Wakatipu Trails - Where to Ride Guide 2019

In our last article we touched on some of things we thought would help you if you’re heading to Queenstown and you’d like to take a ride.  We touched on where to get your bike rentals and gear from, shared our favorite bike websites, and listed a few bike transfers & tour companies.  We’re going to follow this up today with a general list and description of the different trails in the Wakatipu Basin.

Now we're not wanting to reinvent the wheel here, so we've listed the most popular trails and their descriptions as outlined by the NZByBike, Mountain Bike Queenstown, Trailforks and Queenstown Trails Trust web sites.  In most cases we have ‘quoted’ directly from these sites, but added a few comments of our own!

There are over 120km of prepared trails as part of the Queenstown Trails Trust, which can have your looping around central Queenstown or getting as far out as Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley via Lake Hayes.  Trails around the regions can be categorised by levels and distance.  Furthermore the Mountain Bike club build and maintain a whole host of awesome tracks so definitely head to their web page to get the more specific details on the clusters of trails on offer.

NZbyBike / Queenstown Trails Trust

Gibbston River trail - 9 Km, Easy

The Gibbston River Trail explores the lovely Gibbston wine region of the Wakatipu. Cycle amongst the vineyards, sample local Pinot Noir and take in the splendour of the mighty Kawarau River. 

Authors Note: You can hire a bike from Gibbston Valley Bike Hire.  Use peddle power to explore the great vineyards found along this valley for a hugely fun morning or afternoon ride – but stick around and enjoy a lunch platter of scrumptious local fare paired with local wines!

Queenstown to Frankton -6 km Each Way, Easy

The easiest of all of the rides, this is a very cruisy and predominantly flat ride on the trail from queenstown back towards Frankton.

Authors Note:  This would be our recommended ride for the general tourist wanting to see a little more of the lake and stretch the legs at the same time.  Spectacular scenery at the turning point of the Peninsula in Queenstown Gardens with vistas both down and up the lake – definitely photo worthy. 

Our other tip is that’s its worth the ride out in the morning to have breakfast at the Boat Shed Café, about 6.4km from town – or an early evening glass of Rose on the front deck as the sun sets back over Queenstown!

Lake Wakatipu ride – 15 km – One Way, Easy

This ride sets off from downtown Queenstown and follows the shores of the lake around to Kelvin Heights. A wide shared-path, it is highly suited for families. 

Authors Note:  This ride is an extension of the Queenstown to Frankton trail described above.  The peninsula side of the trail is a tad more challenging but worth the trip to look back onto queenstown.  There are a couple of great stops along the way – A glass of Pinot in the Pit at the Hilton, or a lighter beer at the Queenstown Golf Club!

If the 15 km’s plus those few wines has exhausted you, then hop a lift back to queenstown on a public Ferry or a private waterTaxi 

Arrow River Bridges Ride - 16 km one way, Easy

The trail from Arrowtown to GIbbston crosses five newly constructed bridges over the Arrow River and passes through quaint country lanes and paddocks. You'll cross the world-famous AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge before arriving in beautiful Gibbston Valley, via the Gibbston River Trail.

Authors Note;  You can hire bikes from Arrowbikes.co.nz.  Start your day at the ‘world famous in Queenstown’ best sticky bun from Provisions Café , a historical cottage conversion in Arrowtown or aim to finish up at one of the many wineries alongside the trail.  If you get sozzled at a winery then you can always call one of the bike transport companies listed at the top of this section for a bike free return to your accommodation!

Lake Hayes circuit - 8 km, Intermediate

Complete the loop of this beautiful lake - one of the country's most photographed. Follow single track and boardwalks around the lake edge, passing historic cottages and plenty of iconic viewpoints. This short ride is a must-do.

Authors Note:  This is a hugely popular walking and running trail too so keep an eye out for foot traffic!  You can cycle here from Queenstown (14.5km approx.) or from Arrowtown (approx. 6kms).  Closest café is the devinly scrumptious Akarua Wines & Kitchen who have a fantastic shared salmon platter – to die for!

Countryside ride - 12 km, Intermediate

This section of the trail connects the Shotover River with Arrowtown, while taking in the peaceful countryside of the Wakatipu. Throughout most of the ride you have views of The Remarkables and you pass the luxurious Millbrook Resort. The Shotover Bridge is also an attraction of its own.

Authors Note:  While a nice ride in itself, its much better when paired with the Lake Hayes Loop

Twin Rivers Ride - 26 Km, Intermediate

This section of the Queenstown Trail links Frankton to Gibbston Valley. Mostly following the vivid blue waters of the Kawarau River, it also winds up to cross the iconic Lower Shotover Bridge. The newly built cycle trail passes rolling farmland and native forest before climbing high above the river with sweeping views of the Wakatipu Basin and Remarkables. This track does have a couple challenging hills, but these can be walked if needed.

Authors Note:  if you want spectacular scenery then this is a must ride!  In any season the vistas on this ride are breathtaking.  There are no toilets or cafes on this section of the track – if you want or need either, then take a wee diversion up in to Lake Hayes Estate and treat yourself to coffee at The Hayes Kitchen Bar & Deli.

Jacks Point ride - 12 km, Advanced

This might be one of the most spectacular day rides in the Queenstown Region. It can be combined with the Lake Wakatipu Ride (above), or ridden separately. Following on from Kelvin Heights, there are some bigger climbs that might not suit beginners or children, but the views down Lake Wakatipu are simply stunning.

Authors Note: Like many of these rides around the region, you can do this return from Queenstown (stops possible at The Hilton or Queenstown Golf Club) or One Way.  Pretty much at the end of the trail it’s possible to ride up and into the housing division called Jacks Point, which surrounds the Jacks Point Golf Club.  There you will fine one of our favorite eateries – Jacks Point Club House and this is well worth the stop and lunch / dinner / glass of wine!  Grab a transfer home – you won’t regret it!  The views down the lake towards Kingston are jaw dropping, as are the views across to Walter Peak and Mount Nicholas!

Coronet Peak Rude Rock

Queenstown Mountain Bike Club

A hugely active community based riding club which promotes the development of mountain bike trails and biking areas within the Queenstown area in a coordinated, safe and legal manner. These guys do a lot to promote this sport and work hard at maintaining trails and developing new ones.  If you are serious about riding then drop these guys a line, and free up a Wednesday night to help them out with trail maintenance – what goes around comes around!

The following trails fall under QMTBC’s guardianship and again, so as not to reinvent the well I’ve ripped the descriptions directly from their web site, and added a few notes of my own.

Skyline Mountain Bike Park – Queenstown – Intermediate to Advanced

Probably the most popular downhill trail, accessible from the centre of Queenstown is the Skyline MTB Park.  It’s an epic fun day of riding  - 30 world-class trails totalling over 30 kilometres in length and dropping 450 metres.  Your pass allows you to lap the Gondola – all you have to worry about is hanging on!

Authors Note:  Actually a few words from the lovely folks at Skyline; ‘The trails are specifically designed for full suspension mountain bikes - We can't emphasise enough, that the Ben Lomond Recreation Reserve is a significantly different experience from cross-country riding. The trails require constant physical and mental effort in order for all riders to maintain control’.  Without full suspension, fatigue becomes a factor much sooner, and the steep grades necessitate disc brakes for adequate stopping power’.

Coronet Peak – Intermediate to Advanced

25 minutes from town is the winter ski field Coronet Peak.  In summer there are some gnarly rides to be had over alpine tussock and schist rock terrain with a good mix of XC, Enduro and DH.  Routes include Rude Rock, Zoot Track, Skippers Pack Track, Coronet XC / Enduro, Corotown, Pack Track And Sack, and Coronet Down Hill.

Authors Note:  Last we heard, the lifts are not open for summer operation this year.  In fact, due to summer maintenance you can’t access anything above the Base Building, so check out their website first before making the trek up.  Nor do they open the facilities up over summer so the only loo is a portaloo normally anchored somewhere around the drop zone.  Also there is no transport of any nature up there, so you’ll need to get dropped off and picked up from the bottom!

Gorge Road  Jump Park

QMTBC have this to say about this gem of a jump park located 5 minutes drive from the centre of Queenstown on Gorge Road: ‘A world class facility, precision built and maintained by a large local crew. The lines here are whatever you can imagine! Open in the summer, grab a hose, spray and ride away! Perfect for BMX and Dirt Jump Bikes of ALL levels! It's even a good spot to hang out and watch the locals do their thing! Please note: The park is generally open from mid-November until May, depending on weather.’

Authors Note – Please help us maintain this amazing facility by mucking in and hosing down the lines.  A little help goes a long way!


7 Mile Trails

‘Our local favourite! 7 Mile has seen a little love this winter with some trail makeovers and an awesome new jump trail, “Jack B Nimble”. Next on the list is a new skills zone which will include a number of wooden features and a pump trail.  Perfect for all level of riders to practice and develop skills.’

Authors Note – These sets of trails are named for their distance from Queenstown – 7 miles.  Its more of a destination than a specific ride, with over approx. 30 trails which are mountain bike friendly.  You can spend the whole day out here just blatting around and taking in the magnificent scenery!  Check out Trailforks for more in depth riding profiles

Fernhill Trails

Fernhill Roots

‘Rooty goodness and plenty of flow all wrapped up in awesome Beech forest. Fernhill roots is ridden as a 2 way trail so you can ride/push up from the bike park half way clearing or you can just drop in from ‘Beeched As’. This trail has always been a favourite among the local Queenstown bikers.

Beeched As

Beeched As links the top of the Queenstown Bike Park to the top of the Fernhill trails.  You’re best on a trail bike as it’s undulating singletrack with some technical ups and downs and a few exposed sections. You’ll find the trail above the start of Hammies. The trail is suitable for intermediate riders

Salmon Run

If steep and technical is your thing then don’t miss Salmon Run. Starting at the Kelly McGarry Memorial Table at the very top of fernhill loop Salmon Run winds its way down some steep terrain to the Wynyard Bike Park. You’ll come across tight corners, roots, steep shoots, slippery rocks, reasonable exposure and the infamous Vagina Tree.

Missing Link

Missing Link is an epic singletrack from the Ben Lomond Saddle at 1326m which snakes along the ridge line and then drops into tussocky switchbacks and end in some rolling beech forest trail which connects you to ‘Beeched As’. It’s a decent effort to get to the saddle on the Ben Lomond walking track but well worth it. Don’t forget your camera!


The Remarkables

‘The Remarkables has a couple trail options. With a good shuttle track at the bottom, starting at the cattle grid, making for easy access to loads of laps. The terrain can vary all year as the mountain conditions change and best suited to confident advanced bikers.’


Moonlight - Moke Lake

The Moonlight Track is a technical backcountry single track which starts in Arthurs Point and winds up high in the hills above the Shotover Canyon. This is an amazing ride to leave you feeling like your riding in the middle of nowhere and it is just you and nature.


Wynyard Bike Park

There is something for everyone here. Small Jumps to learn on, getting larger and larger up to the monsters of Dream Track. These bigger jumps are only for experienced riders. The smaller Jumps on Mini Dream are heaps of fun and offer great progression for all. 


While the information above was as close to accurate as we could get, please remember to check out the websites for these trails or pop in and chat with the different stores that we outlined in our first article - make sure the information is up to date and you are well prepared before heading out!  

Get out, Get Active, Explore, Eat, Drink, Ride and Enjoy!