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Selwyn offers a great collection of rides in the wilderness setting of the Southern Alps. Castle Hill Basin is located approximately an hour’s drive from Christchurch and there is a network of rides that are continuing to develop and grow. The Craigieburn Range towers above the Basin, and has perhaps the most popular downhill ride from Craigieburn Valley Ski Area through a sensational beech forest single track.
The Castle Hill Village Community, along with the Department of Conservation and a large group of volunteers, have been instrumental in building a number of trails that now connect existing rides to Castle Hill Village and Flock Hill Station.
New Track – Recently Opened
The most recent trail completed is Coal Spit Spur Track; a ride from the start of the Craigieburn Valley Ski Area access road to Flock Hill Station. The Coal Spit Spur Track is best ridden East to West, or from the start of the Craigieburn Valley Ski Area to Flock Hill Station. It’s a downhill track with fast moving wheels, not much pedalling and there is a cold drink to quench the thirst at Flock Hill Station.
For a shorter ride, given one can sort a shuttle, leave the car at Castle Hill Village and depart from Craigieburn Forest camp ground. Then cycle up the Broken River access road that connects with the Dracophyllum Flat Track, which runs for 6km through to Mt Cheeseman access road and the Texas Flat end of the Hogs Back Track. The track starts at Jack Pass, on the Broken River ski field road.
Aside from the initial short climb on the gravel road, the connecting rides are a combination of fun downhill sections through beech forest, and cross-country ride which traverses stunning open valley floors and tussock areas. After the latest working bees in 2013, this track offers better single-track riding than ever, including new footbridges to cross-alpine streams.
A steady climb takes you up from Texas Flat to the Hogs Back. The track then meanders down the western side of the Hogs Back ridge to Waterfall creek, and after a short climb through beech forest, the ride leads to Long Creek and to the Long Spur ridgeline. A final downhill ride through beech forest leads back to the Castle Hill car park at Thomas Bush. This epic one way journey takes around 3 to 5 hours to complete.
Along the way, popular lunch and photo opportunities include Picnic Rock on Hogs Back, and the Lightening Tree next to the Hogs Back Creek.
Craigieburn Loop Ride from Castle Hill Village
A large loop ride from Castle Hill Village is a great option for a big day out. Heading in the opposite direction (from the previous ride) the ride climbs up the the Hogs Back Track to Texas Flat, then to Dracophyllum Flat and eventually connects to Broken River access road. The access road drops back to State Highway 73 and Sidle 73 which connects with the Craigiebuirn access road. Climbing up is a good work out. Fortunately it’s reasonably steady, except the last part of the climb through to Craigieburn ski area car park and their first access tow rope.
From here, the most amazing single track through beech forest drops all the way to Lyndon Saddle. There are a number of tricky spots through the shingle scree and some small river streams. These are a reminder of the alpine’s raw wilderness setting rather than a deterrent to the joys of the ride.
A popular spot to stop for a break is Lyndon Saddle, allowing riders to regroup and refuel. From Lyndon Saddle the ride back to the Broken River access road is equally as good as the first section. The single track has a few roots, however the flowing decline in the track section allows riders to experience and enjoy some downhill. When the tracks links with the Broken River access road, you can loop back to Castle Hill Village following the track from earlier in the ride.
Long Weekend of Riding
One can make the most of riding in the area by staying for a long weekend, allowing time to combine trails into a collection of different rides both short and longer in duration. Places to stay include Flock Hill Lodge, Bealey Hotel on route to Arthurs Pass and Forest Lodge on the Mt Cheeseman access road. There is also a collection of local houses in Castle Hill Village which can be booked for short or long stays. Larger groups would suit staying at Forest Lodge, where there is self-catering, plenty of bunk beds and the option of privacy.
Flock Hill Station has a collection of units and backpacker beds, with a restaurant and bar. Another attraction to staying at Flock Hill Station is access to ride through the remote back country, part of the Station. This great ride gives you two options; starting from the lodge, go on a gentle ride by the river bed or take up the challenging climb with some extravagant views.
• Carry enough spare bike parts. There is no bike shop close to the tracks described above.
• Keep in mind that the tracks have limited cell phone coverage.
• Bear in mind that your journey takes place in an alpine setting. Plan for the unexpected weather change; bring spare clothes, adequate sun protection and insect repellent.
• Even though all these tracks are popular and frequently visited by hikers and bikers, remember to tell someone where you are going and what time they should expect you to return. Stay on the tracks.
• Check out NZTOPOMAPS.COM for more detailed terrain information.
• See http://www.castlehill.net.nz/castlehill/mtb/castlehill_mtb.php to check on track status, recent rainfall indicators and maps.
• Enjoy your ride!