This readily accessible loop ride from downtown Nelson climbs to a rocky mountaintop offering epic Tasman Bay views and an exciting downhill.
This memorable one-day mountain bike ride traces the old Dun Mountain Railway into breathtaking alpine territory before barreling downhill for 20km back to Nelson city. Dun Mountain’s unique geology, rich mining history and epic viewpoints make this one of New Zealand’s finest day rides for fit, experienced riders. For a shorter option, there are hour loops or climb then descent, like the Codgers Mountain Bike Park at the entranceway.
One of this trail’s many charms is that it starts just 15-minutes’ bike ride from central Nelson. Completing the full loop involves a technical downhill over loose, rocky terrain, and should only be attempted by experienced mountain bikers with energy to burn. Riders of lesser ability, however, can still enjoy a view-filled adventure by following the trail up to Coppermine Saddle and returning the same way.
From the trail entrance at Brook Street, the track climbs gently but steadily up the flanks of Dun Mountain along an old railway corridor used to transport chromite from nearby mines. With increasing elevation the view widens into an impressive panorama back across Nelson, Tasman Bay, and the faraway ranges.
Emerging from mature beech forest onto an exposed ridge, the vegetation changes dramatically to stunted manuka and scrubland as it passes into the infertile but distinctly coloured mineral belt. The single track then continues up to the trail’s highpoint, Coppermine Saddle (878m), affording dramatic views of the Richmond Range.
From the saddle it’s almost 10km of thrilling, often technical downhill over rocky but rideable terrain. At Maitai Dam the track flattens out for a leisurely cruise down the Maitai Valley road back to Nelson where bars and cafes offer well-deserved refreshment.
View trail map here.
The ride to Coppermine Saddle is grade 3 (intermediate), while the rocky downhill section from to Maitai Dam is grade 4 (advanced) but followed by a relatively easy grade 3 (intermediate) meander back to Nelson. A mountain bike is recommended.
The trail is well signposted but remote in parts, so riders should carry a map, plenty of water and snacks, basic tool kit, and a cellphone (although coverage is patchy). Riders should let someone know their intentions before they set off.
Much of the trail is in an alpine environment where weather can change rapidly. Visitors should check the forecast and track conditions before they set off, and take clothing for all eventualities.
From central Nelson, it’s an easy 15-minute ride to the start of the trail. Numerous local companies offer bike hire along with transport and tours, including Trail Journeys Nelson, Gravity Nelson, Biking Nelson, Nelson Cycle Hire & Tours and Wheelie Fantastic Cycle Tours.
Nelson and Motueka are visitor-friendly bases for cycling adventures throughout the region, but there are plenty more options in the surrounding countryside.