When we make the effort and take the time to go for a ride, we want it to be an enjoyable experience. To have a ‘great day’ on the bike there are simple things to think about, plan and do.  In this story I am going to introduce you to riding The Coppermine Trail in Nelson, NZ


Supporting you and your family to SMILE when you ride.
Where is it and how to get there?
Located a short way from Nelson City Centre this track is easily accessed.  You can start the track up the Maitai Valley (around 5km).  Parking space is available just before the Maitai Campground.  From here cross the bridge and head left up the 4W drive road which will take you up onto the Tantragee Saddle and you can join the start of the Dun Mountain Trail.

Alternatively you can park up Brook Street at Codgers Mountain Bike Park.  If you head into the MTB park the main climbing track is the Dun Mountain Trail.  Parking here means you will have to come all the way down the Maitai Valley, back into Nelson, then head back up to Brook Street to complete your loop.

The ride – is it doable for you?

The ride needs to be doable for you and any riders you are biking with.
The Coppermine is approximately, a 38km loop and is one of the best day rides in New Zealand. It is a remote alpine track that offers stunning views of Tasman Bay and surrounds.  For the average rider, 4 to 6 hours is needed to complete the loop.

Classed as a technical Grade 4 track because of the 10km downhill section.  It is best suited to fit, experienced single track riders and we strongly recommend riding in a group.   If you don’t feel your riding has reached a grade 4 level you can climb to the top (Third House) and return the same way.  This climbing track offers a steady wide downhill ride.
The biking surface varies from compacted dirt, gravel and rocks as you climb through a native beech forest up into rocky alpine tussock.  The downhill section involves a lot of switchbacks then opens up to flow along side the river – stunning!

The trail is best suited to riding a full suspension or hard tail mountain bike.  For enjoyment a good gear range is needed for the climb.  This day ride is a favourite with Electric Mountain Bike riders.  You will need some way to carry extra gear.  A 10-20L day pack, large frame bag or a rear carrier suitable for attachment to a mountain bike are ideal.  See the following links for what we think are best matched to your carrying needs – Womens Hydration BackPackThe Rear Lightweight Carrier (compatible with full suspension mountain bikes).

Please be aware that The Coppermine is a dual use track.  Day walkers and trampers will be on the trail so watch your speed and be in control, especially on the downhill section.

Windy Point is very well named!
Coppermine Saddle, 878m, looking back to the track just climbed.
View of the river from bridge crossing

It doesn’t matter what ride you are doing or where you are going, you will always want to be safe. Check out the guide ‘Mountain Biking – Am I Safe to goRide?’ for general information on how to make sure you are safe on the bike.  It has some great tips for this kind of extended day trip.

The Coppermine is an isolated back country ride.  You will need to be prepared to complete this ride safely so you must carry extra gear yourself or within the group.  This includes water, food, tool kit and sufficient clothing.  It can be very cold across the exposed top section of this ride even on a sunny day.

Ride in a group and always tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back.


Will this ride work for your friends or family?
Does the ride fit with what you want to achieve? This trail can be split into three distinct sections.

  • Maitai Valley/Brook Street to Third House – @ 12km of steady up hill climbing on a Grade 3 track. One to two hours.
  • Third House to Coppermine Saddle, past Windy Point – 6km.  Single track traverse across rocky, exposed trail.  Thirty minutes to one hour.
  • Coppermine Saddle to Maitai Valley/Brook Street – @ 20km.  From the saddle there is a 10km fast, flowing Grade 4 downhill section that pops you out at the Maitai Dam.  From here the trail follows the river all the way down the valley.  One & a half to two & a half hours.

Here is a link provided by the Nelson City Council –  map of Coppermine Trail ride

This ride is suitable for kids who are bike fit and into their bike riding.  If you are considering taking children around this loop you MUST prepare them well and they should be confident riders who aren’t put off by a big climb.  Throwing a bike tow rope into your bag would be a great way to offer them assistance, if needed, on the climb. We know of local Nelson kids as young as 8yrs old that have completed this trail.


Enjoy the experience and have fun

If you have worked through the points above then you will be more likely to enjoy and have fun on your ride.

Some things that you could plan to discover on the Coppermine Trail:

  • The trail begins on the Dun Mountain Walkway and you will see various information boards telling you the history of this area. This section of the trail is known as the old tramway. A narrow gauge, horse-drawn operation that is considered New Zealand’s very first railway. It was used to transport chromium copper from hillside mines – hence the name ‘Coppermine’.
  • The Maitai Caves. After crossing the Maitai South Branch Bridge at the base of the downhill section, there is a left turn on the track signposted to the Maitai Caves. This is a worthwhile side trip!  You will have to lock your bike to a tree as the 30 minute walk is not suitable for bikes. We recommend taking a light to explore inside the cave.
  • Swimming.  The close proximity to the river offers easy access to multiple swimming holes.  So if the weather is on your side it is well worth the experience of a refreshing dip!
  • Codgers MTB Park.  If you choose to start up Brook St and have the energy for extra riding, the MTB park is a fun place to ride with trails to suit most abilities.


Resting, refuel at the bottom of The Coppermine Trail downhill section.
There are multiple places to take a swim along the way.
The Maitai Cave walking track.  A rewarding addition to your ride.

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