Spread around the top of Takaka Hill, almost 1000 metres above the sea level, is the Canaan Downs Scenic Reserve. A limestone landscape so cinematic it starred in the Hobbit movies, it is also home to the famous Harwoods Hole, a giant tomo (cave opening) into which spelunkers abseil down to access a massive cave system. This is also the starting point for the Rameka, a classic downhill single-track, originally built in the 1850s as part of a stock route between Nelson and Golden Bay.
A major highlight of the ride is exploring this Scenic Reserve before setting off. There are around 20km of trails undulating around Canaan Downs, with a couple of loop options offering pre-Rameka warm-ups with the bonus of spectacular Middle‑earth™ scenery.
The Rameka is one of New Zealand’s original single-track MTB adventures and is accessed via a short climb from the main Canaan Downs car park. Traversing a dense tract of native forest within the boundary of Abel Tasman National Park, it winds predominantly downhill, its unmanicured path thick with tree roots, rocks and stream crossings to keep riders on their toes. Moist, mossy and just a little bit magical, it’s a wild and wonderful place for a bike ride.
As the trail exits the national park around 7km in, wide views open up over Golden Bay. It follows an Old Pack Trail for a couple of clicks before linking up with Great Expectations, a sweet piece of single-track sweeping primarily through the pine forest of Project Rameka – a carbon sink created by some of New Zealand senior mountain biking legends. At the end of the trail is Klicks, a gratifying, grade-4 riverside trail that deposits riders at the bottom of the Rameka Gorge from where it’s around 5km or so along quiet back-roads to the laidback town of Takaka.
Getting to the start of the trail at Canaan Downs can prove logistically challenging – being dropped off by a friend or local is a good option. Another is to ride the trails both ways starting at the bottom of Rameka Gorge; it’s a grunty, all-day mission but a worthy one, with the Rameka’s undulations surprisingly fun to ride in either direction.