Seddonville — Lyell (2-4 days, 85km)
Where else can you ride past mining relics of a bygone era, ascend through picturesque native forest and break out onto alpine tops offering breath-taking views?
This trail breaks out onto alpine tops which afford glorious views. You will descend into open river valleys scattered with lakes and tarns and weave through giant podocarp rainforest inhabited by abundant wildlife. You will sidle along the slopes of a stunning river gorge and stay in huts occupying the most commanding of positions. All of this can be found on The Old Ghost Road, which opened two sections in early 2013.
At the northern end, a 30km section of trail is open from Seddonville, up the Mokihinui Gorge and on to Goat Creek.
At the southern end, there is also 30km of trail completed, providing a stunning ride from Lyell in the Buller Gorge, through native forest and over the Lyell Tops to Ghost Lake Hut.
The middle 20km of trail is expected to be completed in 2015, so The Old Ghost Road will not exist as a through-trail for mountain bikers until then.
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 signifi cance 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.
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 ride.
Before you head off on your ride (or tramp) 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. Four of these huts are now open. 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 1280m 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).
However, New Zealand is an island nation so the weather can be extremely variable throughout the year. Hazardous conditions can be experienced – even at the height of summer – so don’t get caught out.