First of New Zealand’s great trail rides is now open

The first of New Zealand’s ‘Great Rides’ - a national cycle trail showcasing some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes – is now open. The St James Cycle Trail passes through an iconic South Island backcountry conservation area, near the tourist town of Hanmer Springs, in Canterbury's Southern Alps. So grab your bikes peeps, there are some awesome stuff to see just off the beaten track.

NOT FOR THE FEINT HEARTED

The 64km St James Trail offers iconic scenery and a mix of trail standards, down spectacular river valleys, past high-country lakes, through beech forest and grassland valleys in an important conservation area.

Of the 18 nationally promoted cycle trails, it requires the greatest level of experience to complete.

Experienced mountain bikers are expected to complete the full trail in roughly 10 hours, but if you prefer to take your time and break up the trip into a number of days there are four huts along the way that you can book a space in. You can also camp beside the river.

A good soak in the Hanmer Springs hot pools on the way home wouldn’t go astray either.

The cycleway mainly follows the Waiau River, and the full trip is designed for experienced mountain bikers but the entry tracks to the Waiau River along Edwards valley or over Maling Pass (and to Lake Guyon) are suitable for intermediate level cyclists.

Local native vegetation includes red, mountain and silver beech / tawhairauriki / tawhairaunui forests, mānuka / kānuka and matagouri scrublands, alpine and tussock species, and a vast expanse of native grasslands. Some 430 indigenous species of flora and 30 native bird species have been identified – so keep an eye out for some pretties.

Check out more details about the St James trail here.


NGA HAERENGA, THE NZ CYCLE TRAIL

Nga Haerenga - meaning ‘the journeys’ in a physical and spiritual sense - is the name of a national cycleway network, a series of 18 great rides through some of New Zealand’s most iconic and picturesque country.

The aim is to have 18 ‘Great Rides’ completed and ready for use by summer 2012 – 2013, and the St James Trail is the first fully completed trail but there are others that are partially finished.

The 18 trails are across New Zealand in regions including Northland, Hauraki, Rotorua, Opotiki / Gisborne, Waikato, Ruapehu, Taupo, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson Bay / Tasman, West Coast, Aoraki / Mount Cook / Waitaki, Queenstown, Southland and Clutha.


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