1-2 Days 60 km

Highlights

  • Spectacular high-country scenery
  • Mountains, rivers, lakes, meadows
  • Hanmer Springs spa town

Proximity

Grade 2-4

Easy - Advanced

The St James Cycle Trail is a remote high-country Great Ride which rewards cyclists with views of golden meadows, beech forest, lakes and rivers – backdropped by soaring, snow-capped peaks.

Christchurch - Canterbury
St James Cycle Trail, Christchurch - Canterbury

The St James Cycle Trail(opens in new window) is a challenging mountain bike journey which takes you through St James Conservation Area(opens in new window), once one New Zealand’s largest cattle and sheep farms. Discover its stunning landscapes – and fascinating stories – on this unforgettable journey taking one or two days. Epic in scale and scenery, the sights on this cycle trail range from a huge, braided river valley to the well-preserved farm buildings that speak of a days-gone-by. Nature lovers will appreciate the beauty of this Ngā Haerenga Great Ride of New Zealand(opens in new window). 

Ride experience

Close to Hanmer Springs spa town, the St James Cycle Trail serves up around 6–9 hours of cross-country cycling. It’s best enjoyed as a two-day trip overnighting in campsites or one of three huts(opens in new window). 

Please note that a major flood in mid 2021 has taken out the vital McArthur swing bridge which means you can’t currently complete the full ride. However, it is still possible to cycle the trail from either end. 

Thirty minutes drive from Hanmer Springs, the historic St James Station Homestead(opens in new window) is a great place to visit even if you’re not cycling. From here, the classic half-day ride is the Homestead Run Loop, which heads through the beautiful Peters and Edwards Valleys, crossing the low Peters Pass with its spectacular, expansive views. Further down the Edwards Valley are the Cow Stream Hot Springs(opens in new window), which makes a great return day-ride from the Homestead. 

From the alternative Maling car park, the trail heads directly into a mountainous area. Gently winding over a pass and into the magnificent Waiau Valley, the trail follows a huge, braided river passing varied sights including the rocky gorge at Saddle Spur and sweet Pool Hut. A short detour leads to Lake Guyon, a peaceful spot for a picnic, swimming, or overnight stop in the historic hut. 

New Zealand Cycle Trail Official Website

A detailed description of this Great Ride, including maps and more information, can be found here.

St James Cycle Trail(opens in new window)

Need to know

  • The Homestead Run end of the trail is mostly grade 2–3 (easy–intermediate), but the rest of the trail has some grade 4 (advanced) terrain with stream crossings and some steep sections. 
  • The full trail is suitable for fit, experienced, self-sufficient mountain bikers with a mountain bike that is in good condition and well maintained. You will need to take suitable gear, and enough food. 
  • Although the trail is signposted, carrying a map and personal locator beacon (PLB) is recommended; these can be hired from local outdoor gear shops. There is no mobile phone coverage. 
  • The best time to ride is from November to April. Being a remote ride through high country, however, it’s essential for cyclists to check in with the locals about the latest conditions and weather forecast. Always check the weather before you begin the cycle journey.  
  • The St James Cycle Trail connects with the Molesworth Muster, Rainbow Trail and Hurunui Trail Heartland Rides. 
  • The resort town of Hanmer Springs has huge range of cycle trails for all abilities, particularly in its heritage forest with its wonderful trees and sculpture walk. 

Transport & tours

Bike hire, including E-mountain bikes, and shuttles are available from Hanmer Adventure(opens in new window) based in Hanmer Springs. 

Accommodation

Cyclist who want to stay overnight on the trail can choose from one of three small, basic Department of Conservation huts(opens in new window) in beautiful locations. The resort town of Hanmer Springs has plenty of accommodation, including trail supporters Top 10 Holiday Park(opens in new window) and Hanmer Holiday Homes(opens in new window). 

Useful links

Ngā HaerengaNew Zealand Cycle Trails(opens in new window)

Hurunui Trails(opens in new window)

Hurunui Tourism(opens in new window)

Department of Conservation(opens in new window)

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