Queenstown is a definite must-visit for mountain bikers. Whether you’re a novice or expert rider, you’re bound to get your adrenaline fix from the awesome trails in and around the area. To get you all geared up for your next expedition, here are some of the best routes you can pedal across in this epic New Zealand destination.
The Queenstown Trail covers a whopping 120 kilometres (74.6 miles) in distance, traversing Queenstown, Arrowtown and Gibston. Even if you don’t want to do the entire course, there are various routes for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders to tackle. Try the 25 kilometre (15.5-mile) journey from Queenstown to Arrowtown, which offers plenty of picturesque views of the Kawarau River and Lake Hayes. Alternatively, opt for the 22.6 kilometre (14-mile) meander from Arrowtown into Gibbston, and reward yourself at one of the most popular wineries in the region. Finally, for a route that’s simple and scenic, ride along the serene Lake Wakatipu shorelines and revel in its wondrous vistas.
This is the only route on the Queenstown Trail map that is operated by the Department of Conservation. It’s as popular with hikers as it is with cyclists too. Tight corners and steep pitches will challenge the advanced riders who explore this undulating track. Your 12 kilometre (7.5-mile) trip will begin at Kelvin Grove, passing through the Kelvin Peninsula track before connecting to Jardine Park. From there, you’ll pedal across a tussock-filled trail that ends at Jack’s Point.
This 7 kilometre (4.3-mile) circuit is rated at a Grade 4 (advanced) level because of its steep and exposed sections. That being said, an intermediate biker with reasonable fitness levels should be able to power their way through it. Start at the base of Coronet Peak, and turn left to reach the Greengates Express chairlift. From there, you’ll cycle up a small road, eventually reaching Rude Rock. As you make your way up and down those heart-pumping hills, you’ll catch a glimpse of the incredible Skippers Canyon and of the exquisite alpine backdrop Queenstown is renowned for.
This fast flowing loop track will greatly please intermediate-advanced riders venturing into Wanaka. The 11.5 kilometre (7.15 mile) Deans Bank mountain biking circuit contours the Clutha River as it takes you on an epic ride across the idyllic Otago landscapes. Berms, rocks and tight corners also keep this single-way route interesting. For those who don’t feel confident enough to brave the most technically-challenging obstacles, there are detours and easier riding options along the way.
The Moke Lake Circuit is perfectly suited for intermediate riders — it’s not too easy, but even the younger members of the family could potentially handle it. The seven kilometre (4.3 mile) loop begins at the Moke Lake campsite in the Queenstown/Wakatipu area. An uphill ride kicks things off before levelling into a lakeside, undulating trail. Watch out for dips in the track near the junction. From there, you’ll cross a boardwalk, passing through some marsh and farmland before climbing up and over the peninsula to complete the circuit.
Head up the Skyline Gondola to reach the Queenstown Bike Park. The area boasts 30 different mountain biking trails with varying terrains to suit all skills and abilities. The mellow Hammy’s track will introduce riders to their surroundings, while providing plenty of opportunities to admire the passing scenery. If you want to ramp things up, the adjoining Hammy’s Link will get you whizzing past some steeper berms. The wide-but-steep Vertigo track is a classic that’s been around well before the gondola; ditto for the heart-wrenching Original path, which is renowned for its jumps and loose corners.
A not-to-miss ride for those exploring the historic Arrowtown settlement. The scenic Macetown track aptly traces the town’s gold mining history by taking riders on a 30 kilometre (18.6 mile) expedition across remote hills and multiple river crossings. There’s a campsite in the area for those who want to spend more time delving into their surroundings. Confident bikers of all skill levels should be able to enjoy this track without a hitch. To avoid icy and slippery conditions, opt to hit these trails in the warmer season (i.e. December-April).
More than 40 kilometres (24.9 miles) of professionally-built trails feature in Gibbston’s Rabbit Ridge Resort. This mountain biking must-do is located right next to Gibbston Valley Winery, approximately 20 minutes from Queenstown. From simple kids’ trails to daring cross-country rides, all abilities are covered in this resort’s terrains. The track is seasonal, only operating in the summer months.
Popular with hikers, horse riders and cyclists alike, the Minaret Burn Track traverses native forestry to bring its explorers up close and personal to the wondrous Lake Wanaka. It’s a Grade 3 (intermediate) trail, with ample river crossings and remote beaches along the way. A marked track meanders from Homestead Bay to the Lake Wanaka shoreline, before crossing over to remnant forest and shrub lands. The route then leads into the Rumbling Burn, where another bush-clad beach is tucked away, climbing steeply onto the valley before reaching the gentle Minaret Burn terrace.
After the snow subsides in the Cardrona valley, the popular ski field is transformed into a fully-fledged mountain bike park. The learner slopes become beginner flow tracks, where the novice riders can hone their skills. The local Cardrona Bike School also provides lessons and tours for those who are keen to explore the land. A kids’ park can be found on the base of the valley, and children under the age of eight get to ride for free. The summer biking season starts in December and goes right through to April.