‘Wheelie’ Awesome Rides in Reefton!
Reefton: first of all, you might think: “Where the hell is that?” Sure, Reefton is not the most famous town in the West Coast region of New Zealand, but when it comes to mountain biking, it is a place you will definitely want to know! The Kennett Bros have been quoted: “For a mountain bike hub, you can’t beat Reefton.” With 15 named cycle trails in the area varying in length and difficulty, this couldn’t be truer.
Mountain biking in Reefton will certainly give you a dose of wilderness riding through luxuriant beech forests but offers a historic twist. Ride along old tram lines and pack tracks formed by New Zealand’s early adventurers. Along the way, you’re bound to come across old mining sites and the remains of huge machinery and structures once used to extract gold. So in the town where electricity was introduced to the public for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere (a little fun fact for you there), get on your bike and discover why Reefton is a must-ride destination in New Zealand! And don’t miss 15 Awesome Things to Do in Reefton.
The Grades of Difficulty for Mountain Biking in New Zealand
As you’ll see from the descriptions below, there are varying difficulties for cycling trails in New Zealand. It’s important to assess your own fitness and ability before venturing on a bike trail, so you can find something either challenging enough or not too much of a mission.
- Grade 1 – Easiest track with a smooth, flat surface
- Grade 2 – Easy with some gentle climbs and avoidable obstacles like rocks
- Grade 3 – Intermediate with steep hills and some avoidable obstacles
- Grade 4 – Advanced level track with long steep sections, narrow tracks and obstacles you might have to ride over
- Grade 5 – Expert is technically and physically challenging
- Grade 6 – Extreme level is for people who know their shit. Possible manmade or natural jumps.
By the way, have you seen Mountain Biking in New Zealand: A Complete Guide?
Grade 2 Mountain Biking Tracks in Reefton
Waitahu Valley (1 Hour One Way)
This 7km (4-mile) journey to the Clematis Suspension Bridge takes mountain bikers along the beautiful Waitahu River and through beech and rimu forest. The terrain is a mix of 4×4 track and rough roads. To get to the Waitahu Valley from Reefton, either bike or drive 8km (5 miles) to the end of Gannons Road. You can park your car in a pullover near the road bridge.
Bottled Lightning Powerhouse Loop (20-minute Loop)
This is a super easy track to access from town. Start the track on Broadway and ride up towards Blacks Point (State Highway 7) for 800m (875 yards) until you see the swingbridge. Cross over the bridge and follow the track downstream past the Old Powerhouse remains. Take the time to read the information boards on how this power house made Reefton the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have electric lights in 1888.
Continue riding, cross the road bridge and follow Broadway back to where you started.
Reefton Walkway (15-minute Loop)
Ride along Broadway towards Blacks Point (State Highway 7). At the edge of town, you will see a sign for the Reefton Walkway on the left. Power uphill on this short ascent until the track levels out. You’ll get excellent views of the town, then continue where the track widens to become a road. From here, you can either head down to Dunn Street, or continue on the main track to come out at Munson Street.
Grade 3 Mountain Biking Tracks in Reefton
Reefton Lookout and the Zigzag Track (40 Minutes – 1-hour Loop)
From Broadway, head on State Highway 7 towards Greymouth and turn off at Soldiers Road. The Lookout Track starts 650m (711 yards) down Soldiers Road on the left-hand side. The steady uphill section takes you through a forestry road and into pine forest until you reach the lookout with vibrant views of Reefton and the surrounding mountains. The forestry road continues to the signposted Zigzag Track. Ride downhill on this mixed rocky and gravel section all the way down to Rosstown Road and back to Reefton. (Or extend your ride along the Bottled Lightning Powerhouse Loop – see above).
Starting from Blacks Point, this 8km (5 miles) return trip climbs up the historic road to Waitahu Saddle. It’s an open trail featuring Inglewood Junction and Inglewood Mine. Return the same way or along the Machine Track (see below).
Starting from the Reefton Walkway (see above), take the steep ascent up Translator Hill while soaking up the views of Reefton. A mix of 4×4 and single tracks meets with the Ajax Track where you might have to walk for a short section. From here, you can turn right to take on the technical Machine Track (see below) or the easier Murray Creek (see above). Both tracks take you to Blacks Point at the Murray Creek car park.
Montgomerie Hut via the Waitahu Valley (2-3 Hours One Way)
From the Clematis Suspension Bridge (see Waitahu Valley above), take the rocky and sometimes muddy track to the Montgomerie Hut. Expect to cross a few streams and fords along the way.
Grade 4 Mountain Biking Tracks in Reefton
Murray Creek to Waitahu Valley a.k.a The Clementis Devil (1-2 Hours One Way)
This track is a section that links the Inangahua Valley with the Waitahu Valley, but a round trip starting from Reefton town can be achieved on a 25km (15.5 miles) journey which usually takes 4-5 hours. The Clementis Devil connect the Inangahua Valley with the Waitahu Valley climbing up a historic road to the Waitahu Saddle then drops down to a single track ending with a technical and challenging descent to the Clementis Suspension bridge. You can ride back to Reefton via Gannons Road along the Waitahu Valley Track (see above).
Murray Creek to Ajax Track Loop a.k.a The Machine Track (2 Hours Loop)
Start on the Murray Creek Track (see above) then loop past the Ajax Mine and Stamper Battery. The track is mostly a single track with a few steeper sections. The last 2km (1.2 miles) to downhill to the car park is steep and technical.
Lankey Creek Tram Track (1h30mins-2 Hours One Way)
Start the Murray Creek Track (see above) and turn off towards the EnergeticGold Mine site. This well-crafted bike trail follows an old tram track for most of the way, however, you will need to carry your bike up some stairs.
Reefton to Big River (2-3 Hours One Way)
A popular option for riders, the Big River area holds many remains from a gold mining past and huge machinery. You can even stay overnight at the Big River Hut. To get there, take State Highway 7 towards Greymouth then turn left onto Soldiers Road. Follow the road then follow the Big River signposts along the 4WD track. From here, the track is a challenging ride over rough 4WD tracks and mixed surfaces of gravel, mud and rock. Expect some steep descents. Look out for the native kaka parrot among the beech trees.
Big River – Waiuta (3-4 Hours One Way)
To extend your Big River trip, continue on this track over a challenging range of surfaces: mud, corduroy, flowing sections, smooth and steady downhill. The track through the beech forest emerges onto a gravel road to the abandoned town of Waiuta, which used to be the home to 600 people.
Grade 5 Mountain Biking Tracks in Reefton
Kirwans Track a.k.a The Everlasting Downhill (3-5 Hours Uphill, 1h30mins-3 Hours Downhill)
This is the biggy! Enjoy 10km (6 miles) of downhill dropping 1,000m (3,281ft) from top to bottom! There is a heli bike option, otherwise, you can ride up by taking the following route: drive or ride along the State Highway 69 towards Westport and turn right onto Boatmans Road to a Department of Conservation car park. The track starts here following an old dray road through beech forest. You’ll go through the Caples Creek Tunnel and swingbridge along the way. Then, a historic miners’ track steadily winds up through the bush all the way to the top. From here, enjoy the ride through the forest all the way down!
The Capleston to Gannons Road Track (1-2 Hours One Way)
To get from the Kirwans Track to Gannons Road, then back to Reefton, take The Capleston to Gannons Road Track. Parts of the track are made up of forestry roads and it gets steep towards Gannons Road.
Mongomerie Hut to Kirwans Hut a.k.a The Lord Brassey Gutbuster (2-4 Hours One Way)
You can continue on the Clementis Suspension Bridge and Montgomerie Hut rides (see above) with this challenging ride to Kirwans Hut and the Kirwans Track (see above). The Lord Bassery Gutbuster also allows you to see the giant stamper battery nestled in native bush, still looking in great condition. The ride is steep and may require some sections of pushing your bike. The section from the stamper battery to Kirwans Hut is particularly steep with a few switchbacks in places. To make a massive loop, connect the Kirwans Track with The Capleston to Gannons Road Track (see above).