A long-forgotten gold miners’ road brought back to life by modern day pioneers
The Old Ghost Road is a must-do backcountry adventure for confident mountain bikers. At 85 km, it’s also New Zealand’s longest stretch of single-track – ranging from fast and flowy to tight and technical.
But what really makes the purpose-built trail are the West Coast landscapes it traverses: sheer-sided valleys cloaked in misty forest, roaring rivers and tumbling waterfalls, and vast views from alpine tops. It’s a three to four-day ride, and carrying all your own gear provides a small insight into the lives of the 1900s founders of the settlements en route, whose rusty relics still sit trailside.
There might be ghost towns galore (four to be precise), but eerie silences are less common thanks to the native birdlife flourishing off the track. A predator control programme started during the trail build and riders can spot tomtits, kākā, kea, whio/blue duck, kererū, rifleman, weka and even the great spotted kiwi.
Birdsong gives way to the dramatic open tops of the Lyell Range on day one, as you climb to 1200 metres above sea level. In low visibility the ridge sections are just as thrilling, as you ride through the mist and clouds to scenic Ghost Lake Hut, where a roaring fire awaits. (Alongside a communal hut, there are private sleepouts and even outdoor bucket ‘showers' at both Ghost Lake and Specimen Point huts, the two most common overnight stops for mountain bikers.)