New Zealand’s Heaphy Track Open for Cyclists

New Zealand’s Heaphy Track, the longest of the country’s nine famed Great Walks, is now permanently open to cyclists during winter.

In a decision almost 15 years in the making, New Zealand Department of Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith approved permanent winter mountain biking on the 78km trail from May through to September earlier this year.

“The three-year trial has been a success and it is timely to make it a permanent feature of Nelson and the West Coast’s visitor attractions.”

Beginning this week, cyclists will be allowed to tackle the track, which winds through rugged and remote terrain in Kahurangi National Park, some of New Zealand best scenery.

“The Heaphy Track is New Zealand’s ultimate multi-day mountain biking experience. It traverses dramatic and diverse landscapes from mountain forests, to expansive grasslands and wild West Coast beaches,” Dr Smith says.

A longtime Heaphy Track guide, Brian Alder of Helibike Nelson, a guiding outfit, said riders can expect an intermediate-level, single-track journey across an eye-opening wilderness route that descends from alpine forest – with the chance of snow – to subtropical coastline dotted with palm trees.

“You really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, and it’s really quite a unique experience. There’s not a lot of places in the world where you can get that,” Mr. Alder said.

The trail can be traversed by experienced riders in a day, but most cyclists make a two- to three-day journey of it to take in the scenery, stopping at one of the seven well-equipped huts, Alder said.

“You get the double benefit of an amazing place and wilderness area and the sheer enjoyment of riding,” he said. “It’s such a fine track and such an iconic thing to do.”

The Department of Conservation also has invested in improvements to the trail to support up to 4,000 mountain bikers per year, including a new hut and four new suspension bridges, and has approved year-round cycling on two other Kahurangi National Park trails – the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat and Kill Devil tracks – opening the door for increased bike-focused tourism in the area following a three-year trial period.

Riders should be well prepared for inclement weather conditions as the region is known for sudden storms, associated floods, occasional snow falls and strong winds, as well as for sunshine, clear blue skies and warm, calm days.

Tags: Brian Alder  cycling  DOC  Dr Nick Smith  Great Walks  Heaphy Track  Helibike Nelson  Kahurangi National Park  Mountain biking  New York Times (The)  

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