Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

Alps 2 Ocean Mt Cook PolaroidTrail: Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail
Distance: Approx. 310km
Grade*: 2 to 3
Duration: 6 days (8 sections in total)
Fitness: Above average

Weather: Highly variable and potentially up to 20 degrees different from one end to the other. The prevailing wind is from the west so you should get a tail wind more often than not. Be prepared for snow in the Alps, even in summer and plan alternative routes after heavy rain as sections 1 and 4 may become impassible. Also plan alternate ways to start if bad weather prevents the helicopter from flying across the Tasman River.

Overview: The Alps 2 Ocean Trail is the longest in New Zealand and has, arguably, the most variety of any trail as well. The official start is near Aoraki Mt Cook Village, at 700m above sea level in the midst of the snow capped Southern Alps. You fly in by helicopter, ride around glacial and hydro lakes, down through the Waitaki Valley and finish at sea level at Oamaru by the Pacific Ocean. Expect changeable weather and constantly changing terrain and scenery. The riding surface is a mix of sealed and unsealed roads, purpose built cycle trail and grass.

Want to ride this trail? For more info click here… A2O Experience Cycle Tour


A2O Trail Description

There are hills, remote sections, small stream crossings and some sections of trail that have a fairly rough or gravel surface so a good level of fitness, a mountain bike and off road riding skills are recommended. If you are planning to ride this trail unsupported, we recommend that you are physically fit and well prepared, carry emergency equipment and are able to complete basic bike repairs.

The Alps 2 Ocean Trail, (also known as the Alps to Ocean or A2O Trail) is the longest cycle trail in New Zealand. It passes through 9 small towns and villages so is split into 8 sections between these places. When planning your trip, it is worth noting that some of these places are very small and have limited or no opportunities to buy supplies or equipment. Accommodation is also limited so book well ahead.

Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail Map with Distances

Section 1
The official start of the trail is from the White Horse Hill camp site only 2km away from Mt Cook Village. Purpose built trail takes you to the Mt Cook Airport where you fly by helicopter across the Tasman River to the trail at Tasman Point (near Chop Creek). Follow the cycle trail across stoney ground with some stream crossing, for around 11km to the Jolly Road car park.

In poor weather, the helicopter may not be able to fly so you need to make alternative arrangement to get to the other side of Lake Pukaki. This section has small stream crossings and a surface of river stones to ride over. Please use a mountain bike and expect to get wet feet, After heavy rain, the streams may become impassable.

From the carpark, follow the undulating gravel road to Braemar where there are 2 places to stay and no other facilities.

Section 2
From Braemar, follow the undulating gravel road under the Tekapo B penstocks (huge metal inlet pipes) where you then get a few kms on the quiet sealed road before joining 11km of flowing cycle trail around to the bottom of Lake Pukaki. Cross the highway to cycle across the Pukaki flats to Twizel. Twizel has a range of small shops and a supermarket so is a good place to stock up. They also have a hardware shop that sells bike parts.

Section 3
From Twizel, you have the flat and fast sealed road alongside the canal and new salmon farm that takes you to Lake Ohau. Cross the Ohau Weir to cycle around the lake on lovely cycle trail until you join the sealed Ohau road to Ohau village or on to Ohau Lodge, depending on where you’re staying. There are no shops here.

Be warned that the Ohau Weir may be impossible to cross after heavy rain or snow melt. The alternative route at that point is to ride back to Twizel, cross the Twizel River and ride up the other side of the river to get to the other side of the weir. It’s a long detour so save yourself the issue and check the status of the weir before leaving Twizel.

Section 4
From Ohau, the trail goes up, and up… it’s not steep, but it does go on for a long time. The surface is rough cycle trail with some small stream crossings, especially after rain. The views from the summit make the climb worthwhile. What goes up, must come down so you then get a stunning downhill, rated by many as one of the best parts of the trail and by others as the most scary, depending on your cycling ability. The top section of the downhill has tight turns on a gravel surface so ride within your limits. The lower section has a smooth flowing grass trail that now takes you to the toilets and Quailburn Woolshed. Unfortunately, after the magnificent downhill, the last 2km to the woodshed are slightly uphill so be prepared!

You leave the woodshed on Qualiburn Road, a gravel road the undulates down to just before the turnoff to the Clay Cliffs where it joins the sealed road. The Clay Cliffs are a 16km side trip, it’s uphill to get to them but well worth it if you have the fitness or can hitch a ride. Then, it’s just an easy cycle on sealed roads to Omarama where you’ll find a few shops, cafes, accommodation and a small supermarket. Make sure you stop at the hot tubs to soak those tired muscles…

Section 5
From Omarama, you leave the alps behind and head into hydro and farm country. Follow purpose built cycle trail from Omarama to Sailors cutting around the stunning Lake Benmore. At Sailors Cutting, you then have to ride on SH8 to Otematata over the Otematata Saddle. Make sure you wear a fluro top as vehicles are travelling at 100km/hr. The saddle is hard but the downhill on the other side is great fun. Make room for traffic. New for the coming season is an off road trail linking Sailors Cutting and Benmore Dam to miss out the highway. Watch this space…

Section 6
At Otematata, there are a few places to buy food before you turn off and head up and over the Benmore Dam. The old info centre is at the bottom of the dam. Make sure you stop there to use the toilets or to let your legs prepare for the cycle up, the road is steep! Ove the dam, follow the edge of Lake Aviemore until you cross the Aviemore Dam and rejoin SH8 on to Kurow. Kurow has a range of small shops, a very small supermarket and a range of accommodation options.

This SH8 section into Kurow has places that are narrow with sharp bends. Please take care. We do not ride this on our tours, we advise you to jump in the van.

Section 7
From Kurow, it’s now all on trail until Duntroon. The trail meanders between the road and the river so you get a mix of views of the river, farmland, wetland and bush.

Section 8
Although the hill behind Ohau looks the hardest on the elevation profile, don’t be fooled. The undulations on this last section sap the energy from your legs. You have been warned! However, with a mix of sealed and unsealed roads, cycle trail and even a section of old rail trail, this section also has lots of variety of terrain as well as scenery.

Expect to see stunning limestone rocks, cliffs and valleys, fossils, maori rock art, cycle through farmland and even through an exciting (and dark so take a torch) old railway tunnel before entering Oamaru through the gardens before ending at the quirky and unique historic part of Oamaru by the Pacific Ocean.

Want to ride this trail? For more info click here… A2O Experience Cycle Tour


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