Easiest - Intermediate
Let the teal coloured waters of the Kawarau and Clutha Rivers guide you between Clyde and Cromwell on the Lake Dunstan Trail.
The Lake Dunstan Trail flaunts the best of Central Otago's natural beauty and begins from the quaint township of Clyde (or Cromwell).
The trail seeps with history from the bygone gold rush days, and as you cycle or walk the easy to intermediate 55km ride (Grade 1-3) alongside the beautiful teal waters of Lake Dunstan, the Kawarau River, and the Clutha River it will become clear to see why many early settlers chose to reside in this region.
Sample cherries and nectarines during the summer and spring months and enjoy some locally produced Central Otago wines.
The Lake Dunstan Trail is divided into four sections - each with its own spectacular and diverse scenery.
This easy trail is jam-packed with gold mining history, amazing river views and local hospitality.
- Smiths Way to Cromwell Heritage Precinct - 16kms - Grade 1
Cycle or walk alongside Lake Dunstan from Smiths Way, via Pisa Moorings, to Cromwell.
Lake Dunstan is 40kms long so take your time and enjoy the many picturesque rests stops along the way. Explore the Cromwell Heritage Precinct and step back in time in the boutique galleries, retail stores, restaurants and cafe's in the area. Did you know there was once a township where Lake Dunstan is now? Remains of it are now at the bottom of the lake.
- Cromwell Heritage Precinct to Bannockburn Inlet - 7kms - Grade 2
Following the Kawarau arm of Lake Dunstan to the Bannockburn Bridge, gaze at vistas across the lake to Bannockburn vineyards - will you stop in for a glass of world-famous Central Otago pinot noir?
It is possible to loop back to Cromwell by a trail alongside Bannockburn Road, making for a wonderful short and family-friendly day ride.
- Bannockburn Inlet to Cairnmuir Gully - 11.3kms - Grades 2-3
The trail loops around the Bannockburn Inlet which is a popular picnic area with a designated swimming area. As it continues toward Cornish Point it passes by vineyards and olive groves - with views back across to Cromwell and the Heritage Precinct.
This section includes the first of the bluff bridges, and you will cycle at the base of the stonework faces of the Cairnmuir slide, a unique feature high on the slopes above the lake. It was designed to protect the river from a major land slide, which could overwhelm the Clyde Dam, a short distance downstream.
As you go, look out for the drainage tunnels dotted along the length of the gorge. There are 13 tunnels (total 18.5km of tunnels) drilled into the hillsides of the gorge in the mid 1990’s. These tunnels are also used to mitigate against landslips into the Clutha River.
- Cairnmuir Gully to Halfway Hut - 8.4kms - Grades 2-3
This section requires the most attention and skills as there are narrow sections and more gradient.
The aptly named Cairnmuir Ladder, may look daunting but the switchbacks have been designed to a maximum of 6 degree gradient with a 3m minimum radius. This is section contains the highest point of the trail, rewarded with magnificent views which also means exposure to the weather.
The Hugo suspension bridge is in the middle of this section with a walkable steep land option for those uncomfortable on the bridge.
Toilets are at either end of this section at Cairnmuir Gully & Halfway Hut
- Halfway Hut to Dunstan Arm Rowing Club - 10.7kms - Grades 2-3
Close to Halfway Hut you will find a short switch back section with tight corners and a good climb / descent. There are plenty of picnic spots to stop at and enjoy the lakeside.
A dominant feature at the Clyde end of the trail is New Zealand’s third largest hydro-dam, the Clyde Dam. This was one of the ‘’Think Big” projects driven by the Muldoon led Government to diversify the economy and drive growth. Started construction 1977. The first power was generated in 1992.
- Dunstan Arm Rowing Club to Clyde Heritage Precinct - 3.5kms - Grade 1
This section follows the sealed road in places, and shares the Clyde road bridge before climbing up towards the Clyde Heritage Precinct.
The trail ranges across grades 1–2 (easiest to easy).
A mixture of wooden boardwalks, dirt tracks and gravel trails feature on the Lake Dunstan Trail. The terrain is predominantly flat and the final section includes cycling (or walking) on an elevated platform.
The final 25 kilometres of the track is remote and has no access to a main road.
The trail is well signposted and riders / walkers should carry a map, sufficient water and food, a basic tool kit (for cyclists) and cellphone (although reception may be patchy).
Before you set off for the day, it is vital that you check the forecast and track conditions and take clothing for all eventualities - Cental Otago is hot and dry in summer and spring so remember your sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen and rug up warm in the cooler months.
Wearing a helmet is a legal requirement when cycling in New Zealand.
This trail is well supported by tour companies offering bike hire, shuttles, luggage transfers and accommodation packages.
Contact these Clyde based operators for more information;
Receive friendly Kiwi hospitality, home-cooked meals and a comfortable rest after a day on the trail.