The Paparoa Track is 56.2km in length. It is suggested that you complete this over a 2 day journey. There are many that have completed it in a day… not something you would want to tackle with a family and you would definitely want a good weather day for your one day ride.
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. (Note: there are no pots/utensils at the huts so you will need to carry these)
DAY ONE – Smoke-Ho Carpark to Moonlight Tops Hut = 20km – is it doable?
This is an uphill ride to Ces Clark Hut, approximately 10km from Smoke-Ho carpark, before it levels out along the tops to Moonlight Hut. Up to Ces Clark Hut is the roughest part of the whole track and our whanau found that we were on and off our bikes quite regularly. This made it slow going. It took us about 3 hours to cover the 10km to Ces Clark Hut… so you may need to plan for this.
Accommodation – Moonlight Hut. There is a lot of demand on Moonlight Tops hut. There is an option to stay at Ces Clark Hut. This would have definitely been achievable for our whanau. We found our speed greatly increased once we got past Ces Clark Hut. Hence we would have been comfortable riding from Ces Clark to the track end at Punakaiki in a day. It would have been a long day but very achievable.
DAY TWO – Moonlight Tops Hut to track end = 39.6km – is it doable?
You travel across the tops before starting to descend to Pororari Hut (19.1km). From this hut you have a fantastic descend to track end – other than the little hill you need to get over right before the end of the track (there just to remind you that you have tired legs)!
What skills will you need to do this ride? This track is graded as an advanced grade 4 track. There are rough and rocky parts to ride. As well as narrow and exposed track. Some steep and some long climbs. As a family we definitely found the ride to Ces Clark the roughest with lots of rock and we walked our bikes quite regularly on this section. From there the track was good but you do need to be comfortable going up and down some steep sections and comfortable with narrow tracks, heights and exposure – 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 rideable gradient. When you are on the tops 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 Paparoa – 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 Paparoa Track. You are on the West Coast of New Zealand and thus likely to experience rain and you are in the backcountry so you need to be prepared for all types of weather – Is it doable?