Sidling around the rim of an extinct volcano in Christchurch’s Port Hills, this is an intensely scenic, cross-country mountain biking adventure.
Bridging the gap between cosmopolitan Christchurch and laidback Lyttelton, the Port Hills – formed 12 million years ago by a massive volcano – rise several hundred metres above sea level. The eroded crater rim of the long-extinct volcano is spectacularly scenic, and deserved popular with mountain bikers, walkers and paragliders.
Starting from the Halswell Quarry car park southwest of Christchurch city centre, the Port Hills offers up an all-day MTB adventure taking in some of the region’s best cross-country trails along the way. It requires decent fitness and above-average bike skills, but rewards riders with jaw-dropping vistas across both Christchurch, Lyttelton Harbour and their landward surrounds, as well as the endless blue horizon of the Pacific Ocean. This is a big-sky ride, for sure.
The trail itself is sweet, tracing an undulating path around the hills, mainly on old-school single-track supplemented by short sections of 4WD track and sealed road. There are some gut-busting climbs, including the start along the Kennedy Bush Trail, but these are spliced nicely between thrilling descents, and riders are never far from convenient rest stops with epic views.
Some of the day’s best riding is saved until last. After a particularly grunty climb up an old lava flow, the Godley Head Trail eases into some flowing single trail leading riders towards the Hills’ most easterly point. Next up, another stretch of single-track heads back in a westerly direction to Breeze Col and the start point for the Anaconda Trail. This thrillingly serpentine trail is nicely bermed, allowing riders to whizz down the hill towards Taylors Mistake, a short climb over the hill to the seaside village of Sumner.
Riders with limited time can slice and dice this trip into a variety of shorter rides. A satisfying two- to three-hour loop can be made by starting in Sumner then riding up to Evans Pass and along to Godley Head before snaking down Anaconda. The Christchurch City Council website is a useful planning resource with trail descriptions and status, and a good map of the Port Hills trails.
Mountain bike hire, trail advice and guided trips are available through Christchurch’s helpful bike shops.