In terms of jaw dropping, awe inspiring multi-use trails in New Zealand. This track is one of, if not, THE best. Run by the Mokihiuni Lyell Backcountry Trust since 2008, it offers you 85km of singletrack riding. Visit the website at www.oldghostroad.org.nz to book huts (essential) and see up to date trail information. Also visit their facebook page “The Old Ghost Road“.
Advice & Tips
I rode The Old Ghost Road with a group of women with really varied mountain biking experience which showed me that maybe life is too short to say no that’s too hard for me. Fitness & food are key components in being able to enjoy your experience. Lack of both means tiredness and this type of track is unforgiving of tired riders.
The Old Ghost Road is definitely a mountain bike track – it’s rated grade 4, with two grade 4-5 sections. There are several long grinding climbs, amazingly narrow ridgeline tracks, lots of steps to contend with and technical descents to deal with. A few sections require you to dismount and push your bike between gates otherwise it’s up to your skill level but do expect to be carrying and pushing your bike through sections. This is a multi use, two way track so expect to come across trampers.
Because of the slow steady 1200m elevation gain from the Lyell end, it is recommended, for bikers, that the track is tackled from Lyell. Lyell is found on State Highway 6 in the Upper Buller Gorge. It is 35km south of Murchison – the nearest town. From the Lyell end a great day trip can be had up to the Lyell Saddle Hut (12km one way, 24km return). Or if time and fitness permit an in & out adventure to Ghost Lake Hut (30km one way, 60km return).
You should only attempt a back country ride like this if you are fit & confident on a mountain bike. It’s a big ride however you choose to tackle it. Start each day as early as possible to give yourself time for resting, viewing & eating along the way. The best piece of advice we were given before we left was to take it all in and not get focused on “getting” to our nights accommodation.
What you will see!
At times it seems like every corner gives you another view better than the last. Even when the last view left you speechless…here is a gallery of my top 6 photos and my goodness it was hard to stop at 6.
How did we go about seeing all that…
TWO days riding, TWO nights accommodation, ONE day travelling
- Nelson to Lyell Reserve Carpark via van. Lyell to Ghost Lake Hut 30km
- Ghost Lake Hut to Rough & Tumble Lodge 55km. This lodge is right at the end of the track – Seddonville is a further 4km (Hotel & campground options)
- Travel, relocated from Seddonville to Lyell (2hrs). Swapping bikes & gear at Lyell Historic Reserve/Carpark (1hr), Lyell to Nelson via van (2hrs)
Several transport partners offer a shuttle relocation from Seddonville/Rough & Tumble Lodge to Lyell. Seddonville is 4km from the end of the Old Ghost Road track and Westport is another 50km to the south. From Westport it is another 62km to the Lyell Reserve where you started.
Buller Adventures – link
Hike n Bike Shuttle – link
Heaphy Bus Company /Trek Express – link
The Rough & Tumble Bush Lodge is right where the track ends and offers really well thought out accommodation, restaurant, cafe & view over the Mokihinui River…a nice treat at the end of an epic ride.
Get Ready to goRide the Old Ghost Road
As always we have the get ready essentials of what to take. As this track is isolated with no vehicle access at any point you need to be fully self contained. The exception being water which you can choose to get from streams & huts – it is drinkable without being boiled or treated (check Old Ghost Road Facebook page or website for up to date information). The second exception is cooking equipment, plates & utensils… there are 4 category 1 huts along the track that are fully resourced with these items. This is great news in terms of being light weight. The category 1 huts are…Lyell Saddle Hut, Ghost Lake Hut, Stern Valley Hut and Specimen Point Hut.
The weather on this trail can be unpredictable so you need to prepare for all conditions. You are going through an alpine area that has been known to experience snow in summer. The West Coast is known as a high rain fall area of NZ. Two sources recommended by the Mokihiuni-Lyell BackCountry Trust are James McGregor’s MetVUW (the South Island wind and precipitation charts are particularly useful) and the Metservice’s mountains and rural forecasts. Because of all this weather we recommend a front mud guard.
YOU will need to carry the following (this is separate to what you choose to ride in on the first day)
- sleeping bag & liner (good to get a hold of the smallest one you can find and attach it to your bike in a waterproof bag).
- waterproof jacket
- lightweight merino/puffer jacket for hut
- riding t-shirt (merino or synthetic)
- warm/waterproof long riding pants
- long sleeve riding top
- toothbrush/mini tube of paste & any personnel medication
- bike light or torch
- a water bottle or hydration pac (everyone in our group of 5 chose a water bottle. This option gets the weight of water off your back. We also knew that there would be regular access to water at streams between huts. This meant we were conscious of filling up regularly.
Pack all this inside a bag/bags that are waterproof or within a waterproof liner. Learn some more about fabric for riding clothing here.
The GROUP will need to carry
Tools which should be divided amongst the group and we recommend carrying tools on the bike rather than in a pack on your back. Just for ease of access and to keep weight off your body.
- pump or CO2 canisters
- spare tubes (2) – I tape mine to my bike frame
- puncture repair kit
- multi tool
- chain breaker, chain links
- brake pads
- derailleur hanger
- cable ties
- small roll of duct tape
For more help with tools see Bike Tool Terms
Within the group
- First Aid Kit & Emergency Kit for Bike Touring with the knowledge needed to use it
- Everyone to take a survival blanket
- Emergency responder beaken – there is no cell phone coverage for most of the track
- Biodegradable toilet paper
- Biodegradable dishwash liquid & a tea towel
- Insect repellent
- Hut reservation print out
Food is a personal preference but try to be light weight and smart, with high energy, slow release choices – dehydrated meals are ideal for bike touring. A good breakfast sets you up well, e.g. porridge, soaked muesli. If you’re riding for more than 2 to 3 hours substantial lunch &/or snack options that include protein e.g. cheese sandwiches, rice&tuna, salami&crackers, bars, bliss balls, scroggin, chocolate, fruit. Choose light weight, portable, flexible packaging where you can…e.g. a foil pack of tuna not a tin can. You want to be able to distribute the weight of food around your bag especially if you are carrying it on your back. You also need to bring out all your rubbish.
I hope you picked up some useful information. If you choose the challenge of The Old Ghost Road you will not be disappointed this track is full of SMILE moments. Promise us you will make it a truly memorable experience by being as prepared as you can be!
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Bike Tools explained
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