[Search Tips] [Otago Goldfields] [Otago Wine] [Cavalcade] [Rural Art Deco] [Tourism Cromwell]

Search here for information about accommodation, tourism operators, schools, businesses and anything else you need to know about visiting, or living in Central Otago, New Zealand. Alternatively, you can use the menu on the left of this screen to browse the information pages within this site.
Search Terms: [ advanced ]
Click Here To Visit Our Sponsor

Mountain biking in Central Otago

Central Otago has a reputation for great off road and challenging Mountain Bike riding, but also with the recent completion of the rail trail and the Alexandra to Clyde river tracks we also now have a lot to offer the person or family group that would just like to get away from the traffic and enjoy some good exercise.

This delightful track first constructed in 1999 with money from the regional council to celebrate the Millenium is regarded locally as one of the best easy rides in the area. During its first season the new loose gravel made this a hard ride, but now after 2 seasons and the occassional flood, the surface has improved no end and makes this a very enjoyable ride. Track length is just over 13km and is on the south bank of the Clutha River. Easy access can be gained from either end,as it runs between te two bridges of Clyde and Alexandra. Quite important with Centrals hot summers this track is shaded by riverside willows for most of its length. This track also offers easy access to the Earnscleugh tailings and secluded riverside beaches and trout fishing. Another feature is the return options available with this ride. Earnscleugh Road return from Clyde offers orchards and a small detour to Conroys Road and visit the Black Ridge Winery

If you decide to return via Springvale into Dunstan Road you come across the Springvale and William Hill vineyards plus a visit to the Orchard Garden for light lunches or just a cup of coffee is a good option. The most  direct return would be to use the rail trail.

Starting in Alexandra, cross the Manuherikia River at the historic Shaky Bridge then turn right and continue along the road to Graveyard Gully. Track starts here with a Department of Conservation sign. This track goes to Doctors Point, but is only suitable for biking in it`s first 3-4kms. This is still a very worthwhile ride as it gets you just far enough into the Gorge to see the remains of Goldminers dwelling, often no more than an overhanging rock. By leaving your bikes at the end of the bikeable track, a short walk over a rocky headland more of the goldmining past can be seen with the remains of Mary Anns Cottage reputed to be the last chinese miner  working in the Gorge. Continue on and the remains of Leaky Lodge, which was a drinking house can be seen. Return back the way you came. It can be hot in the summer with very little shade, carry plenty of water.

Poolburn Gorge tunnel

The Rail trail is now fully open and it is now pssible to bike the complete 150km from Middlemarch to Clyde.
Having said that we still believe the surface still needs some work before the ride becomes a totally enjoyable ride. Having said that, the rail trail has a lot to offer and some of the shorter sections are well worth the ride.
For the purpose of this page we are dealing only with the section from Clyde to the Ida Valley.

Has been already mentioned as a good return after cycling the Alexandra to Clyde riverside track

This is a very popular ride and a reasonable track surface. Features good views of Central Otago, railway cuttings and a very good reconstructed bridge over the Manuherikia River.
The Historic Chatto Creek Pub offers a chance for refreshment before heading back to Alexandra. This is a return ride of 34km. Hot with no shade in the summer. Water is essential.

Situated between Lauder and Auripo Road in the Ida Valley. This is possibly the most interesting and scenic section of the rail trail. Containing two tunnels and two viaducts as well as spectacular views of the countryside made famous by the painter Graham Sidney.
This ride is bet started in the Ida Valley at Auripo Road where easy access is obtained. This then gives a mainly downhill ride throught to Lauder, this is a ride of approximately 12km. Advised to carry torch as the second tunnell is very dark.
For the riders looking for more of a challenge, consider riding back to Alexandra from here. A distance of 50km.


Probably there is no better riding in Central Otago than what is available just across the Manuherikia River from Alexandra.

Two trails have been marked out in this area directing riders to some of the best rideable tracks.

Turn off Tarbert Street right into Little Valley Road, then as you cross the bridge over the Manuherikia River, look out for the first marker as you turn left onto the rail trail. Markers are metal plates coloured yellow and red. As both tracks start together and use the same uphill on the Old Coach track, keep following red and yellow markers along rail trail then the uphill climb on the Old Coach Road until just before track reaches Little Valley Road a red only sign will be seen directing you off to the right, this is where you have to make a decision. The red track will offer a better but technical single track downhill, whereas the yellow trail which starts just slightly further up and takes you off to the left following an old 4WD track, this yellow track also has one very steep downhill section plus a couple of challenging short steep uphills. Note on the red downhill run you will do a short section of the trail you biked up on, then you drop off to the right on to the Roller Coaster before meeting up again with the yellow track. Now once again follow the combined yellow and red markers which will bring you back to the rail trail.

Note: If you need more excitement instead of just biking along the rail trail, try some of the single tracks that run parallel on both sides of the rail trail.

To complete one of these circuits is only about 9km but with the limitless variations available in this area, you could easily spend days exploring.

Note – Hot in Summer, No Shade, Carry Water

Some great riding is to be had on this mountain, but being over 5000 feet and snow covered in winter, riding is restricted to the summer and autumn months. Even in high summer the weather can change at the drop of a hat so be well prepared.

Access to the Old Man starts at Fruitlands with Symes Road and further south with Waikaia Bush Road. Both of the roads are public access, but can be quite rough and rutted not to mention steep. For the really keen, this is a 1-1/2 to 2 hour uphill ride.

Rides, once the summit has been gained, can vary from just cruising along the mainly flat summit inspecting the unusual rock formations to a full on trip into the Waikaia Valley.

Some options starting at the top of Symes Road.

Poolburn Gorge Viaduct

Ride north, check out the Obelisk Rock then passing the transmitter station and 4WD track will give almost 20km of downhill riding, linking up with the Fraser Dam Road then on down to Earnscleugh. This is a D.O.C. track and is marked by pegs. This would have to be one of the longest downhill rides around.

Option 2 – Ride south along ridge, impressive views at Hyde Rock, continue south until Waikaia Bush Road then turn left and enjoy this very fast downhill to the valley floor.

Option 3 – Once again ride south from the top of Symes Road, but turn right onto the Waikaia Bush Road. This is a real basic track with swamps, a stone staircase and very steep in places. Riders will be surprised to find a beautiful beech forest in this valley. Continue on to Piano Flat picnic area but be warned there are some steep ups and downs hidden in this Bush Valley. This is a ride of some 40km and possibly one of the most challenging for riders and bikes. Carry some spares.

This ride on the Old Coach Road of the Knobby Range was once the main route into Central from the south starting by at the Knobby Range Road turn off on Roxburgh East Road. This gravel road climbs steadily for about 14km until just before the road end is reached a track branches off to the left and leading to a gate is the start of the Coach Road proper. For those not wishing to do this first uphill, a good option is to get dropped off at this gateway. This is a good grassy 4WD track. Stay on the main track heading north, don’t take any left turnoffs. After 30 to 50 minutes, the summit trig rock will be reached. Now starts a really good downhill ride first on grassy tracks then a section of schisty rocky ledge riding. At the end of this donwhill, a Valley will be seen going off to the left. The main track now goes off to the right through a gate. This is private farm access. We carry on straight ahead and go uphill past some old cattle yards on our left. Just follow this main track, do not take any left turnoffs. Soon you will be looking down towards Alexandra and Clyde as you start a really fast but rocky downhill, finishing at the Graveyard Road end. This ride reaches a height of 3050 feet at its highest point, but can still be done most of the year round. Windproof gear important.

Ride starts in the Ida Valley, south end at signpost saying Upper Manorburn 18km. This is not a winter ride as tracks and roads possibly frozen.

Also, as part of this circuit is through private property, permission will be required from either David Small or Andrew Preston at Galloway Station.

Just 2km before the Manorburn Dam is the gateway on the left if David Small’s access is to be used. Galloway Station access is gateway on left close to dam. Both these tracks will take you into an isolated valley containing a recently restored stamping battery – well worth inspection. Now you will notice the track snaking away up the hillside in front of you. Well, it’s not rideable so resign yourself to a hour or more push or carry. Gaining the summit, either turn left on the Long Valley Ridge track or if you would like to explore more, a trail heading downhill to the east will take you to Serpentine church. This is the last remaining building of what was once a flourishing mining settlement. Returning to the Long Valley Ridge track, ride north until junction with the Dunstan trail. Now turn left and enjoy a great downhill ride passing the picturesque Poolburn Dam. At end of downhill, turn left onto which will bring you back to your starting point.

Possibly a good start/finish point for this ride is the Bannockburn Pub.

Ride from Pub to the Nevis Road to start a 1-1\2 to 2 hour uphill right to the highest point on saddle. Not far from this point look for a track going off to the right. Note this first section is on private3 land of Mr Don Clark, Phone 4450142.

This downhill run has a bit of everything, apart from being an amazing and continuous downhill. As the ride takes you down water races, past a really well preserved waterwheel, and the remains of the settlement of Carricktown, there are mineshafts to explore if you can stop, plus much more.

Note – Not suitable in winter as snow covered around tops. Downhill is quite steep and rutted in places.

Thompsons Gorge Track & Dunstan Mountains
Thompsons Gorge track provides a 4WD access through the Dunstan Mountains, linking Omakau and Tarras.

Of interest to the mountain biker would be the 28km section through the mountain.

Be warned, there are some twenty odd gates.

This ride has some long uphill grinds, but also some great donwhills. Track is well defined and reasonably good surface. Gates must be left as found.

There is now a more adventuresome ride available. Starting in Thompsons Gorge, a track leads off to the left and gives access to the summit of the Dunstan Mountains. This would be a summer-autumn ride as heights over 5000 feet and very exposed. The unusual Leaning Rock marks the end of the summit trail. Now a decision has to be made as to which route to descend on. If the route past the Microwave Station is used, permission is required from Richard and Jacqui Parsons. If the route towards Cromwell heading west is preferred, Contact Energy are the land owners. There is one other possible route bringing you through Leaning Rock Station and into the Cromwell Gorge. Contact Tom Pinkney.


Naseby Forest in the Maniototo is an excellent mountain biking facility. The forest, formerly a State Owned Enterprise, is now in private hands, and the new owners are keen to maintain the recreational aspects of the forest.
Maps are available of the many single tracks and 4WD forest tracks.

This small township is well worth a visit, and don't be surprised if you find others there too as it's mountain biking reputation is spreading fast. Allow at least a day.


Cromwell also has mountain biking to offer. Just hour north on the Tarras Road, look out for the Bendigo Reserve sign. After a climb up a gravel track, old cottages as well as a disused mineshaft can be explored. A word of warning, many of these shafts are just big holes in the ground, so be careful out there.


Roxburgh, hour south of Alexandra could also offer some challenging trails. I believe an old riverside track has recently been reopened offering rides south through the Beaumont Gorge. Also Lake Onslow would be a challenging return ride from Roxburgh.

The Information centre for the south of New Zealand
Site design by NZSOUTH LIMITED