Mountain Biking on the Heaphy Track
The Heaphy Track, one of New Zealandfs gGreat Walksh is now a Great Ride. Mountain Bikers will be permitted by the Department of Conservation to ride the Heaphy Track between May 1 and September 30 for a three-year trial beginning in 2011.
Great Walks/Rides are DOCfs premier tracks through some of the best scenery in New Zealand. The huts on the Great Walks/Rides are of higher standard that other tracks and most have gas cooking facilities, fresh water, bunk beds with mattresses, wood burners, toilets etc.
The Heaphy Track is the only multi-day ride through a National Park in New Zealand. The 80-kilometre course through the Kahurangi National Park traverses dense beech forests, expansive tussock plains and boulder outcrops of the Gouland Downs, takes in the limestone cliffs along the Heaphy River and through the nikau palm groves and white sandy beaches along the West Coast to Karamea.
Riders should be well prepared for inclement weather conditions as the region is known for sudden storms, associated floods, occasional snow falls and strong winds, as well as for sunshine, clear blue skies and warm, calm days. Please carry wet weather gear and warm clothing as well as sun protection, first-aid kits, plenty of water, food supplies as well as spare parts, puncture repair kits etc. Be prepared for all eventualities, as it is a long way from the middle of the track if help is required and it is important that riders take responsibility for their own safety and wellbeing.
Riders can travel the track in either direction, but most are planning to start in Collingwood and finish in Karamea where a friendly bus driver will meet them at the Kohaihai Shelter at the end of the track and deliver them to cold beer, hot showers, great food and comfortable beds at the many accommodation, entertainment, food and beverage services in Karamea. (See accommodation and transport listings)
Mountain Bikers can also do day or multi-day rides into the Kahurangi National Park from either end of the track. The Karamea end of the track is particularly spectacular and riders can spend a couple of nights on the track in either the Heaphy, Lewis or MacKay huts and cycle out again.
Hut bookings are essential and can be made at Information Centres, i-Sites or online through the Department of Conservation.
Browns Hut to Perry Saddle (3-4 hours) 17.5 km
Most of it steadily uphill through beech forest. The Aorere Shelter is about halfway and a short detour to check out Flanaganfs Corner, the highest point on the track is worthwhile for the stunning view.
At Perry Saddle there is a popular bathing pool in nearby Gorge Creek and many people climb to the top of Mt Perry as part of their Heaphy Track experience.
Perry Saddle to Saxon Hut: (2-3 hours)
A relatively flat 12.4 km ride through the spectacular Gouland Downs, expansive tussock plains, distant mountain ranges, granite rock outcrops. Along the way, youfll pass the famous tramping boot post, which has had a collection of tramping boots and other tramping equipment attached to it over the years and provides a fun photo opportunity. (We may soon see bike helmets, gloves, wheels etc added to the collection of artefacts!)
The historic Gouland Downs Hut is about halfway and provides a good spot for a lunch break or to shelter in case of bad weather. (The Gouland Downs Hut has an excellent fireplace, but does not have gas-cooking facilities). Near the Gouland Downs Hut, a grove of beech trees adorns a limestone outcrop that contains several caves and arches, which are well worth exploring.
The Saxon Hut is the newest hut on the Heaphy Track and is named after John Saxon, who surveyed the track in 1886.
Saxon Hut to James Mackay Hut: (2-3 hours) 11.8 km
Mostly flat riding through stunning tussock, beech forests, creeks, rivers, rock outcrops and youfll cross the demarcation line between the Tasman (Nelson) and the Buller (West Coast) districts. The view from MacKay Hut is spectacular; youfll be able to see the Tasman Sea and the Heaphy River mouth on a clear day.
James MacKay Hut to Lewis Hut: (1-2 hours) 12.5 km
All downhill through beech forest and into taller, richer and more diverse forest indicative of the West Coast. Riding this section requires great care, as there are some rough sections. It is recommended that riders dismount and walk the rough spots to avoid damage to the track, machine or person.
Lewis Hut to Heaphy Hut: (1-2 hours)
A stunning 8-km flat ride along the Heaphy River. Youfll encounter several large swing bridges and it is recommended that riders walk their bikes across the bridges. Flip your bike up onto the back wheel at about 45°, grip the stem with one hand and the top wire of the swing bridge with the other and walk your steed across the river. Several massive rata trees grace the track along the way. The Heaphy River meets the Tasman Sea here creating a turbulent clash of sea and fresh water.
Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai Shelter: (3-4 hours) 16.2 km
Mostly flat riding through nikau palm groves beside the beautiful white sand beaches of the West Coast and the roaring Tasman Sea. The Katipo Shelter is about halfway and there are also campgrounds at Scottfs Beach and Kohaihai.
Kohaihai Shelter to Karamea: (1-2 hours) 15 km
Mostly sealed flat road through farmland.
Transport is available from the Kohaihai Shelter to Karamea for people and bikes (see transport section)