When we make the effort and take the time to go on a biking adventure, we want it to be an enjoyable experience. To help plan your adventure read about goRide’s experience riding the 78km Heaphy Track, November 2017. The Heaphy Track is part of the Department of Conservations (DoC)- Great Walks and is located in the Kahurangi National Park.From May 1st through to November 30th the track is also open to Mountain bikers…and becomes a Great Ride. Check out this link to DOC for details on Mountain Biking the Heaphy Track.
Where is it ?
To ride the Heaphy Track you can start the track either from Brown Hut in Golden Bay (156 km from Nelson) or from Kohaihai on the West Coast (110 km from Westport). It’s not a circuit track. The start and finish is geographically at very distant points when traveling by road. Due to this there needs to be some thoughtful planning and preparation to allow you to complete the whole track. Don’t be put off though, there are many support services. However some of these services are not available during the ‘off season’ – when you are allowed to mountain bike the trail.
What are your options?
- Independent – Organise 2 parties to do the trip at the same time. One starting at each end of the track. Drive to the start and swap keys on the track so both parties will have a car waiting at the carpark when they complete the ride (we were fortunate enough to have organised this option). Meet at a common point to switch cars back or drive the other groups car on your first day starting the track.
- Car transfer options – There are some companies that will transfer your car to the end of the track, for a fee, while you bike it. Trek Express, Heaphy Track Help
- Flight options – Small airports are located near Takaka and Karamea so you can choose to fly to the start or back from the finish. Companies offering these services also offer transportation to the start or pick up from the end of the track to the airports.
- Bus options – the bus companies are generally running on their ‘off peak schedule’ during mountain biking season so check availability before you plan any further.
You can find a comprehensive list of support service options on the Heaphy Track website
If completing the whole track is not an option because of the geographical locations of the start and finish consider starting and finishing at the same end. It still makes for a great trip. Also there is the option of biking all the way to the end and back again, turning your adventure into 156km.
The ride and is it doable for you?
The Heaphy Track is 78.4km. It is suggested that you either complete this over a 2 or 3 day journey.
We have chosen to do it over a 2 day journey. With multiple hut options along the track this could easily be ridden over 3 days. Remember you need to carry your own food, so the longer it takes you the more food you will need. Check out the facilities at the huts so you know what you need to carry.
DAY ONE – Browns River Hut through to James Mackay Hut = 38.8 km– is it doable?
Brown River to Aorere Shelter – 10.5 km – Check out details here.
Aorere Shelter to Perry Saddle Hut – 4.5 km – Check out details here
Perry Saddle Hut to Gouland Downs Hut – 7 km – Check out details here
Gouland Downs Hut to Saxon Hut – 5 km – Check out details here
Saxon Hut to James MacKay Hut – 11.8 km – Check out details here
The ride up to Perry Saddle 17.5km is a sustained up hill climb. It is a good gradient for riding. The track is very rocky and a lot of power and strength was needed a number of times to get your front wheel up and over stones and rocks. The rocky terrain required a lot of negotiating of obstacles and focus on your chosen riding line. We stopped for food and water at the Aorere Saddle before heading to Perry Hut saddle. We were pleasantly surprised to find the high point of 915m Flanagans Corner (if time allows walk the sidetrack to the lookout) a couple of km before Perry Saddle Hut… so our sustained climbing was done for the day. Lunch at Perry Hut saddle…yum. It was then time to enjoy the tussock lands as we biked through the tops on our way to James Mackay Hut. From enjoying stunning weather over lunch it wasn’t too long before we hit some rain which continued through to the hut.
Accommodation – James Mackay Hut
We are staying roughly at the half way point – James Mackay Hut. This is a cosy and comfortable hut, the newest on the Heaphy Track built in 2014. Facilities include double-glazed windows, solar lighting, wood stove, gas-cooking facilities, toilets, fresh water, bunk beds and mattresses – is it doable, can you carry what you need to take?
DAY TWO – James MacKay to track end – 39.6km
James MacKay to Lewis Hut – 12.5 km –Check out details here
Lewis Hut to Heaphy Hut – 8km – Check out details here
Heaphy Hut to Katipo Creek Shelter – 7.1 km – Check out details here
Katipo Shelter to Scotts Beach – 5.3 km –Check out details here
Scotts Beach to Ko haihai (track end) – 3 km – Check out details here
If choosing to do it as a 3 day/ 2 night ride consider these options;
Stay Perry Saddle and James Mackay or stay Perry Saddle and Heaphy or stay Saxon and Heaphy.
Being all early risers we were the first from the hut to hit the trail. Although we started the day in low cloud it wasn’t long until the cloud lifted and we were blessed with a great day. This day was about heading down to the coast and then along the coast to track end. The track is a fun descent with lots of corners and a few rocky creeks to negotiate, along with swing and suspension bridges to cross. In fact one of them is the longest in the world. The rocky creeks contributed to a puncture but the new fantastic hand pump that I had recently purchased meant I could change the tire without any hassle. The beech forest turns into stunning Nikau palm groves and the ride along the rugged West Coast coastline to finish, just cements the diversity of the track.
What skills will you need to do this ride? This track is graded as an intermediate 3 plus track and in a few places, advanced grade 4 track. he track is ride able most of the way. There are small sections that may require you to push your bike but they are only for very short distances. The track does have many obstacles and is often quite rocky, there are creeks and tight corners to negogiate. You need to be comfortable biking over rocks up and down hills, and negoiating obstacles to enjoy riding this track. Is it doable?
What level of fitness will you need to do this ride? You will need moderate to advanced levels of fitness. Whatever direction you start in you will have a sustained uphill section that is a good ride able gradient. When you are on the tops (the flat lands) there is also short up and downhill sections to negotiate. Consider the distances you are travelling and how long that will take you each day. Make sure you have ridden for that length of time with some load prior to riding the Heaphy – Is it doable?
How could the weather effect the success of your journey? Expect the weather to play a part in your biking journey when you ride the Heaphy Track. You are on the West Coast of New Zealand and thus likely to expereince rain and you are in the backcountry so you need to be prepared for all types of weather – Is it doable?
What to consider to feel comfortable and safe when riding the Heapy Track
Our comfort and safety tips for the Heaphy
- The Heaphy Track is a back counrty track so you need to be prepared for all types of weather conditions. You are likely to encounter wet and cold conditions at any time of the year.
- You are going to be riding on undulating terrain with many obstacles, so mountain bikes are ideal. Our group had three full suspension mountain bikes and one with front suspension only.
- You will be on the bike for a number of hours each day, for consecutive days. The surface is bumpy, being comfortable on the bike is a MUST. Make sure you are comfortable on your bike seat, at your handlebars and on the pedals.
Thule Carrier with rear dry bag and tie downs – pot, food and spare clothes
Backpack and hydration reservoir (Camelbak low rider) – warm top, snacks, water
Frame bag – carrying tools and spare tubes
Handlebar bag with sleeping bag, lightweight food
Thule Carrier with rear dry bag and tie downs – clothes and food
Backpack (Camelbak low rider) – warm top, snacks
Drink bottle cage – drink bottle carrying water
Seat tool bag – carrying tools/tube and second spare tube taped to the frame
Dry bag – tie downs used to attach to handlebars – sleeping bag, jacket.
Enjoy the experience and have fun
Riding the Heaphy and experiencing its diversity is the fun. The highlight would be sharing that experience with others. Riding through luxuriant rainforest; sub-alpine tussock grasslands; high, rugged mountains; across swing and suspension bridges and along lowland forest and palm-fringed surf beaches. Remember to stop and take the time to enjoy the experience.
Kohaihai River a great swimming spot if finishing at the Karamea end. For a swimming spot at the Collingwood end try The Salisbury Bridge. Neither is probably particularly warm at the time of year you will be riding but a great way to finish the ride and make the trip home a little more pleasant.
There are some great food and drink options in Takaka – Check out the main street and then there is always the The Mussel Inn between Takaka and Collingwood.
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