The grades of difficulty for mountain biking in New Zealand
As youll see from the descriptions below, there are varying difficulties for cycling trails in New Zealand. Its 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?
West Coast Wilderness Trail
Distance: 136kmTime: 2-4 daysGrade: 2This scenic cycle trail runs between Greymouth in the north and Ross in the south, passing through towns like Kumara and Hokitika. The trail traverses tracks carved by gold miners taking in a wealth of landscapes, from the floodwalls of Greymouth, through rainforest, along glacial rivers and along the coast.
West Coast Wilderness Trail Sections
- Greymouth to Kumara – 31km
- Kumara to Cowboy Paradise – 36km
- Cowboy Paradise to Hokitika – 36km
- Hokitika to Ross – 33km
Old Ghost Road
Distance: 88kmTime: 2-3 daysGrade: 4A real backcountry experience for adventurous mountain bikers, the Old Ghost Road follows long-forgotten miners’ trails through seven “ghost towns”. The trail features native forest, alpine tops, river flats and expansive valleys. There are six huts along the trail, four of which must be booked. The Old Ghost Road runs between Lyell (along the Buller Gorge) and Seddonville (47km north of Westport).
Old Ghost Road Trail Sections
- Lyell Campground to Lyell Saddle Hut – 18km
- Lyell Saddle Hut to Ghost Lake Hut – 12km
- Ghost Lake Hut to Stern Valley Hut – 13km
- Stern Valley Hut to Goat Creek Hut – 14km
- Goat Creek Hut to Mokihinui Forks Hut – 8km
- Mokihinui Hut to Specimen Point Hut – 3km
- Specimen Point Hut to Seddonville Trailhead – 17km
Distance: 80kmTime: 2-3 daysGrade: 4This New Zealand Great Walk is open to mountain bikers between 1 May and 30 November. The advanced trail traverses the northern West Coast coastline, through ancient rainforest and on sub-alpine tussock lands on its journey to Golden Bay in the Nelson Tasman region. There is hut accommodation along the way, which must be booked with the Department of Conservation. The Heaphy Track starts at Kohaihai (16km north of Karamea) and ends near Collingwood.
Heaphy Track Trail Sections
- Kohaihai Shelter to Heaphy Hut – 16.2km
- Heaphy Hut to Lewis Hut – 8km
- Lewis Hut to James Mackay – 12.5km
- James Mackay Hut to Saxon Hut – 11.8km
- Saxon Hut to Perry Saddle Hut – 12.4km
- Perry Saddle Hut to Brown Hut – 17.5km
Paparoa Track & Pike29 Memorial Track
Distance: 55kmTime: 1-2daysGrade: 4Traverse through the Paparoa National Park on this New Zealand Great Walk trail between Blackball and Punakaiki. Either ride the Paparoa Track, taking in river gorges with limestone features, rainforest and alpine tops, or ride the Pike29 Memorial Track (starting from the Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre) delving through the stunning Pike Valley rich in mining history. There are two Department of Conservation huts along the trail which must be booked. Find out more about the trail inThe Complete Guide to the Paparoa Track.
Paparoa Track & Pike29 Memorial Track Trail Sections
Option 1: Smoke-ho car park to Waikori Road car parkDay 1: Smoke-ho car park to the Moonlight Tops Hut – 19.9kmDay 2: Moonlight Tops Hut to the Waikori Road car park – 35.8kmOption 2: Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre to Waikori Road car parkDay 1: Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre to the Pororari Hut – 24.1kmDay 2: Pororari Hut to the Waikori Road car park – 17.1kmOption 3: Smoke-ho car park to Pike River Mine Interpretation CentreDay 1: Smoke-ho car park to the Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre – 36.1km
Bike Trails in Westport
Kawatiri Beach Reserve (Grade 1-2)
Kawatiri Beach Reserve holds a network of flat bike trails meandering through the trees. Extend this trail on the Kawatiri River Trails on the junction ofNorth Tiphead, Coates Street and Craddock Drive.The trails are accessible from Beach Drive or the junction of North Tiphead, Coates StreetandCraddock Drive.
Charming Creek Walkway (Grade 3)
A 1-2 hours (one way) track over an old railway line alongside a river gorge and packed with waterfalls, tunnels, mining artefacts and surrounded by native bush. Access from State Highway 67 in Ngakawau (31km north of Westport).
Denniston Plateau (Grade 2-4)
Enjoy around 50km of mountain biking tracks of varying difficulties in the Denniston Plateau, ranging from 30-minute circuits to full-day rides. Check out the full bike trail map on the Department of Conservation brochure. Access is along State Highway 67, 25km north of Westport.
Bike Trails in Reefton
Kirwans Track a.k.a The Everlasting Downhill (Grade 5)
Enjoy 10km of downhill dropping 1000m from top to bottom! There is a heli bike option, otherwise, you can ride up from the Boatmans Road Department of Conservation car park, taking 3-5 hours to ride uphill and 1h30min-3 hours to ride downhill.
Reefton to Big River (Grade 3)
The Big River area holds many remains from a gold mining past and huge machinery. Look out for the native kaka parrot among the beech trees on this 2-3 hour trail.Stay in the Big River Hut and extend your trip From Big River to Waiuta (a further 3-4 hours).
Reefton Lookout and the Zigzag Track (grade 3)
Take the Lookout Track starting 650m down Soldiers Road. Ride up to the lookout with vibrant views of Reefton and the surrounding mountains. Follow the forestry road to the Zigzag Track which is a downhill ride back to Reefton. Allow 40 minutes to 1 hour to complete the loop.For more details on each of these trails and more, see outMountain Biking in Reefton.
Bike Trails in Greymouth
Croesus Track(Grade 3-5)
The Croesus Trackis a shared hiking and mountain biking track between Blackball and Barrytown. Either slog your way uphill or treat yourself to a heli-bike experience from Greymouth. The track follows an old miners’ trail to the Ces Clark Hut (2 hours), where you’ll then have multiple short trail options: the Garden Gully Track, Croesus Knob Track or ride to Barrytown (3-4 hours).
Moonlight Pack Track (Grade 5)
Ride along another historic miners path on this advanced mountain bike trail. The trail is 32km and usually takes 4-6 hours to complete. Access is 9km north of the Blackball on the Moonlight Valley Road (narrow gravel road).
Napoleon Hill (Grade 3)
Take this adventurous ride on a 44 gravel road featuring old gold mining settlement, tunnels and creeks. Youll need the landowners permission, call Robin and Malcolm Smith (+64 27 606 5648). Access if via Ahaura, 34km north of Greymouth. The Napoleon Hill trail ends atWaipuna-Clarke Road (a 30-minute drive from the start point).
Bike Trails in Hokitika
Blur Spur & National Tracks (Grades 2-5)
A bike park full of mountain biking trails through pine forest. Trail maps areavailable at the Hokitika i-SITE. Ride to the park along the Hokitika Heritage Walkway.
Kaniere Water Race (Grade 4)
The ride is mostly flat but does feature a few technical sections and some stairs where you will need to carry your bike. The trail follows an old water race through native forest. Allow 1 to 2 hours.
Totara Valley (Grade 1)
Enjoy an easy-going scenic ride along a quiet West Coast valley on the Totara Valley Track. Allow 3-4 hours to complete this 40km return journey.
Bike Trails in Franz Josef, Fox Glacier & Haast
Te Ara a Waiau Cycleway (Grade 1)
Ride from Franz Josef town through native bush growing in the Franz Josef Glacier valley. The ride finishes at the Glacier car park. All 1 hour to complete the return trip.
Te Weheka Cycleway (Grade 1)
Ride from Fox Glacier town through the Fox Glacier valley through vibrant native forest. The trail ends at the Glacier car park. Return the same way taking approximately 1 hour. [UPDATE: this trail is currently closed – see9 Best Walks in Fox Glacier for more information].
Cattle Track (Grade 5)
Follow an old trail made by farmers in 1875. The 1-2 day trail is an advanced backcountry experience through river valleys. The trail is signposted off State Highway 6, 43km north of Haast.See6 Best Walks in Haast for more information.