Greymouth — Ross (4 days, 132km)
In the midst of the Southern Alps on the West Coast lie a series of tracks carved by pioneering gold-miners. Today these old tracks, together with extensive water races, logging tramways and historic railway lines, form the West Coast Wilderness Trail.
This four-day cycling adventure reveals outstanding landscapes of dense rainforest, glacial rivers, lakes and wetlands, with views all the way from the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps to the wild Tasman Sea.
Attractions and experiences along the trail include gold panning, rafting, jade, wood and bone carving studios, trout fishing, scenic flights, a cruise on the historic Mahinapua Creek and the West Coast Treetop Walk as well as the chance to view unique sculptures, glass blowing and the work of local potters.
The trail can be enjoyed ridden either way between the towns of Greymouth and Ross traversing through Kumara and Hokitika. Hokitika and Greymouth both offer a full range of accommodation, services and tours.
Enjoy some classic West Coast hospitality and visitor attractions. Take time to dine in the cafés and visit some of the talented artists and shops in the towns along the way.
The majority of the 132km route is an easy ride, catering for all levels of riding abilities, including families.
Mahinapua Scenic Reserve
This impressive wetland area was formed through the meeting of two great creative forces – the Hokitika glacier and the Tasman Sea. The resulting swampy margins of the lake and creeks proved perfect habitat for tall kahikatea, rimu and matai trees surrounded by a dense understory of smaller trees and ferns. The lake, creeks and forests have become home to a rich array of native fish and birds including kotuku (white heron), little brown fern birds and are an important spawning ground for whitebait (inanga). The human impact followed during the gold rushes in 1865 as Lake Mahinapua became part of an inland water highway over the Totara Lagoon down to Ross. Remnants of the gold dredging and saw milling that took place around the creek can be seen today while the railway history is reflected in the preserved historic Category 1 Mahinapua Creek railway bridge. The location also became part of an exotic tree nursery experiment in the 1920-1930s with stands of Pinus Radiata, Lawsoniana, West Red Cedar and Douglas Fir established and still visible today. The stunning scenery of this important Department of Conservation Scenic Reserve and the Southern Alps can be enjoyed on the trail, by joining a West Coast Scenic Waterways cruise or a walk amongst the canopy at the West Coast Tree Top Walkway.
Also formed through glaciation the Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve boasts pristine podarp forest with over 20 distinct types of forest providing a botanical paradise. With a diverse range of species, the reserve is a haven for wildlife with many native forest birds including bellbirds, tui, tomtit, Kereru and fantails and epiphites including orchids and tree ferns. A West Coast beauty, Lake Kaniere is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and offers opportunities for water sports, picnics, and short walks, including the track to the magnificent Dorothy Falls.
RIDING THE TRAIL
The trail can be equally enjoyed starting from Greymouth or Ross
GREYMOUTH TO KUMARA, (GRADE 2 EASY) 29KM
This flat trail starts opposite Greymouth Railway Station and follows the Grey River stop bank out to the coast.
After 7km, you will leave the coast and pass a stone tavern. Riders can enjoy a detour to one of the Coast’s leading attractions, Shantytown, before continuing south, crossing the Taramakau River and inland to the historic gold-mining town of Kumara.
KUMARA TO COWBOY PARADISE, (GRADE 2 EASY) 34KM
From Kumara the trail gradually climbs to Kawhaka Pass (317m).
Riders pass through native forests, skirt around lakes and follow rushing water races before passing through the Maori-owned Mawhera Reserve and crossing a stunning gorge to a replica western town called Cowboy Paradise.
COWBOY PARADISE TO HOKITIKA, (GRADE 2 EASY) 36KM
From Cowboy Paradise there is a gentle downhill stretch to the Arahura River, followed by a 15-minute climb over Pyramid Hill to Lake Kaniere, a popular boating and picnic destination.
The trail then follows the Kaniere Water Race to Hurunui and then on Lake Kaniere Rd to Hokitika, the wild food capital of New Zealand.
HOKITIKA TO ROSS, (GRADE 2 EASY) 33KM
This final section follows a mix of trail and historic tramline through the stunning Mahinapua Scenic Reserve. Take in the reserve with a course on the waterway with West Coast Scenic Waterways and enjoy a stroll high in the canopy amongst some of New Zealand’s tallest trees at the West Coast Treetops Walk. Complete your journey on the former rail line and historic bridge to the township of Ross.
State Highway 6 connects the West Coast from Nelson, through Westport, Greymouth, and Hokitika onto the glaciers and through the Haast Pass to Otago.
State Highway 7 through the Lewis Pass and State Highway 73 through the Arthur’s Pass provide the east/west routes through the Southern Alps.
By road it is just 3 hours to Christchurch Airport.
The TranzAlpine Express train runs daily between Christchurch and Greymouth and takes approximately four and a half hours.
Air, bus and rental car transport are also widely available.
Note: The West Coast is famous for its rain as well as its rainforest, but it does enjoy long fine spells that are ideal for cycling, especially in Autumn and Winter. It’s best to check the weather forecast before your trip and dress accordingly. During times of high rainfall there are some fords between Kumara and Lake Kaniere that may not be safe to cross. These can rise quickly and shouldn’t be crossed if they’re flowing high and the alternative, marked, high water route must be ridden.
MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: There are many areas of the trail where there is limited mobile phone coverage, or none at all.
DRINKING WATER: Take a drink bottle with you as there are plenty of places to fill it up. You can buy water at any of the overnight locations.