Explore the foothills of the Southern Alps in Canterbury on this single-track curving through beech forest and across the base of ski-fields.
Located between Christchurch and the West Coast, just off the Arthur’s Pass Highway, the rugged wilderness of Craigieburn Forest Park has long-been a favourite playground for hikers, skiers and climbers. Now, thanks to bike-mad locals, this landscape of snow-capped peaks, tussock-covered hills and dense beech forest can be explored on two wheels.
Best suited to intermediate to advanced riders, these popular New Zealand mountain biking trails link the Craigieburn Ski Area, 1300m above sea level, with Castle Hill alpine village some 600m below. Riders’ nerves are tested from the start as the Craigieburn Edge trail cuts across a steep scree slope before dropping into beech forest for a thrilling descent. (Intermediate riders can avoid the challenging grade 4 Edge trail by starting on the Lyndon Saddle Track, which begins approximately 3km up the Craigieburn Valley Ski Field road.)
Beyond Lyndon saddle, the aptly named Luge offers another 300m of grin-inducing downhill before things level off across Dracophyllum Flat Track and its pretty alpine garden featuring spiky Dr Seuss-esque trees and tussock.
A final climb from Texas Flat up the Hog’s Back rewards with a yee-ha!-inducing 6km or so of sweet single-track all the way down to Castle Hill village. There are vast views across a landscape so striking it starred as Narnia in the film The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
This mountain biking trail’s start point, Craigieburn Ski Area, is at the top of a 6km gravel road, 9km north of Castle Hill village on SH73. The full network of mountain biking and walking trails, along with track conditions and local weather forecasts can be found via the Craigieburn Trails website and mobile app. Hazards include slippery roots, mud and snow, particularly in winter when riders must stick to the trails open for mountain biking and take all necessary precautions including checking the weather forecast.