yha christchurch cyclist couple looking over lyttleton in the port hills

Top 8 Mountain Biking Towns in New Zealand

Whether you're an avid downhill mountain biker or trail rider, our 35+ hostels have you covered when it comes to hanging up your helmet at the end of the ride. Check out our list, from North to South!

North Island
South Island
Adventure
Must-Do

North Island

Paihia

Starting in the north of the North, with a world class bike park! The Waitangi Mountain Bike Park caters to all levels of ability, including lots of easy, scenic trails that you can take at your own pace for those just getting started. It offers over 20 trails (50km) of varying difficulty with great flow and features, from introductory downhill riding, jump trails, cross country, beginner trails, and tracks for the experts.

Designed by Jeff Carter from Southstar Trails (who also built the world-class trails in the Redwoods, Rotorua), there are plenty of fast, flowing berms, rollers and jumps. The downhill trails make the most of the vertical elevation to generate a lot of payoff from a small amount of climbing - plus spectacular views of the ocean from the top! All up there are five zones to be developed (70-80km!) so there's plenty more trail development planned in the years to come.

Where to stay: YHA Paihia

Just 4km away from the park, YHA Paihia makes a great base to relax after a day of trail-riding. Hostel Owner Andy has all the contacts to organise your trip, including bike rental and shuttles from Paihia Mountain Bikes. Relax in the outdoor dining area or TV lounge, or enjoy the short stroll along the beach to a variety of restaurants and shops in town.

Book YHA Paihia

YHA Paihia outdoor dining area

 

Rotorua

This should be one of the first destinations on your list if you're keen on biking in the North Island! The city boasts some impressive events with the first leg of Crankworx hitting 17 - 25 March 2019. A celebration of world-class mountain biking, this event makes full use of the Skyline Gravity Bike Park. Here the 10km of trails are made more accessible by the Gondola ride to the top! Nduro run a full calendar of events including the Whaka100, 20-21 October 2018. 

Whakarewarewa Forest is also home to world-renowned trails through beautiful Redwoods. Current estimates say there are 150km of trails, to suit all levels.

Ohakune


Not just a ski haven, Ohakune is perfectly located near the start of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail, with easy transport access to three of the five sections.

Take a shuttle to the top of Ruapehu and ride the 1000m descent down the mountain on the Ohakune Mountain Road. This is an easy ride on a sealed road through the UNESCO-listed Tongariro National Park.

Ohakune Old Coach Road can be ridden in either direction as a day trip, exploring some of New Zealand's oldest rail history over some pretty epic-looking bridges. It's a grade 2, with most punters choosing to ride towards Ohakune for more downhill stretches.

The grade 3 Mangapurua Track (Bridge to Nowhere) is touted as one of the most beautiful trails in the region. Do it as a one day leg or carry on to the next section of the trail by jet boat!

Wellington


For a capital city, there are a surprising number of cool trails quite close to town. 15 minutes from downtown (and YHA Wellington) is Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park. This is a shared area with 40km of mixed grade tracks set in 250 hectares of native bush. Sweet!

Other central city spots are Mt Victoria, known for 360 views of Wellington city, and Polhill Reserve, very close to Victoria University. It is possible to make your way from Polhill back to Makara without setting foot on a road if you're a more experienced rider. Te Kopahou Reserve and Hawkins Hill are the way to go if this is your aim, or if you're keen on checking out Red Rocks and a view of the South Island.

Alternatively, if you're staying out near the airport, Miramar has you covered with Centennial Reserve. 

South Island

Nelson

Mountain biking in Nelson
This town is a strong contender for MTB Capital of New Zealand. It's a good place to start or finish your journey if you're biking the remote Heaphy Track, or one of the trails near Abel Tasman National Park. Plenty of trails around the underrated St Arnaud and Nelson Lakes area top off this trio of beaut locations.

There are a grand total of six mountain bike parks in the area, which means some serious downhills closer to town too. Dun Mountain is a popular route as part of the Codgers MTB Park, located right next to the township. This park contains three hills and a multitude of rides so you can tailor a route to suit yourself.

If you're heading out Abel Tasman way, there's a purpose built bike park out at Kaiteriteri that might catch your eye. The single track trails here are designed for all skill levels, set in 180ha of native bush. A bit further afield, you can also access the Old Ghost Road near Westport. This is one of the premier multi-day rides in the country, so don't miss it!

Where to stay: YHA Nelson

YHA Nelson lounge area with foosball

This five star backpacker hostel is located in the Nelson township, which means easy access to a number of local trails and still being able to grab a hot meal at the end of the day. There are bikers on staff who can supply their top tips, and bike hire at the hostel, and storage for between rides. The Saturday Farmers Market is located right next door - great for grabbing a picnic lunch before you hit the tracks.

Book YHA Nelson

Picton


The Queen Charlotte Track is a must-ride trail and there's no better place to base yourself than Picton. The Sounds are an absolutely stunning location, so you'll have no trouble passing the time on this long-haul track. At 70km worth of trails, Queen Charlotte is one of the longest pieces of continuous track in the country. This Great Ride is narrow and steep in some places, bringing it in at a grade 3/4.

There are a number of beautiful places to stay and/or grab a bite along the route, but minimal facilities available between them, so you'll need to carry or transport your gear and repair materials.

The section between Meretoto/Ship Cove and Kenepuru Saddle is closed to bikes 1 December - 28 February each year, so plan around the busy summer period. We recommend riding the track in two-three days so you can afford to stop every so often, have a dip, and take in those beautiful views!


Biker on the Queen Charlotte Track

Where to stay: YHA Picton

YHA Picton viewed from the street YHA Picton shared garden area


Your host Rob has been involved with developing the Queen Charlotte Track so he's in a great position to give you insider knowledge. YHA Picton offers a free booking service to and from the track, and can organise luggage storage and tent hire. They've also got a spa pool, and free hot apple crumble with ice cream and breakfast from May to October. Bonus!

Book YHA Picton

Wanaka


If you're looking for a variety of tracks in one destination, Wanaka is the place for you. Intersperse longer, scenic rides with dedicated downhills for days of enjoyment. Sticky Forest is a network of 20+ single track intermediate and advanced rides, right next to the township. Dean’s Bank is also popular; the purpose-built 11km loop suits intermediate riders with some obstacles to provide a bit of a challenge and some fantastic fun riding.

You can also make full use of Cardrona (a well-known ski field) in their off-season. They're getting the most out of their chairlifts to get you and your bike to the top so you can maximise your time on the downhill runs. There's a good mix of intermediate and advanced trails here so it's not for the faint-hearted.

If you're still in need of an adrenaline fix, Wanaka is a great spot for Helibiking. There are lots of different options available here.

Queenstown


The home of downhill mountain biking in central Queenstown, Skyline gets a special mentions for providing Gondola-assisted access to Queenstown Bike Park. 30km of tracks accommodating all levels wind through the pine trees of Ben Lomond Reserve, before funneling you back to the Gondola for your next ride up!

Trail lovers will find something to enjoy here too. For a leisurely scenic ride try the Frankton Track by the lake, cycle out to Arrowtown, Kawarau Bridge, or around Lake Hayes. The Queenstown Trail is a more comprehensive ride incorporating these shorter sections.

A little further afield, head towards Glenorchy and you'll discover 7 Mile and 12 Mile tracks (so named for their distance from Queenstown Central), both popular with locals and with stunning views.

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