Alexandra — Roxburgh Dam (1 day, 34km)
The Roxburgh Gorge Trail provides a spectacular one-day ride from Alexandra to Lake Roxburgh Dam, following the Clutha Mata-au River. The trail offers the opportunity to explore one of the most unique landscapes in New Zealand, and every season offers a different experience.
Starting from Alexandra, riders soon enter the Roxburgh Gorge, with bluffs rising almost 350m on either side of the river at its most dramatic point. Gold-mining history plays a big part in the attraction of this trail, with many remnants to be seen.
The middle section of this trail is currently not accessible by bike, so there is a 12km scenic boat trip down the river, which includes an informative commentary on the history of the region, before riders continue on their bikes. Please note the boat must be booked in advance.
The trail ends at the Lake Roxburgh Dam, but on the other side of the river another Great Ride begins – the Clutha Gold Trail. The Roxburgh Gorge Trail also connects with the Otago Central Rail Trail at Alexandra.
Together these three trails provide almost 250km of non-stop Great Riding! The Roxburgh Gorge Trail was officially opened on 24 October 2013.
NOTE: An annual maintenance contribution of $25 per person, or $50 per family, covers the cost of trail maintenance for the use of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. The fee also covers the use of the Clutha Gold Trail, which follows on from the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and can be paid at local bike tour companies and i-SITES. A 1-day pass is available for $10 per person, or a life pass for $500.
The trail opens areas of historical signifi cance, with old schist huts built into the rock by Chinese miners and the remains of two small mining settlements.
The chance to explore these well-preserved mining relics within this imposing and inspiring landscape is one of the highlights on this trail.
RIDING THE TRAIL
The Roxburgh Gorge Trail can be enjoyed as a day trip, or as part of a multi-day journey that includes the Otago Central Rail Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail.
Most of the trail is Grade 2 (Easy) with a few Grade 3 (Intermediate) sections.
From the centre of Alexandra, head south across the main bridge and immediately turn right, down a short track to the river.
Turn right again and pass under the road bridge that you just crossed and head down the valley on a wide smooth trail that weaves through a large stand of willows.
After a few minutes the landscape changes, becoming more and more desert-like with towering rocks and large drops.
Around 10km from Alexandra you will reach the end of this section of the trail at Doctor’s Point, where there is a toilet and a jetty.
From here a boat can take you down the river. The boat journey includes an excellent introduction to the history and geology of the area and costs $95 and must be pre-booked.
The boat trip is 12km and ends at a second jetty at Shingle Creek.
From there the trail takes you down the valley to a car park high above the Lake Roxburgh Dam.
If you intend to continue on to the Clutha Gold Trail, cross over the dam and follow the signs down to about 500m below the dam to a car park where the Clutha Gold Trail begins.
The Roxburgh Gorge Trail is located in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island.
The nearest airports are Dunedin International Airport and Queenstown International Airport, which offer flights to and from Australia, as well as main centres around New Zealand.
From Queenstown airport to the start of the trail in Alexandra, head towards Cromwell on State Highway 8 and turn right towards Alexandra.
The trail head is just over the Clutha bridge heading out of Alexandra. Take the first turn left into O’Neill Crescent, then the first left again on to Old Bridge Road. The trail starts opposite the historic bridges. Take a right to start your Great Ride.
From Dunedin airport to the trail head at Roxburgh Dam, head south on State Highway 1 to Milton. Turn right on to State Highway 8 towards Roxburgh Dam and follow the signs to the start of the trail.
Distances (and estimated driving times):
- Queenstown to Alexandra – 95 km (1 hr 30 mins)
- Dunedin to Roxburgh – 150 km (1 hr 45 mins)
Bus services are also available.
MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: Mobile phone coverage is not available in most sections of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. However, there is coverage between Alexandra and the Narrows.
DRINKING WATER: Riders should take water and food. Once in the Gorge there are no food / water outlets.
The Central Otago region is a year round destination for mountain bikers. Every season offers a different experience. The region enjoys a a continental climate of temperature extremes.
In late spring the hillsides are covered in purple with flowering wild thyme and in late summer and autumn the celebrated colours of Central Otago contrast with the brilliant blue sky, the dry hillsides and the schist outcrops.
Summers are mainly hot and dry with temperature averaging from 10 – 30+ ̊ C. While it’s mostly T-shirt and shorts weather, it’s a good idea to have an extra lightweight layer to cover up from the sun during the hottest part of the day. The UVI (ultra violet index) is often high making sun hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and water bottle essential everyday accessories.
Winters are cold and still with temperatures ranging between -6 – 15 ̊ C . Frequent freezing overnight temperatures cast an almost permanent frosty veneer across the land. Snow covers the surrounding hills and mountains for much of the winter and occasionally falls and lies on the trail. Fog can linger but usually clear blue skies break through by mid-morning. The days are short with daylight hours from 8am until 5pm from mid-June until mid July.