West coast Wilderness Trail official start goRideThe John Family are a family of 2 adults and 2 kids (8 year old girl and 10 year old boy).  They planned and prepared for an adventurous ride, bike touring the West Coast Wilderness Trail over 5 days and 4 nights in April 2016!

To follow is the story of how they “got ready” for their ride and what you may need to think about to “get ready” for a ride like this.

You can use the The Kids Guide to Riding – Planning & Preparation to help you with your preparation.

Get Ready to goRide – The West Coast Wilderness Trail – Greymouth to Ross. Bike touring with Kids get ready bike kids guide plan destination goRide

PLAN the destination.  They chose the 139km of the West Coast Wilderness Trail. Riding from Greymouth to Ross. Note the section from Hokitika to Ross is less developed and if this would suit your family better you could consider the 103km from Greymouth to Hokitika.  A good website to help with the planning of your trip is the westcoastwildernesstrail.

Or there are some books available that include descriptions of the trail:

  1. Westcoast Wilderness Trail signposting goRideThe West Coast Wilderness Trail.   Specifically about this trail. Designed as a riders handbook and to help users to understand the rich heritage of the trail. A good percentage of the sale of each book goes towards the promotion and maintenance of the trail. Fantastic! You can download this handbook for $4.00 from this link. Alternatively if you still enjoy the printed version The Greymouth i site (at time of writing) have them available for $9.00 plus $3.00 postage. Make contact at info@westcoasttravel.co.nz to inquire about purchasing the book.
  2.  The New Zealand Cycle Trails. Nga Haerenga  by Jonathan Kennett or Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by The Kennett Brothers.  These books also contain other New Zealand cycle trails so are good value for money if you plan on doing more than one trail.

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What did The John Family trip look like?

Day One:

The John’s drove from Nelson to Greymouth. They stopped at the Greymouth i site (which is opposite the start of the trail). They chose to bike the first 7km of the trail as their accommodation was located 7km along the trail. Ticking off the first 7km on their traveling day allowed the following day to be a little shorter to attempt to save the legs and motivation for the gentle uphill ride of Day Three.

Biking – The start of the Westcoast Wilderness Trail outside the i site to their accommodation the Greymouth Seaside Top 10 holiday Park, 7km.

Westcoast Wilderness trail Greymouth Top 10 Holiday Park playground goRide

Playground Holiday Park

Accommodation – stayed overnight at the Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park.  With the trail on their doorstep it allows you to set off in good time for biking. The Greymouth Holiday Park offers storage for your car and transport/shuttle options for the trail.

Car Shuttle – An adult rode back along the 7km seaside trail to collect the car (while the kids enjoyed the playground and exploring the holiday park) and drove it to the Holiday Park. The car was left in the complementary storage area while they cycled the trail.

Day Two:

Westcoast Wilderness Trail signposting every 1 km goRideBiking – Greymouth to Kumara 29km. The trail is signposted every 1 km

Accommodation – They stayed in a cottage at Kumara.  Check out www.kumarawestcoast.org.  A fantastic website showcasing all Kumara has to offer. Voluntarily maintained by a local – only on the West Coast.

We were self sufficient with gear using panniers and a bike trailer carrying the gear we required until the completion of day four. Services are available for transportation of gear to each of your nightly destinations.

Day Three:

Biking – Kumara to Cowboy Paradise 37km. This is the hardest day as you are going uphill and there are a few steep parts (only a few, though it did require our 8 year old to get off and push her bike a couple of times). The trail is signposted every 1 km.

Accommodation – Stayed at Cowboy Paradise.

We were self sufficient with gear using panniers and a bike trailer carrying the gear we required until the completion of day four. Services are available for transportation of gear to each of your nightly destinations.

Day Four:

Biking – Cowboy Paradise to Hokitika 36km.  The trail is signposted every 1 km

Car shuttle – On arriving in Hokitika one of the biking mad adults biked back along State Highway 6 from Hokitika to Greymouth (approximately 39km) to collect the car and drove it back to Hokitika.

Don’t be put off by this there are many alternative options.  There is the intercity bus , though its 12:30 departure time makes it challenging for cyclist to use. Shuttle services are available to return you to your car or alternatively car relocation services to return your car to you are available.

Day Five:

Westcoast Wilderness Trail finish Ross goRide

Finish at Ross

Biking – Hokitika to Ross 36km. When we rode the trail in April 2016 and at this point in time (August 2016) the signposting every 1 km had not been completed for this section of the trail.

Car shuttle – We chose an adult to shuttle the car early in the morning half way to the Tree Top Walkway and ride back to Holitika once we reached Ross an adult rode back to the Tree Top Walkway to get the car and pick the family up in Ross.

Again if shuttling a car is not an option or too much riding for you, the trail is well serviced to connect you with your car.

See the Westcoastwilderness trail website for great reviews of what you can expect from each of the days.

get ready bike kids guide prep the gear goRide

PREP your gear.  All riders were riding their own mountain bikes. The two adults carried gear in panniers and dry bags on a trailer. The kids both had camelbaks on their backs.  This gave them an instant supply of water and a few treats were stashed into them. We needed to be self sufficient from Greymouth through to Hokitika as we had no vehicle support and choose to carry our gear rather than the alternate option of having our gear transported.

What did The John Family carry?

Kids padded bike underwear

Check out Am I Safe to Bike Tour for the personal gear or here for bike first aid needed to keep them safe while they biked. Remember they were self sufficient day 2, 3 and 4 before riding back to collect the car. Therefore they needed to take clothing they thought was necessary for the 3 days of biking and the overnight stays. (Make note that the West Coast can throw any type of weather at you, at any time of the year – so you need to be prepared for all weather conditions).  The whole family rode in padded bike pants (Why Wear Padded Bike Shorts?) including the kids – see Padded Bike Underwear.  Multi-day riding requires added protection & comfort on the seat.  They also took food for breakfast and biking – day 2, day 3 and day 4 .  While riding they had what they called first and second lunch. Two good food stops usually consisting of a pre made pasta salad for one stop and sandwich type food for the second stop with some snacking in between. This certainly helped keep the energy levels where they needed to be. They did not require any sleeping equipment as their accommodation supplied this.  Note: there are evening meal and breakfast options at Kumura, Cowboy Paradise and Hokitika and some packed lunch options. 

get ready bike kids prep fitness goRide

PREP their fitness/skills.  Due to the limited number of places to stay on the trail, the kids and adults need to have enough endurance to ride 30-40km to be able to complete the ride. Therefore building to this level of endurance is important. Some of that distance will also be going up a gradual incline – primarily when riding from Kumara to Cowboy Paradise.  As they say in the guide books, the views are just as good if you have to get off and walk your bike – though back yourself here, the need to do this will not be too often or hopefully not at all. Remember if you are bike touring you and the kids will also need to be able to get up in the morning and repeat this distance on day 2, 3 and 4 (depending on the number of days on the trail).  The guide books describe the trail as primarily Grade 2 (easy) with an excellent smooth generally gravel surface for riding on.  It is a trail achievable for families. We chose to do it in April at the end of the summer biking season when the kids biking fitness was at its best.

get ready bike kids guide prep kids goRide

PREP the kids. It is great for the kids to be able to see and understand where they are going and what is expected of them. You may need to set goals and put some activities in place before the adventure to help them build their confidence/skills and endurance. Get them involved in the planning and preparation. See these stories on how kids can each have a task and skills to do to help plan and prepare for a bike adventure.

There are lots of different ways to mix and match the West Coast Wilderness Trail. The direction you ride, Greymouth to Ross, or in the other direction Ross to Greymouth. How many days would you do it in?  Maybe you can do the trail in three, or maybe you want to explore more of the area and the history and do it over more than four or five days? Do you only ride part of the trail? Perhaps shortening to the most developed section Greymouth to Hokitika would suit you best or choosing the section that appeals to you most – a great ‘day’ on the bike. The type of accommodation, the time of the year, do you use the support services available…this will affect how you and/or your family plan your adventure.


Here are some great biking related services for the West Coast Wilderness Trail that may support you and help with your planning.

Shuttles: Wilderness trail shuttles offer transport for bags, bikes and bikers as well as options with Trail Transport. Talk to them about your plans they are keen to support you whether you’re doing a day trip or tackling the whole track.

Accomodation: Check out the West Coast Wilderness Trail website as well as the other links provided for accommodation options. You could also consider staying at Lake Kaniere. A short ride away from the trail will give you accommodation options like the Lake Kaniere Hans Bay DOC Campground or the Lake Kaniere homestay

Bike Hire: There are bike hire options at the West Coast Wilderness Trail website.

Our family which includes an 8 year old girl and a 10 year old boy, think this is an achievable family bike adventure. It does require some thought about getting your kids prepared with bike fitness and skills but provides a wonderful challenge and achievement. Do you think your family could give riding The West Coast Wilderness Trail a go? This is our story and as riders on the trail say, “Get those wheels spinning” … go spin your own story!

Thanks for reading.  Used together our stories, resources & products support you to achieve and develop as a rider.

Related goRide Resources:

get ready to goRide – The Kids Guide

goRide is a shared journey, so we would like you to assist in guiding it along the way. Contact goRide. Your thoughts, comments or feedback are welcome. Thank you for being a part of the goRide way.