hatever your choice of cycling style you’re
never going to come to Queenstown and
say “I’m bored. I can’t find anything to ride.” In fact,
you are more likely to leave, saying “I wish I had
more time” - there is so much more I want to ride.
Whether on road or mountain bike the rides around
Queenstown are some of the best riding
in the country. The road climb up the Crown Range
Road on New Zealand’s highest highway, some
epic back-country rides, the purpose built mountain
bike trail network at 7 Mile or the downhillers
paradise accessed by Skyline Gondola are just
some of the riding that makes Queenstown an
international cycling hub.
The 100 kilometre Queenstown Trail combines a series of trails within the Wakatipu Basin incorporating the wine area of Gibbston, the historic gold-mining town of Arrowtown, Lake Hayes, Frankton, Jack’s Point and Queenstown.
The trail is technically easy and suitable for all ages and abilities however there are a few hill climbs and descents that will require walking for beginners.
The Arrowtown to Queenstown section is currently open for riding and has had significant upgrading. Also ride-able is the linked trails of the Frankton Track, Kelvin Heights Peninsula and Jack’s Point and the very newest trail in the region, the Gibbston River Trail.
Queenstown is privileged to not only be the home of the Queenstown Trail, but also to be the starting point for the Around the Mountains Trail, which will venture into Southland to such towns as Mossburn, Garston and back to Kingston.
This trail starts with a crossing of Lake Wakatipu on the 100-year-old TSS Earnslaw steamship. Cyclists then make their way from the historic Walter Peak Station, through the high country station of Mt Nicholas to camp overnight at Mavora Lakes. This 54km is the only ride-able section currently and most cyclists will return back to Queenstown the same way.
DISTANCE 55 km / 34 miles...TIME 4 - 6 hours
Best ridden from Arrowtown to Queenstown, this trail heads through Millbrook Golf Course and across Slopehill Road before dropping down along the Shotover River and over the historic Shotover Bridge. The trail passes the Queenstown Events centre before meandering around Lake Wakatipu along the Frankton Track into Queenstown.
DISTANCE 25 km / 15.5 miles...TIME 2 - 4 hours
Queenstown’s newest trail runs along the Kawarau River and winds it’s way between the vineyards. Take your time stopping at some of the many wineries for a taste of the world famous Gibbston Pinot Noir or even lunch. The Gibbston Trail is suitable for most riders although there are some steeper undulating parts where families and beginner riders will have to walk their bikes. Start the trail at either the historic Kawarau Bridge, home to Bungy Jumping, or Waitiri Creek Vineyard at the furthest end of Gibbston.
DISTANCE 8 km each way / 5 miles...TIME 1 - 2 hours
suits families and
ou can ride in Queenstown pretty much year
round. Summer has long days with temperatures
up to 30 degrees Celsius (the intensity of the sun
makes it feel even hotter). Long sunshine hours make
for great riding long into the balmy evenings. Winter
will see at least a couple of large snow falls all the way
down to Lake level and average daytime temperatures
of between 5 and 10 degrees. But the dryness and lack
of humidity mean that with a good jacket, gloves and
long riding pants you can have wonderfully still days
with clear blue skies - perfect conditions for riding.
Autumn and spring are favourite riding times for locals.
Compared to the rest of New Zealand Queenstown
has relatively low rainfall and even when the rest of the
country seems shrouded in rain the bad weather will
roll around the basin being held off by impenetrable
mountains on all sides, making for very dry tracks.
The Frankton Trail is perhaps the easiest ride in Queenstown. Head out from the beach in town and around peninsula of the Queenstown Gardens following the lake. When you hit Park St turn right and follow the lake all the way round to the marked Frankton Trail. This ride is mostly flat and the trail is wide - ideal for beginners and families. Go as far as you like and ride back the same way.
DISTANCE 4 km each way / 2.5 miles...TIME 90 mins
The Kelvin Heights Trail can be linked with the Frankton Track or ridden on its own. The trail rides all along the lake edge and right around the peninsula of the Kelvin Heights Golf Course.
The trail is easy up until the golf course where it becomes very narrow with tight turns and rocks and roots to navigate -
suitable for advanced riders only.
If you are heading to Jack’s Point the hard parts can be missed out by cutting the peninsula out, turning left on Grove Lane before the golf course and following Cedar Drive all the way around to Jardines Park at the end of Poplar Drive.
DISTANCE 16 km / 2.5 miles...TIME 1 - 2 hours
The ride to Jack’s Point is a fantastic easy trail for progressing riders. It winds its way high above Lake Wakatipu perched on steep bluffs. The trail is a bit narrower than the Kelvin Heights Trail and more undulating but can be completed by most riders. Ride all the way to Jack’s Point and push your bike up the last steep sections for a big lunch or coffee at the Jack’s Point Golf Clubhouse.
An easy ride is the Arrow River - Anniversary Trail starting in Arrowtown. From the parking area beside the Arrow River head downstream following the trail as it winds its way through bush areas. Cross over the bridge and head down the left hand bank of the Arrow River before crossing back and riding up the right bank to head back to Arrowtown.
DISTANCE 5 km / 3 miles...TIME 35 mins
For those looking for a challenge the Tobins Track can be added. It is not too steep but a long relentless climb that rewards cyclists with stunning views out over Arrowtown and the Wakatipu Basin.
DISTANCE 4.5 km / 3 miles...TIME 30 - 60 mins
Alternatively an epic back-country ride is the 30km return ride into the abandoned goldmining town of Macetown. This intermediate ride crosses no fewer than 12 rivers (at most thigh depth) as it winds it way up the Arrow River. There are old mining huts and relics of the hey-day to explore once in Macetown. It is also possible to camp there.
DISTANCE 30km / 18.5 miles...TIME 2 - 4 hours
Moke Lake is 5km from Queenstown off the Glenorchy Road. The Moke Lake Loop is an easy-intermediate circumnavigation of the Lake.
DISTANCE 4 km / 2.5 miles...TIME 45 mins
At the south-end of Moke Lake continue toward Lake Dispute where an intermediate trail takes you all the way back to the Glenorchy road. The end of this trail is quite steep and some riders may choose to walk that short section.
DISTANCE 4 km / 2.5 miles...TIME 45 mins
Moke Lake can also be reached from Arthurs Point on the advanced single track Moonlight Trail. The Moonlight Trail can be ridden in both directions although it is easiest Arthurs Point to Moke Lake and will require some bike carrying regardless.
DISTANCE 14 km / 8.5 miles...TIME 2 hours
A lovely easy ride is north on the Moonlight Trail from Moke Lake turning around at the old mining settlement of Seffers Town. You can even drop down to the Moke Stream and ride back to Moke Lake along the steam.
DISTANCE 12 km / 7.5 miles...TIME 60 - 90 mins
This trail circumnavigates Lake Hayes and is extremely popular with cyclists and walkers all year round. The easiest route is to ride in an anti-clockwise direction. The Lake Hayes loop can be connected to the Queenstown to Arrowtown Trail by turning off Slopehill Rd at Rutherford Rd.
It is possible to ride all the way into Skippers Canyon and there are a number of trails within there that can be explored. There is a DoC campground where you can base yourself. Permission must be obtained to ride onto Branches Station where there is a number of fabulous back-country rides.
DISTANCE 12 kms each way / 7.5 miles...TIME 2 - 4 hours
A popular ride is the more difficult Skippers Pack Track which runs adjacent to the Skippers Road from the saddle. This flowing single track is steep in parts with a few fences and creeks to cross. From the bottom ride back up the road for a nice one-hour loop.
DISTANCE 10.5 kms / 6.5 miles...TIME 1 hour
The equally advanced downhill Zoot Track descends off the Skippers Saddle on the other side taking you back toward Queenstown connecting with the Coronet Peak Rd.
DISTANCE 1.5 kms / 0.9 miles...TIME 10 mins
Another hard ride is across Mt Dewar to the saddle and over to Devils Creek, with a long tough climb back up to the summit of Mt Dewar and the Skippers Saddle.
DISTANCE 12 kms / 7.5 miles...TIME 2 - 3 hours
Stepping it up a gear the ride up to Coal Pit Saddle are for those that like long relentless climbs in the granny gear. Starting in Gibbston cyclists climb up Coal Pit Saddle Rd for 5.5km as it turns from a gravel road to a rough 4WD drive track high above the Valley of the Vines.
Once at the saddle turn left to continue toward Ben Cruachan for a further 7.5 kilometres on a narrow single track over some large cliff areas or right for a 7.5 kilometre ride heading further up along the ridge line to Mt Rosa. The climb over Mt Rosa continues to be a strenuous climb - but the views and feeling of being so small in such a large environment are really worth it. A brake burning descent takes you over the back of the Nevis Bluff to State Highway 6 with a short 6km road ride back into Gibbston for a well earned glass of the regions famous wine.
DISTANCE 13 - 30 kms / 8 - 18.5 miles...TIME 3 - 5 hours
Heading out of town on the Glenorchy Road is the DoC camping area of 12 Mile Delta. An easy to intermediate ride takes cyclists through to Bob’s Cove. There are a few tricky sections that will need to be walked for novice riders particularly on the return leg from Bob’s Cove, but it is still a ride that most cyclists can enjoy. In Bob’s Cove you will find historic lime kilns and hut ruins to explore.
The climb up the affectionately known “zig-zags” and onward to the top of the Crown Range attracts riders from all over the world. The road is smooth and the climb gets steeper as you go on. The descent toward Wanaka is fast and furious on smooth well-cambered roads. Stop at the historic Cardrona Hotel for coffee or even make that your turn around point to head back.
DISTANCE 75 km each way / 46.5 miles...TIME 3 - 5 hours
Heading past the historic
Kawarau Bridge, the home of Bungy Jumping, and out through Gibbston and the acres of vineyards, this ride takes cyclists weaving through the narrow Kawarau Gorge as it towers over the foaming Kawarau River before literally bursting back into the open at Cromwell. You can continue all the way to Wanaka along the edge of Lake Dunstan and complete the 230km circuit back over the Crown Range to Queenstown.
DISTANCE 65 km each way / 40 miles...TIME 2 - 3 hours
The road to Kingston winds its way all the way
down Lake Wakatipu, squeezed at some stages between the immense Remarkables Ranges and the glistening lake. The winding nature of this road means that even when you do meet cars they are going pretty slowly and will give you a good berth.
DISTANCE 50 km each way / 31 miles...TIME 90 - 120 mins
The ride to Glenorchy follows the northern shores of
Lake Wakatipu with spectacular views. This road is often quieter than the other main roads.
DISTANCE 45 km each way / 28 miles...TIME 2 3 hours
At most times of the year the roads around Queenstown are not too busy and offer some of the most scenic road rides in New Zealand. (Road rides are not graded)
The Grand Basin circuit is a 50 kilometre loop taking in Arrowtown, Lake Hayes, Frankton, Queenstown with an 8 kilometre grunt up to the Coronet Peak Skifiled thrown in for good measure. Head out of Queenstown via Frankton on the busy State Highway 6 all the way to Arrow Junction at the foot of the Crown Range, and then return from Arrowtown on the quiet country road of Malaghans Rd.
DISTANCE 50 km / 31 miles...TIME 90 - 120 mins
Hiring or buying
a bike in QueenstownThere are loads of shops in Queenstown hiring and selling bikes. You can expect to pay between $10 and $20 per hour or $30 and $50 per day including helmets and repair kits. Check out hiking and biking on queenstownNZ.co.nz
‘Rock Snot’ or Didymo is a mat-like growth that is
clogging up South Island rivers. Fight the spread of
it by washing your bike and gear after all rides that
you are going to ride on private land
please obtain permission beforehand for the sake
of everyone’s continued access into the future.
Many of the tracks are on farmland. Steer clear of
livestock giving them plenty of time to get out of
your way. Leave the gates exactly as you find them.
Lambing season is approximately September to
late November. You should not be riding anywhere
near sheep at this time.
the rides that match your ability and
ride within your own limits. If you are uncertain
where to ride, ask at a local shop or even hire a
guide. If you are riding out on any of the back-
country rides such as the Moonlight or Macetown,
take the same precautions you would if you were
hiking. Don’t ride alone. Let someone know where
you are going and when you will be back.
Take a first aid kit and bike tools and know how to
use them both.
The rides in Queenstown
are often in alpine environs where the weather can
change very quickly. A southerly wind can build
quickly and be very cold. Take at least a spare
thermal and emergency blanket on all rides.
Walkers have priority and horses
get easily spooked by cyclists - just be considerate.
Pass with care. Avoid sneaking up on walkers with
a simple hello.
Bob’s Peak right in the heart of Queenstown village is a world-class downhillers paradise. Either ride the steep gravel road or take the brand new Skyline Gondola to ride the many downhill tracks. The newly developed Hammy’s Trail is a 6km trail around the perimeter of the biking area suitable for intermediate riders or to provide access to the many steep, narrow and rough downhills tracks for advanced riders. Try out Vertigo, Rock Garden, Original or “Single Track” Sandwich if you are capable and mad! A single gondola ride with bike is $30 or a full day pass is $70 (open September to April). Or you could always do it like we have always done and ride up the gravel access road.
Looking for something
different? “Wow” is a word commonly used to
describe Queenstown massive jump park - professionally built for huge air and open to everyone. If you have a couple of double back flips up your sleeve be sure to check this place out.
Or at the opposite end of the scale if you
are completely new to single-track try the purpose built trails at Jardines Park. They are completely flat and perfect for beginners and kids with small berms and roll-over jumps to whet the appetite. The trails wind through pine forest for about 5 kilometers and are just great fun for everyone.
7 Mile is a purpose built mountain bike area for riders of all ability with loads of flowing single track as well as man-made features and jumps. For first timers to 7 Mile the best option is to enter from Wilsons Bay on the Glenorchy Rd (you can also ride in from 7 Mile car park) and ride up the to The Hub - the central area where a number of trails start from. Try the intermediate Cool Runnings as a warm up. If that has whet the appetite head up to the Eagles Nest area and ride the Kachoong Trail. Exit back down to Wilsons Bay on Grin and Holler. This nice intro circuit will take you about 2 hours - although you could easily spend a whole day “playing” at 7 Mile.