West Coast Wilderness Trail Review
West Coast Wilderness Trail Review
Having heard so much about the new West Coast Wilderness Trail and having spent so much time on the coast over the last 10 years, it was with great expectations that we planned our ride in order to write a West Coast Wilderness Trail Review. I rode it with a friend from Auckland, another experienced cyclist who’s ridden 5 other cycle trails with me over the last few years so I valued her input. We met up in Greymouth and, having planned our trip around the weather, started the trail in bright sunshine and clear blue skies.
It’s an easy cycle from the old Railway building in Geymouth, next to the river, past the port and out to the beach trail by the Tasman Sea. The West Coast beaches are stunning. Quiet, rugged and tempting, yet one look at the powerful undercurrent pulling with every wave and you know swimming isn’t an option. The trail leaves the beach too soon and heads in land and you get your first taste of West Coast bush. And it’s lovely, so different from the eastern side of the Alps.
The first day was easy, fairly flat (with only a few undulations) and with a good mix of scenery, town, beach, bush and hills. The first night in Kumara, a small town was very quiet compared to Greymouth the night before.
And it’s off to start around the Kapitea Reservoir. Again, the trail is wide, fairly flat and easy. A bit of boardwalk keeps it interesting before we head inland, into what I would describe as very remote bush.
The scenery is stunning with dense bush clad mountains as the backdrop as we ride alongside a clear and fast flowing river, stopped only by some wandering cattle, near Tom’s hut, that blocked the trail.
We stopped for lunch by the river and found a spot with enough breeze to keep the sandflies away. Although they’re annoying, as they fly very slowly, they’re only a problem when you stop. So, we had another application of Goodbye Sandfly (my favourite repellent) and we were on our way.
The trail then got a little harder with small stream crossings, a bit of a hill and then a really full steeper more twisty downhill into Cowboy’s Paradise. We didn’t stay there, we were off to camp by Lake Kaniere so we said our goodbyes to the riders already in the bar and kept cycling.
The start of day 3 is awesome, a flowing, twisty downhill into the valley that, had it had had slightly more bermed corners, would have more resembled a pump track than a cycle trail! This downhill fun was followed by a unsealed road that undulated until we reached the beautiful Lake Kaniere, flat and calm enough to call us to pump up the SUPs (stand up paddle boards) and go out for a paddle. Surrounded by snow capped mountains with hardly a person in sight, this was a very special moment.
By lake Kaniere there’s a short loop alongside the historic Kaniere Water Race originally dug by hand in 1871. This was another highlight for me, narrow, tight in amongst the trees and following the water. I wouldn’t want to meet someone cycling the other way however and cyclists not confident on narrow trails would have to be careful. But it was lovely…
The last day and I have to admit to being a little sad that it was over so soon. This last section wasn’t finished and was unsignposted so we did some research, a little recce and followed where the trail will go.
After the tramline trail, we stopped at the Treetops Walk as the trail literally goes past the end of their road. It’s not as good as the Canopy Tour in Rotorua but gives another different perspective of the forest you’ve just cycled through. Well worth it.
The final section through to Ross was still being built but we cycled what we could and had a nosy at the rest. We climbed over the Totora Bridge and before we knew it we were in Ross. A fantastic 4 days of fairly easy cycling compared to some other trails but with a feeling of rich history and remote surroundings. We both highly recommend it.
Sara Leadbetter, Feb 2015
General Manager, Not a Rail Trail
If you want to ride this Cycle Trail with us, check out our West Coast Wilderness Cycle Tours …