyell Campground is 35 km (25 mins) beyond Murchison.
From Christchurch: Follow the Lewis Pass Highway. At Reefton turn right onto SH69. At Inangahua Junction turn right onto SH6. The Lyell campground is 15 km (10 mins) beyond Inangahua.
From Westport: Take SH6 up the Buller Gorge. At Inangahua Junction turn right staying on SH6. Lyell campground is 15 km (10 mins) beyond Inangahua.
The northern end of the Old Ghost Road finishes at Seddonville, 50 km (45 mins) north of Westport on State Highway 67.
It doesn’t take long to plan. We’ve developed a guide with the NZ Mountain Safety Council to help you. Read and download the guide FREE and ensure you’re prepared for the following.
The Old Ghost Road is a remote wilderness experience and you will need to plan and prepare thoroughly to get the most out of your experience.
Before you head off,carefully plan each leg of your trip based on distance, elevation gain/loss, fitness levels and weather. This is not the trail to overestimate your abilities.
There are no towns or shops located along the trail, so you will need to take all necessary provisions, including first aid.
Six huts are located along The Old Ghost Road. Bookings are essential and can be made via the official trail website. You will find a toilet located at each hut.
Carry sufficient water to meet your daily needs. While rainwater is provided at each hut location, it cannot be guaranteed in periods of drought.
There is very limited mobile phone coverage along The Old Ghost Road (coverage is limited to short sections along the Lyell Range and at Ghost Lake hut).
Major stream crossings are bridged, however in periods of intense and/or prolonged rainfall, surface flooding can make certain areas hazardous or impassable. Riders (and walkers) should plan accordingly and check the weather forecast before heading off. In the event of unforeseen flooding, you must be prepared to wait for water levels to subside.
Sandflies also inhabit low lying areas of The Old Ghost Road. The huts have been constructed with insect mesh, but for extended periods outside, insect repellent is advisable.
Weather plays a major part of your Old Ghost Road experience, in terms of both enjoyment and safety.
While The Old Ghost Road is rideable throughout the year, be aware that the section between the Lyell Saddle and Ghost Lake Hut features exposed sub-alpine areas reaching 1340m elevation and occasional snowfall should be expected.
Extreme caution is advised regarding weather conditions. Do not attempt The Old Ghost Road during or with forecast adverse weather (snow, high rainfall, high winds).
On average the wettest season is spring (September – November) and the most settled weather is late summer to early winter (February – June). Inclement weather can occur at any time of the year – so prepare accordingly and don’t get caught out.