Atop a Southland high-country station is a wonderful handcrafted and historic single-track circuit with a fabulous mountain and valley vistas.
Welcome Rock Trails started off as one of New Zealand’s longest gold-mining water races and has been reinvented and extended into a dazzling single-track circuit - a stunning biking adventure near Queenstown. The popular hiking and mountain biking trail is named after the prominent rock that served as a meeting point for early settlers.
The trail owes its existence to the O’Brien family who have farmed this high country station for four generations. Hand-hewing the mountain biking track in much the same fashion as the nineteenth century track builders, the new section sensitively follows the folds of the high country so that it looks like it’s been here for years.
Mostly smooth, flowing and gently undulating, this 27-kilometre biking adventure in Southland, just over an hour from Queenstown, can be completed by moderately fit riders in one day or upgraded into an overnight adventure by staying in charming back-country huts or glamping.
The starting point, historic Southland Ski Hut lies at an altitude of around 1000 metres, ensuring spectacular views from the get-go. The vistas alter dramatically however, as the track traces a path around the tussock-covered Slate Range. Out west, a patchwork of farmers’ fields is backdropped by the craggy Eyre Mountains, while to the east the landscape has a more remote, untouched feel with rolling tussockland and pockets of regenerating beech forest dominating the wide vistas.
Helping bring the landscape to life are authentic rusty relics, and information panels that evocatively relay the area’s fascinating ecology and gold mining past. Lucky riders may even discover the hidden cache of whisky! Overnight visitors reap even more rewards – a soothing soak in an outdoor bath and the chance to see a spectacular sunset.
Being privately owned and operated, prior booking is essential and can be arranged along with bike hire and guided tours via the Welcome Rock or Queenstown’s Outside Sports. The track is open to mountain bikers from October through April, and all year round for hikers.