New Zealand’s Longest Backcountry Singletrack — The Old Ghost Road
Back in 2015, we got to enjoy a memorable week-long volunteering mission on New Zealand’s newest backcountry wilderness mountain bike/hiking track known as the Old Ghost Road. Spanning an impressive 86 km’s from an old gold mining settlement in Lyell to high alpine passes, lush native fern-filled gullies and wild rushing waters of the Mohikinui River, situated on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The Old Ghost Road offers NZ’s longest singletrack descent in the country, and let’s just say it was an absolutely awesome project be a part of.
This project has and continues to be an inspiring labor of love.
It Took a Team of Visionairies to Build the Epic Old Ghost Road
Blood, sweat, and tears have been poured into this remote track, built by an incredible eclectic team of visionaries, with of course a large amount of generous support by many.
The Old Ghost Road, simply put, is an epic backcountry hut-to-hut wilderness adventure on two knobby wheels or foot — whatever you choose. We reckon by bike it’s a whole lot of fun, sweat, and sometimes tears depending on which weather system decides to join you. It’s a classic slice of what New Zealand’s backcountry adventure is all about, and experiencing it by mountain bike is just plain awesome.
Ben and Cristina, the founders of New Zealand Single Track Adventures, along with nine other volunteers and a few strong chiefs, were based at Ghost Lake Hut for a week. Nestled beneath Rocky Tor in an alpine section of the trail, it’s quite easily one of the most scenic spots on the track offering expansive views over the Murchison Mountains to Nelson Lakes National Park and Kahurangi National Park.
The Day of a Volunteer on the Old Ghost Road Unfolds
A typical day includes rising to a stunning sunrise burning away the heavy clouds that have built up overnight.
Starting off with a good breakfast to fuel us up, and some lunchtime sandwich making before we hop on our bikes and set off to ride up to the Goat Track. Not a bad way to get to work, right?
This part of the track is our main focus for the seven-day period, where we hack away at the earth, lay gravel for miles and even have a crack at a few blasts from the old dynamite at the end of a hard day’s efforts! That was honestly a highlight, building bombs from scratch kiwi style, and then plugging them into the holes we spent half the day drilling into bedrock.
Everyone putting in a lot of physical labor laughs, and even a few swear words before our most exciting time of the day to press the RED button and VOILA! We blast away to reveal a new piece in the puzzle and what will forever (hopefully) be a rideable section of the epic Old Ghost Road. The Goat Track is situated from the start of an alpine section of the trail, just in view of Rocky Thor spanning a wicked few kilometers of singletrack. It is on the edge of some hairy rocky bluffs where you don’t want to fall off! This is an impressive and exciting part of the trail that offers great vistas to “heaven’s door” and the deep lush wilderness valleys below.
After a good eight-hour day, it was the sweet descent back to Ghost Lake Hut, and those that were riders in the group, hooped and hollered their way back to a nice cold brew on the deck. Ahhhhhh. Now those are some tasty ones! Hard-earned and well worth the effort. Evening dinner is a time to run through our day’s adventure, and discuss plans for the next day. We learn who is teamed up, and what part of the Goat Track we’ll be working.
As night came, we all fell asleep to the sounds of nearby native Moreporks, the odd Kiwi Bird and clear lit sky’s dazzling above us.
Making History and Building an Icon on the Old Ghost Trail
What a week! We made friends with wonderful people from all walks of life and made a small part of New Zealand history. But most of all we were lucky to have experienced a week in the wilds building an iconic labor of love and hardship. Being part of a team and putting in an effort to a trail we love and are now able to share with our guests on our mountain bike trips is pretty special. It’s the experiences in life that make you rich.
Building a mountain bike track is hard work and we loved every minute of it.
Here are big thanks to all who made it a blast and an even bigger thumbs up to the visionaries who made it all come together.