The mountain biking community of New Zealand has been working incredibly hard with local council bodies and the Department of Conservation to open up, refurbish, and build purpose-built tracks around the country. There’s something for everyone, every skill level, and many tracks are often only minutes from any major town center.
You’ll find mountain bike rentals in almost every town center, and even
Always read the information on signs, look at or take copies of trail maps, and ensure you’re prepared for typical New Zealand weather. You may meet multiple other riders, or you might be the only one out there. Be aware of the environmental surroundings and of the conduct code on the trails for your best experience.
The New Zealand mountain biking community is made up of people from all over the country, and each person will argue their local trails are better than others.
However, on the North Island, Rotorua is described as the "Disneyland of Mountain Biking", with an array of one–two hour short and easy circuits, to expert level multi-day tracks. Gear hire is available at many downtown shops, and don't forget to pick up a map.
Whakarewarewa Forest - otherwise known as "The Redwoods", is about a five-minute drive from the Rotorua town center. There’s an unbeatable blend of trails and scenery, riding surfaces and topography of the land.
Skyline MTB Park is the only lift-assisted park on the North Island. You can end your day by having a soak in one of the many geothermal pools in the Rotorua area.
Other purpose-built MTB parks can be found around the country, built with unique and different features to what is found on local trails. They’re designed for skill progression so you can hit the trails with confidence, and often coaching sessions are available when booked in advance.
On the South Island, the Christchurch Adventure Park is a chairlift-assisted park, which is home to flowy beginner trails, progressing to world-class expert jump tracks.
Wanaka's Sticky Forest is ride-able from town, and with over 20 hand-built tracks to choose from, you’ll find a track suitable for your level, and will be sweating up the mountain in no-time.
If you prefer views and downhills, you can sit back and relax at Queenstown Bike Park, where a gondola will take you and your bike to the top of the mountain. You will also come across Cardrona Bike Park, and
If you're keen to experience the mountain bike culture of mid-size townships in New Zealand, your first stop should be Nelson, at the top of the South Island.
Codgers MTB Park, Dunn Mountain Trail
The brand new Kaiteriteri MTB Park is another local hidden gem located in Kaiteriteri, in the direction of Abel Tasman National Park when heading out from the port town of Motueka.
It’s a beautifully kept and family friendly park, where you’ll end your day’s ride down at the stunning Kaiteriteri Beach.
Some great walking tracks that have recently been made open to bikers, such as the two or three day 43mi (70km) Queen Charlotte Track in Picton at the top of the South Island, which is a great option for intermediate riders.
The Tasman Great Taste Trail is 108mi (175km) of Grade 1 and Grade 2 cycle paths, showing off the very best of the Nelson area from the stunning seas, to beautiful estuaries to small towns on the coast and historical sites. The Great Taste Trail can also be broken up into smaller one-day journeys if you’re keen.
Companies based out of Ohakune on the North Island will help you organize gear, bike hire, and luggage transfer for the Mountain to Sea Track. This is an epic four to
Highlights of this track include the iconic Bridge to Nowhere, and taking a jet-boat 20mi (32km) down the Whanganui River before continuing riding down to the coast. You must book in advance.
Further advanced multi-day tracks in the South Island include the Heaphy Track and the Old Ghost Road. These are challenging
DOC Hut accommodations must be booked in advance for these journeys. The OGR is serviced by helicopters, therefore if you’re more inclined to ride freely in the day, and have your luggage transferred to your next hut – this must also be planned in advance.
No matter where you find yourself and a mountain bike in New Zealand, you’ll find the right track for your skill
One must-do for any downhill enthusiast is a
It’s best to be prepared for rapidly changing
Not all tracks will be in a cell phone service area, so a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is ideal to bring in your backpack. Local gear hire or i-Sites will have more information on rentals of a PLB.
Don't forget to tell someone where you're going. You’d be amazed at how many experienced cyclists get caught out by weather changes, a small fall or a wrong turn that sees a normal four-hour ride become an epic event that they would sooner forget.
Three Rules of Riding: Respect trail closures, prepare and look ahead at the weather, avoid riding in
If you're entering a bike park of a trail with signs for donation on entry, remember that your contribution helps to keep the tracks running. It’s usually a local team of volunteer mountain bike enthusiasts who spend their weekends clearing trees and fixing tracks. Just pay the fee. Don’t be ‘that guy.’
Download the Trailforks app if you’re thinking of exploring New Zealand by mountain bike. It‘s a mobile app linked to the Trailforks website database showing trail conditions, and you can even download offline PDF maps to your phone to take with you.
Want to know more about New Zealand? Check out our podcast. We talk world-class diving, blood-pumping adrenalin, and road-tripping in a camper van.
Why you should always be prepared for strong winds and potential rain, no matter what the weather forecast says.
Planning a trip to New Zealand? These travelers share their top tips on sun safety, pesky bugs, and more.