Best Bikepacking Trails for 2021 in New Zealand
Bikepacking, the wondrous fusion between camping and cross-country riding, is the ultimate Kiwi sport. It forces us up from our commuter bike saddles and drags us into the wilderness to experience nature. If you’re bikepacking, you take very little with you, so the only thing you have to rely on is your two legs, your two wheels, and the wide-open sky.
Whether you’ve just jumped on the bandwagon or you’ve been bikepacking for years, there’s one thing every bikepacker has in common: searching for the next great trail. The perfect trail combines the best of backpacking and cycling, offering a long and open space with gorgeous vistas alongside places to shelter when night falls.
For this blog post, we’re chronicling some of the best trails spanning the Land of the Long White Cloud. Scroll through for your next adventure inspiration!
Hopkins Valley One-Nighter – Intermediate, 2 Days, 66km
A shot of the New Zealand alps that line the Hopkins Valley trail.
Our first trail is short and sweet, but don’t let that fool you, there are some tough spots that demand technical cycling. This gorgeous South Island trail demands only one night from you, granting you gorgeous views of snow-capped mountains and calm, frigid waters.
Before you hop on the saddle, keep in mind that you’ll be spending at least a fifth of the trail walking, since some spots aren’t rideable. However, this is easily made up by the rest of the unpaved trail. This isn’t recommended for inexperienced riders, and anyone planning to overnight the trail should absolutely pack warm.
Old Ghost Road – Intermediate, 3 Days, 84km
A single rider on a bushy cliff, riding the Old Ghost Road.
Next up, we have the Old Ghost Road. Creepy in name and in nature, this entire road is fairly rideable, but it will test you from time to time. This is New Zealand’s longest single-track ride, creeping through native bush and rocky alpine heights. If backcountry riding is your game, then the Old Ghost Road is where you need to go.
Keep in mind that this trail is equipped with its own huts and campsites, so finding a place to camp won’t be an issue. However, since this is a longer ride, you’ll need some clever packing skills to make sure you’re well-fed.
Once again, if you’re not 100% comfortable in the saddle just yet, we wouldn’t recommend this for your first foray. However, if you consider yourself an intermediate rider, have a good mountain bike, and have three extra days on your hands, then have at it!
The St. James Loop – Easy, 2 Days, 93km
A wide shot of two riders on the St. James Loop.
Third on our list is the St. James Loop, an easy two-day ride that’s perfect for anyone new to bikepacking. At 93km long, this is a fantastic trail to test a beginner’s mettle, and the dramatic mountainous landscape will provide ample motivation in the form of stunning scenery.
There’s plenty of water along the loop and the trail doesn’t demand a lot of technique, so it’s smooth sailing for all 93 gorgeous kilometres. You’ll occasionally be challenged by a steep climb, and the distance will undeniably test you, but at the end you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.
If you’re looking for a more technical ride, you can always try the Fowler’s Pass that runs right through the middle of the St. James Loop, or you can ride along the river as well.
No. 8 Wired – Tough, 4 Days, 241km
A lone rider tackling a mountainous trail.
Our final trail is the best of the best for experienced riders. Here we have a technically difficult North Island ride that is completely worth the effort. This ride embraces the Kiwi ‘figure it out’ mentality, as you’ll only see success on the trail if you can make it work for yourself. This route track follows a figure eight, winding through wine country, fur seal encampments, and pastoral New Zealand. In other words, this ride has it all.
Along the way, we guarantee you’ll find yourself in the middle of some of the best scenery you’ve ever seen. This truly is the road not taken, so you can immerse yourself in the untouched nature that’s becoming harder to find these days. This is a taxing and technically difficult trail, taking place over four days to complete. Most of the track is an easy ride, but Aorangi Forest Park is tough. So, make sure you’re taking all proper precautions including:
· Warm cycling clothes
· Plenty of food
· Well-stocked first aid kit
· Personal locator beacon
If you’re taking on this ride, note that you should not ride alone, especially through the forest, just to be safe. It does, however, make the perfect ride to take on with a biking buddy. You’ll also have to warn the people at Ngapotiki Station that you’ll be passing through with a quick phone call, so make sure you stop somewhere you have signal.
As always, whenever you venture into the great outdoors make sure you’re being safe and prepared. Otherwise, head into the unknown with a sense of adventure, and enjoy 2021!
Grab all the gear you need for your next bikepacking trail from 99 Bikes.