The Ghost Trail
Kahurangi National Park.
The 160 kilometer Old Ghost Road Cycle Trail follows a historic gold miner's route that connects the old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) heading northward to the mighty Mokihinui River, then joining the Charming Creek Walkway and the Denniston Plateau on the wild West Coast. Now completed the full ride makes a complete back-country loop for intermediate to advanced riders and trampers.
The trail is named after the spirits of the old miners and track builders that seem to loom over the route as it passes through seven ghost towns!
The first through Lyell Gorge and the last section through the Mokihinui Gorge back to Seddonville.
Once the full back-country circuit is completed the Old Ghost Road Cycle Trail will go from Seddonville through Charming Creek and up the old winding bridle trail to Stockton Plateau. The route will then make it's way along the Denniston Plateau and through a number of ghost towns, before joining the rough carriage way of Mackley Road as it snakes it's way off the plateau and down to the Buller River at New Creek, 3 kilometers short of Lyell and a camping ground. From Lyell the route again goes uphill steeply towards the Lyell Saddle and more forgotten settlements. Once at Lyell Saddle a fast flowing track traverse Bald Hill meeting the rainforest again at Mt Montgomery. The track stays above the bush line in tussock fields as you ride along Stern Ridge to the high point and approximately halfway. From here it is a fast descent through Stern Creek Valley before once last grunt over a saddle leading into Goat Creek and onto the grand open flats of the Mokihinui South Branch and back to Seddonville via the Mokikinui Gorge. A full circuit of 160 kilometers.
Earthquakes in 1929 and 1968 left roughly a quarter of the never-completed Lyell to Mokihinui Road buried and left for dead. For 130 years the West Coast bush did its best to obscure the route. Feral goats made up the only maintenance force through the years, keeping a hoof path open and establishing work-arounds where needed.
The Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust's efforts to re-open the 16km section of the road to the Lyell Saddle began in 2007 with volunteers clearing windfall and a joint mission with the Department of Conservation to see what four men and a couple of mini-diggers could achieve. By 2009 six kilometres of track had been restored. Next was a series of weekend warrior attacks at what are understatedly called the 'Big Slips.' Volunteers finally accomplished what even the goats could not: a 600mm wide path across these monuments to the big quakes.
Now, as one of 18 tracks under development through Nga Haerenga, New Zealand Cycle Trails, the commitment to the Old Ghost Road is gathering steam.
With the opening of the 16km Lyell Sector of the Old Ghost Road, mountain bikers and trampers will find an ideally benched trail winding at a four percent gradient past ghost towns and through the giant beech forests of the Lyell valley. The next phase or work, lasting two years, will connect the Lyell Saddle to the Mokihinui Forks, resulting in a one of a kind mountain bike experience. Ultimately the Old Ghost Road will form a 160km circuit encompassing two mountain ranges, three river systems, and seven ghost towns.
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