West Coast Wilderness Trail

West Coast Wilderness PolaroidTrail: West Coast Wilderness Trail
Distance: Approx. 135km
Grade*: 2 to 3
Duration Fit:  2 to 3 days
Duration Leisurely: 4 days of 30 to 35km a day

Fitness: Average

Weather: In New Zealand, the prevailing weather comes from the west, across the Tasman sea, the warm moist air hits the mountains of the south island, rises, cools and drops the water onto the west coast. Translation? It rains a lot…

Overview: The West Coast Wilderness takes you through alongside remote west coast beaches, stunning west coast bush and alongside historical water races. It has a completely different feel to all the other trails we ride on, the vegetation and climate almost make you feel like you’re in a different country to the trails on just the other side of the mountains, just 30km away.

Want to ride this trail? For more information, click here… West Coast Wilderness Experience
Cycle Tours


West Coast Wilderness Trail Description

There are some remote sections of trail where you are around 20km from assistance. 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 West Coast Wilderness Trail is split into 4 similar length sections that link the main towns from Greymouth to Ross and can be ridden in either direction. A stunning way to either start or end the trail is with the Tranzalpine from/to Christchurch, known as one of the top 10 train journeys in the world.

West Coast Wilderness Map

Day 1, 31km
The trail starts by the historic railway section and follows the river, past the port and down along the coast alongside the Tasman Sea where you then turn inland and follow the old tram line trail through the Kumara bush. With a flat, easy ride on a good trail surface, and stunning views of the Taramakau, this is a really easy way to start. Stay the first night in Kumara.

Day 2, 33km
From Kumara, the trail gets slightly harder but more interesting. Start around the Kapitea Reservoir on wide, easy gravel, then follow wooden boardwalks, tram tracks and water races up to the Waitaiki Reserve. There is a reasonable climb today of 310m although it’s an easy gradient. From here, you descend through ancient podocarp forest and eventually reach Cowboys Paradise at Milltown, a uniquely west coast quirky settlement. It’s a pretty rough and ready place at this time (so set your expectations accordingly), with no shops but there are great views down the valley from the bar.

The descent has steep and narrow sections. If you’re an inexperienced cyclist, just get off and walk, the sections are quite short.

Day 3, 36km
From Milltown, the trail swoops with multiple corners down to the bottom of the Arahura River with the same lovely views down the valley you had from the bar. The trail then undulates along a gravel road until you reach Lake Kaniere with a beautiful loop along the historic Kaniere Water Race (hand-dug in 1875!). The water race has been designated 2 way so be cautious of riders coming in the opposite direction. Finish the day at Hokitika with plenty of shops and accommodation.

Day 4, 33km
Cross the Hokitika Bridge and follow alongside Mahinapua Creek, past the Hokitika Golf Links, until you join the state highway for 3 km before turning off onto the historic Mahinapua Tramline. This follows wetlands, native forest and old mill sites, and enables yuo to snatch stunning views of Lake Mahinapua. You exit onto a quiet road that passes the West Coast Treetop Walkway, an interesting place to stop to get a birds eye view from above the forest.

There’s a small seciton on the state highway before you turn off to Ruatapu to ride south near the sea once again. On a clear day you even get to see Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. This section follows the historic Ross railway line (so it IS a rail trail, long and straight with minimal views, just keep pedalling…) over the Totara Bridge (built in 1908) and gives you some lovely views of the tidal Totara lagoon. After the Totara River, the trail finishes through the historic goldfields to Ross.

There are short sections on the main road. Wear a high visibility top and watch for traffic.

Read our West Coast Wilderness Trail Review after our recent first ride…

Having taken many tours along this trail, we’ve found that the short distances between the sections and lack of side trips means that there’s not quite enough to do each day. As a consequence, for our West Coast Wilderness Experience tours, we ride the West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail over 3 days, not 4.

Want to ride this trail? For more information, click here… West Coast Wilderness Experience
Cycle Tours


* See our FAQs page or contact us more more details…