Weekend Rides - Paparoa Trail

Pete Marshall | Mon 11th Jan 2021 16:30

The Paparoa track is New Zealand's newest Great Walk, built with both walkers and mountain bikers in mind. Pete Marshall from the Web Team and partner Carys Coleman rode it over the Christmas break.

The Paparoa track is 56km long, located in the Paparoa National Park in the South Island and was built as a memorial for the 29 miners who lost their lives in the Pike River Mine disaster. The track is the 10th great walk to be created and has been open since March last year. The track can be ridden in either direction but the preferred direction is from Blackpool to Punakaiki. The track takes you through alpine tops, limestone landscapes and rainforests and provides breath-taking views. Doc.govt.nz gives the track an Advanced Grade 4 rating for biking. If you are comfortable riding Old Ghost Road you will have no issues with the Paparoa track. Doc recommends two days to complete the ride but Pete and Carys easily completed the track in 7 hours, which included stops at all of the huts, photos and enjoying the views.

Elevation Profile provided from DOC

Waking up in Punakaiki on the morning of the 27th we knew we were in for a good day riding, the sun was coming up and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky or breath of wind. We had stayed the night at the Punakaiki Beach Camp and had booked a shuttle through the campground to drive us and our bikes to the start of the track in Blackball. We met Jed, our shuttle driver, and two other couples. One was planning to ride the track and the other was going to run/walk it, everyone was planning on doing the track in one day. A chap turned up just before we were to leave, he was going to walk the track in several days staying at all of the huts. Next we were off with Jed driving us to Blackpool to start our Paparoa adventure.

As the van played Fat Freddy’s drop on the stereo, Jed told us much about the area and stories on our drive. It was a scenic drive along the coast with views of Mount Cook in the distance, time passed quickly and we were soon in Blackball.

From Blackball a 15 minute drive up the Croesus Track Road to the Smoke-ho car park and we were ready to start biking the track. The first section of track saw up riding up to Ces Clark Hut, this was just over 10kms with 685meters of climbing. The Carpark had us starting at about 300 meters so we were now at about 1000meters. The track was mostly uphill with a couple of small downhill and flat sections, it was reasonably easy going but there were a few technical loose rock sections to get over. We were in the trees for most of the climbing only breaking the treeline for the last section close to the hut. We stopped at the hut for a short period, getting a bite, talking to others up there and then continued on our way.

On our way to Ces Clark Hut

From the hut we continued to climb but the grade had eased or were we distracted by the breath-taking views all around us? Did I say there were breath-taking views? The climb was soon over and the track flattened out with a few undulations. This section of track had us riding about 10kms to Moonlight Tops Hut and had us traversing a ridge with amazing 360-degree views. We were so fortunate to have perfect weather - blue skies as far as the eye could see and little wind. This is really a place to be experienced, but you do want good weather for it as the tops section is very exposed.

Views from the top were stunning!

Before we got to Moonlight Tops Hut we came to a fork in the track, a left turn would lead us down the Croesus track into Barrytown. The Croesus track is a technical downhill, a rugged tramping track you can ride, I have heard it’s a lot of fun for the experienced rider but also a long push back up! We continued on the main track to Moonlight Tops Hut.

Moonlight Tops Hut was packed with people, all riding the track today. We stopped here and sat next to the group we chatted to at Ces Clark and had lunch. Moonlight Tops is a 20 bunk hut with a couple bedrooms, this would be the hut you would want to stay in if you planned the Paparoa track over 2 days. What was to follow next was an amazing piece of trail to Pororari Hut, this was easily our favourite piece of track from the ride. 19kms of undulating but mostly downhill track with steep cliffs, the stunning views just got better. About halfway along the track past an emergency shelter we dropped down into the “goblin” forest, the forest had a certain eeriness about it and was phenomenal to ride through. We continued to descend and reached rocky outcrops and natural rock-gardens, a stunning waterfall and swing bridge before finally climbing again up to the Pororari Hut.

19kms of mostly downhill to Pororari Hut

At Pororari Hut we stopped for a snack break before continuing the last 17kms to the end of the track. We descended the beautiful lush forest down to meet the Pororari river and follow it someway before leaving the river behind for our final climb out of the track. The final climb was all rideable and only 1.6km long but at this stage it was enough to feel it. Upon reaching the top we finished up with some nice flowy trail to the finish of the track.

Swing bridges to cross and huts well catered for bikes

Wrapping up a good day out on our bikes we finished up with ice creams from the local ice cream shop in Punakaiki. An awesome ride to do, if you’re thinking about riding the Paparoa track, plan for good weather and get out there and ride it.

Pete and Carys both rode Trek Remedy's for their journey through the Paparoa Track. They also took a repair kit and tools for the bikes along with a first aid kit, food, water and additional layers for cold and/or wet weather. The track is very exposed and the weather in the mountains can change with very little warning, so it is wise to be prepared.

About the author:

Pete Marshall

Pete has been riding bikes for over 20 years as well as being passionate about all things outdoors. Pete loves a good adventure especially if it is challenging, this started with 24 hour solo bike racing, he has done Ironman, multiple ultra marathons and Tour Aotearoa. Pete is new to Evo Cycles and works in the Web Team.