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It’s not uncommon to see cars jam-packed with bikes on tow bars and roof racks heading to Hanmer Springs. The area's popularity for mountain biking is well justified with a large number of tracks and varied terrain from flat forest to rugged alpine tracks, catering for a wide range of abilities.
Hanmer Springs is regarded as an alpine town, and there’s no better way to experience the scenery than to jump on a bike and peddle through Hanmer Forest. The Easy Rider Track is a non-technical 4km track, which easily links to other trails within the forest offering hours of cycling fun suitable for the whole family.
If you’re after a little more physical exertion explore the trails around the back of Conical Hill. Tracks in this area include Flax Gallery, Swoop and Majuba, which can be linked together for a more comprehensive and heart-pumping ride.
Jacks and Jollies Pass is a 25km loop ride beginning in Hanmer Springs and circumnavigating Mt Isobel. Large portions of the ride are up hill, up to 800 meters high at Jacks Pass. During the winter months parts of the track may be covered in snow to test your peddling power! The track follows the Clarence River before entering Jollies Pass. There are a couple of options for the descent, by veering right at the top of Jollies Pass you can take the Pylon track for a speedy descent through the bush.
Rocky terrain and amazing views can be found on the challenging routes of Yankee Zephyr and Red Rock. These tracks are rated expert and it’s advised to check with the local i-SITE before departing to obtain a track map and to gain information on possible track closures.
The New Zealand Cycle Trail's a national project to build a collection of world class cycle tracks and great rides. The first of the ‘Great Rides’ of New Zealand to open was the St James Cycle Trail, which opened in November 2010. The trail passes through the iconic St James Station near the alpine township of Hanmer Springs. Established in 1862, the St James Station was one of the largest sheep and cattle farms in the South Island before being purchased by the Crown in 2008 and turned into conservation area.
The 64km cycleway generally takes 1-2 days to complete depending on fitness levels. For easy-to-intermediate it’s advised to stick to the beginning and ends of the track. The central section of the track caters for the more advanced rider due to the remote terrain, river crossing and bike carrying required in some sections.
The sense of ‘remoteness’ and grand seasonal scenery makes the St James Cycle Trail appealing to many. From striking mountain peaks, expansive grassy river flats, sub-alpine beech forest to meadows in full bloom in spring the track never fails to delight.
The popularity of the St James Cycle Trail prompted a family-friendly ride called the Homestead Run. Opened at the beginning of 2013 the 15km loop starts from the St James Station Homestead. The loop is perfect for beginner riders, children and off-road wheelchair users, ensuring that a broad range of cyclists can now enjoy the idyllic backcountry of the St James.