Skip to Navigation

Old Ghost Road

Nelson, NZ

There are enough detailed descriptions of the trail in the links provided that I won't repeat here... So I will give a more personal account of my experience on this trail for the nomination. I encourage you to read about the trail in the links provided as it is truly something special. NOTE: the route description on is REVERSE of what I did, and my understanding is most people do this route the other way (finish in Seddonville). There is a terrific book telling the history of how this trail was built and is a great read if you are able to get a copy: "Spirit of the Stone" by Marion Boatwright. Lastly, I believe with all the great mtg-ing in New Zealand, they are deserving of an IMBA Epic.

This truly is a backcountry experience as you will find no civilization within miles of this trail. The nearest big city and airport is Nelson (about 2.5 hour drive away). It takes at least two days to complete the trail so overnight stays in a hut are a must (I did it in three days staying overnight at Ghost Lake and Specimen Point huts). The huts are top notch and managed by Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust (MLBT). Spaces are limited and because of this, you will run into very few people on the trail. Personally, I am the type of mtb rider that seeks these backcountry experiences and the Old Ghost Road far exceeded my expectations for this type of experience.

The first day is a major test, climbing almost a mile in elevation gain in approximately 20 miles to Ghost Lake hut. And there are very few 'breaks' in the climbing - you are peddling the entire way. The last 5 miles is very technically challenging as you are in high alpine exposure where one bad decision could send you down a very steep ridge. Also, the climate here is VERY wet so most likely you will be 'in the clouds' for the last few miles of day one, regardless of the time of year. The second day is a technically rewarding with switch back descents. There is a section called Skyline Steps where you will be forced to hike your bike down an endless flight of steps. The third day from Specimen point hut to the end is not as flat as the elevation map appears. This rolling terrain will be a true test of endurance for the last 5-10 miles of the trail. Other technical challenges:

Swing bridges - There is something about riding across spring bridges that poses a unique challenge rarely found anywhere else.
Stream Crossings - There are an endless number of these and for some of them, picking your line is critical
Waterfalls - numerous waterfalls right next to the trail. If it has been raining, you may find yourself riding THROUGH a waterfall!
Scenery - It can be challenging to keep your eyes on the trail sometimes with all the incredible and diverse scenery.
Landslides - the trail runs through several old landslides (they call them 'Slips" in New Zealand). Some of them require demounting the bike. In fact, we cam across one that had occurred the night before which we were forced to hike over!