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Though locals may not especially want the rest of the world to know it, Wanaka has quietly become an off-road hub for recreational and crazy mountain bikers alike, with a hugely exciting variety of easily accessible bike trails and more remote cross country rides that make it one of the best biking areas in the country.
To get some idea of local enthusiasm for mountain biking, google the growing number of bike races and events staged in Wanaka - the Lake Hawea Epic, the Motatapu, the Tour de Femmes Cardrona Valley road race for women, and the Big Easy (mega-down hill on the Pisa Range, across farm tracks to end at the Albert Town pub!)
Mountain bike riding extends from incredibly scenic lakeside and riverside trails, some with convenient coffee stops enroute, to amazing cross country rides on little used farm tracks and brand new access routes.
And there are terrain parks with networks of single track twists, turns and roller coasters, such as at Sticky Forest or the newly developed Dublin Bay tracks.
The keen bikers at Riverrun lodge have put together a top 5 rides for riders wanting to explore in the area.
The Hawea River Track Approx 13 kms from Albert Town to the Hawea Cafe, or 26kms return. This is a good beginner track as it is wide, dry, un-hilly and has some good turn-around points, such as the Hawea cafe! A very social track. You can also access this from town via the 10km Beacon Point Outlet Track. Starts across from just the other side of the Albert Town bridge, access off SH6 along approx 1km of gravel road to parking area by the river. Allow about an hour to the cafe and and 30mins to return. You can extend by exploring the new lakeside trail in front of Hawea township. If you are really keen keep going on up the eastern side of the lake to Timaru Creek, Dingle Burn and beyond....
Beacon Point Outlet Track and Clutha River Trail. The first section of this track takes riders approx 10kms around the eastern side of lake Wanaka from the township out past Beacon Point and magnificent views across the lake towards the Southern Alps to the lake outlet. Rides can then choose to return or continue on down the Clutha river trail to Albert Town and from there another 14 kms to Luggate.
Some of our guests have described the Lake Outlet section of the track as the most beautiful bike trail in the world. Return via same route or around the side of Mt Iron on a mixture of roads and trails. Allow 2 hours for a return trip, approx 10kms to Albert Town and 6 kms return via Mt Iron.
You can cross the Clutha bridge on SH6 at Albert Town to link with the the Hawea River Track as per above. Or for a longer journey and a little more adventure ride on down the Clutha river, past Halliday bluffs, for another 14kms of beautiful undulating riverside trail to Luggate and the Luggate Pub. These rides suit most riding abilities, but the section from Albert Town to Luggate is narrower and steeper requiring more experience and fitness.
Sticky Forest, access is changing somewhat at the moment, so check with the bike shops in town, but this has some great, sheltered single track in pine forest. Every now and then you emerge from a concentrated downhill speedway through the trees to the most amazing lake and mountain views. Takes some navigation to get to know your way around, but worth it. An alternative is the new Dublin Bay Track developed by the Wanaka Bike Club and accessed from the campground on the left side of SH6 across the Albert Town bridge.
Timaru Creek, Dingleburn and Silver Island. You can start from the lakeside picnic area at John's Creek at the southeast of Lake Hawea (take the turn-off left at the end of cemetery road after the Hawea township) or you can drive to Timaru Creek, park well away from the sandflies, and ride from there.
The best part of the ride comes as you approach Silver Island. The section cut into the bluffs high above the lake with a view up the Hunter Valley is magnificent. See the Hawea Epic race link above for photos. As you come into the bay by Silver Island kanuka forest lines the track. Just stunning!
Either stop here for a picnic before returning or take the steepish grunt up the hill to the high track that sidles the peninsula before dropping to the Dingleburn. Beautiful beach forest, idyllic views, beaches and sandflies await you.
This is a full day trip, allow 4-5 hours return from Timaru Creek to Dingle. Dont ride it in windy conditions, but in summer you can leap in the lake to cool off. Suits more experienced riders with good fitness.
Colquhouns Beach and the Rumbling Burn. This is an outstanding ride, which begins quite gently and becomes progressively more interesting. Best started from the West Wanaka beach DOC carpark unless you are in serious training and want to ride all the way out from town.
There is about 2kms of single track switch-back to begin with which is a little steeper and more challenging. Then it is open farm track all the way with gorgeous lake and mountain views. An average rider will take just over an hour to Colquhouns beach, which is a pristine and largely unvisited beach.
If you feel like more you can keep going on more undulating track to the Rumbling Burn beach, even more lovely with huge boulders to explore and stands of kanuka and beach forest. If you really want to punish yourself, keep heading north on the Minaret track and walk your bike up the "hill" to the musterers hut at the top, half-way to the Minaret Burn.
Collapse there for a recovery period before enjoying one of the best and steepest downhills in Wanaka as you descend back to Rumbling Burn in a matter of minutes. Make this a full day trip.
Allow 3 hrs return West Wanaka to Colquhouns, 4 hours return West Wanaka to Rumbling Burn and 5 hrs return West Wanaka to the hut on the hill above Minaret Burn. Best enjoyed in late spring/summer. Suits more experienced riders with good fitness.
Wanaka is blessed with 4-5 mountain bike stores, including Thunderbikes, Racers Edge, Outside Sports and Jim and Libby's.
Most of these rent bikes. If you would like a guide to help you explore further or want to take advantage of helicopter access to some awesome ridge and downhill rides, contact Free Ride NZ.
Base yourself at Riverrun lodge and you will enjoy the use of complimentary guest mountain bikes as well as trip planning and direct access from the lodge to many of the local trails, including the Clutha river trail, the Hawea Trail, Dublin Bay and the Lake Outlet Track.
The lodge provides rustic alpine luxury, good food and wine, 500 acres of riverside land to explore, and hosts who are every bit as into the outdoors as you are. Relax on the lodge verandahs or in our outdoor hot tub after a strenuous day hiking or biking; town is only 5kms away. We'll provide you with maps, snacks, weather predictions and track advice to ensure you get the best out of the region.
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