A four day bike packing trip over the first four days of 2016, incorporating the Old Ghost Road, Charming Creek Walkway and Denniston Shortcut.

This trip was originally intended to be three days, but heavy rain left rivers flooded so we split the last day into two to let the Orikaka/Mackley River subside. This river crossing is crucial the Denniston Shortcut.

Day 1: Lyell – Ghost Lake Hut (28km)
Day 2: Ghost Lake Hut – Seddonville (58km)
Day 3: Seddonville  – Fairdon via Charming Creek (43km)
Day 4: Fairdon – Lyell via Denniston Shortcut (57km)

Read more about the Old Ghost Road. The circuit that we did is described in the Kennett Brothers ‘Classic NZ Cycle Trails’ as the Ghost Road Roundabout (173km, 3-5 days, Grade 4). There’s info about it on the NZ Cycle Trail website too.

Scroll to the end of this post for a map.

Emerging from the bush after the 1200m climb past Lyell Saddle onto Mt Montgomery (1332m).

On the Old Ghost Road. Emerging from the bush after the 1200m climb past Lyell Saddle onto Mt Montgomery (1332m).

From Mt Montgomery the trail mostly sidles the tops, passing Rocky Tor (1456m).

From Mt Montgomery the trail mostly sidles the tops, passing Rocky Tor (1456m).

Beautiful riding along the tops between Mt Montgomery and Rocky Tor.

Beautiful riding along the tops between Mt Montgomery and Rocky Tor.

The trail sidles steep slopes on the western side of Rocky Tor as it heads towards Ghost Lake. The trail's wide enough and very well built, but you wouldn't want to tip off the edge...

The trail sidles steep slopes on the western side of Rocky Tor as it heads towards Ghost Lake. The trail’s wide enough and very well built, but you wouldn’t want to tip off the edge…

Passing The Tombstone and Pt 1424m.

Passing The Tombstone and Pt 1424m.

Our home for the night. Ghost Lake Hut. We had the tiny cabin above the huts. It's one of two bookable sleepouts available during the warmer months.

Our home for the night. Ghost Lake Hut. We had the tiny cabin above the hut. It’s one of two bookable sleepouts available during the warmer months.

It was great to meet some other friends at Ghost Lake Hut - Tony, Esther and their companions.

It was great to meet some other friends at Ghost Lake Hut – Tony, Esther and their companions Justin and Ali.

Chris at Ghost Lake Hut.

Chris at Ghost Lake Hut.

Ant dreams of muscle.

Ant dreams of muscle.

While Hana dreams of the following day's riding...

While Hana dreams of the following day’s riding…

...and it looks good!

…and it looks good!

Ant in his finest apres ride wear.

Ant in his finest apres ride wear.

Tamsin chilling at Ghost Lake.

Tamsin chilling at Ghost Lake.

Rocky Tor looking majestic behind the huts.

Rocky Tor looking majestic behind the huts.

Dracophyllum, sun dew, beetle and other spiky stuff.

Dracophyllum, sun dew, beetle and other spiky stuff.

Looking across to the edge of the Thousand Acres Plateau. Sadly my last photo from the Old Ghost Road. The following day was a very wet one, so no photos... suffice to say that the riding and terrain was amazing and the trail designers and builders have done a very good job. The trail delivers an experience of not only stellar mountain biking but also of continual historical, geological and botanic interest. Well done to the Old Ghost Road Trust.

Looking across to the edge of the Thousand Acres Plateau. Sadly my last photo from the Old Ghost Road. The following day was a very wet one, so no photos… suffice to say that the riding and terrain was amazing and the trail designers and builders have done a very good job. The trail delivers an experience of not only stellar mountain biking but also of continual historical, geological and botanic interest. Well done to the Old Ghost Road Trust.

The following day the rain eased to showers (after being very heavy overnight) and we continued our ride through the Charming Creek Walkway, which makes a great journey through more mining and logging history.

We spent a night in Seddonville drying out, then the following day the rain eased to showers (after being very heavy overnight) and we continued our ride through the Charming Creek Walkway, which makes a great journey through more mining and logging history.

Old rail tunnel on the Charming Creek Walkway.

Old rail tunnel on the Charming Creek Walkway.

With the previous 24 hours of steady, and sometimes heavy, rain the rivers were very swollen, making the Charming Creek gorges a spectacular place to be.

With the previous 24 hours of steady, and sometimes heavy, rain the rivers were very swollen, making the Charming Creek gorge a spectacular place to be.

Our original plan had been to cycle from Seddonvillae, the end of the Old Ghost Road, back to Lyell in a day via Charming Creek and the Denniston 'Shortcut', but with the rivers up so much we cut this day short and rode to some accommodation at Fairdon (the Pines Tavern) 7km was the Denniston turnoff at Waimangaroa.

Our original plan had been to cycle from Seddonville, the end of the Old Ghost Road, back to Lyell in a day via Charming Creek and the Denniston ‘Shortcut’, but with the rivers up so much we cut this day short and rode to some accommodation at Fairdon (the Pines Tavern) 7km past the Denniston turnoff at Waimangaroa.

The Denniston Shortcut is a 4-6 hour 33km crossing of the wilderness beyond the Denniston Plateau, following an old pylon road.

The Denniston Shortcut is a 4-6 hour 33km crossing of the wilderness beyond the Denniston Plateau, following a pylon road.

Tam climbing onto the Mt William Range on the edge of the plateau.

Tam climbing onto the Mt William Range on the edge of the plateau.

Rough but 100% ridable 4WD track makes up the bulk of the ride once you leave the seal behind after the 8km climb from sea level onto the plateau.

Rough but 100% ridable 4WD track makes up the bulk of the ride once you leave the seal behind after the 8km climb from sea level onto the plateau.

Ripping down fun 4WD track deep into the ride.

Ripping down fun 4WD track deep into the ride.

Last time I did this ride was with Jonty Ritchie 20 years ago and the hills were still as I'd remembered them: fast, loose and fun.

Last time I did this ride was with Jonty Ritchie 20 years ago and the hills were still as I’d remembered them: fast, loose and fun.

Crossing the Mackley River. This river has a huge catchment areaand consequently floods easily. This was the river we'd decided to give another night to go down after the previous heavy rain and it proved worth the wait: easily crossable and up to about mid-thigh.

Crossing the Mackley River. This river has a huge catchment area and consequently floods easily. This was the river we’d decided to give another night to go down after the previous heavy rain and it proved worth the wait: easily crossable and up to about mid-thigh.

Hana crossing the Mackley.

Hana crossing the Mackley.

12 Comments

  • Matt says:

    Wow, great looking mission!

  • Rowan says:

    Oh o ! on the bucket list … thanks for the write up 🙂

  • Brian Brown says:

    Absolutly stunning. I’m doing the Old Ghost Rd section late January. Thanks for the excellent write up and awesome photos. Ride safe Brian

  • One day, one day. Sadly no dogs allowed, not even gentle giants, very well traveled (by mtb with dog trailer) like Indy!

  • Daniel says:

    It’s a great ride. I had some time on my hands before dirt touring for a while, a mountain bike-bikepacking-dirt tour of the top of the South. Denniston shortcut was tough. I started in Tasman-Canaan Downs-Rameka track-Heaphy track-Old Ghost Road (Both parts before it was complete)-Charming Creek-Denniston Shortcut-Braeburn/Porika track-Rainbow-St James cycle way (stayed at Scotties)-Ashurton Lakes/Hakatere and South Branch Ashburton river. Breath. So much to explore by bike around here. Thanks for the reminder of some great memories

  • Phil Estall says:

    Hi Thanks for a great report. We were interested in your front racks, what brand are they?
    We are doing this or a similar trip in may, and are looking for a good luggage solution.
    Phil

  • Jamie says:

    Do you remember what your daily riding time was? We are planning to ride the Old Ghost Road as a shuttle ride in 4 days. But since we have 4 days, and most people seem to do the Old Ghost Road in 3 or less, I’m wondering if we should make it a loop like you did.

    • Mark Watson says:

      None of the days were especially long, but I don’t recall riding times sorry. Day three (from end of old Ghost road to near start of Denniston paved climb) was a shorter one. If you are fairly fit, you’ll do it in four comfortably I think. We never felt under pressure and did not move particularly fast.

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