Mountain Bike the Old Ghost Road

Rate this Adventure New Zealand Lyell Trailhead, New Zealand

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Mountain Bike New Zealand's longest continuous 'single-track' mountain bike trail through stunning scenery: steep-sided river gorges, spectacular mountain tops, wide open valleys and majestic rainforest.

The Old Ghost Road is an intermediate-advanced backcountry single-track mountain bike trail in New Zealand. It takes 1-4 days to complete, with most people doing the ride in two days. It's in the West Coast region (the upper South Island) and runs from the historic mining settlement of Lyell in the south to Seddonville in the north. It was publicly opened in December 2015 and is quickly becoming known as one of the premier backcountry mountain biking routes in the world. 

From open tussock-covered tops to steep gorges, rocky outcrops and thick rainforest, everything is packed into this 85km trail. 

The trail follows the paths taken by miners in the 1800s (quite historic by New Zealand standards!) and passes through the ghost towns left behind by many mining operations. You can see mining relics and historical artefacts and there are information boards where you can learn more about the interesting history of the area.

The Lyell trail head is at 100 metres above sea level and the end point is 30 metres above sea level. The maximum elevation is 1,340 metres above sea level, near 'Heaven's Door' on the Lyell Range. 

You'll need experience riding in a variety of terrain and comfort with some exposure. 

A quick logistics breakdown

First you'll need to decide what direction to ride the trail in. The most popular - and what I'd definitely recommend - is starting at the Lyell campground and riding to Seddonville. It's important to note that one section is much trickier if ridden the opposite direction and you will also have to be more careful about collisions because you'd be going against most people.

You can spend the night camping at the trailhead (Lyell campground) and leave a car parked there. Valuables are not guaranteed to be safe so be sure to take them with you or do not leave them visible in the car. When I did this trail last time I drove to the Lyell trail head late in the afternoon and rode to Old Ghost Lake Hut that evening.

How long does it take?

This trail takes 1-4 days to ride. Many mountain bike enthusiasts do this trail in a day (a big one) but I think it's nice to move slowly and give yourself time to soak in the scenery by spending at least one night on trail. It is even nice to spend two nights. There are some gorgeous huts and small cabins you can stay in, all with fabulous views and a good vibe. Check out the official trail website for more detailed information on distances and travel times between different points. 

Transport logistics

One of the more challenging things to organise is the shuttle of vehicles for this trip. There are a few options. Some people fly in by helicopter and bike back to the car. Other people pay for a van shuttle service. It's also possible to bike to the end, store bikes somewhere and then hitch-hike back to your car. It depends how much money and time you have and whether you like the uncertainty of hitch-hiking! For help with the shuttle, check out the official trail website. They keep up-to-date information on local organisations providing these services.


There are 4 huts that have been custom-made for this trail and need to be booked through the trail website. The other two huts were pre-existing and are managed by the Department of Conservation. At the four huts that were custom-built for this trail there are also smaller, private cabins that can be booked. They are super simple and sleep 4 people, with a double bunk. I highly recommend Old Ghost Lake! The location is epic - perched high on a hill of limestone with magnificent views out across the Murchison area.

Huts need to be booked in advance, especially on weekends and over the peak summer period. 

Useful links

Old Ghost Road website

Department of Conservation NZ

2:30 video clip of the trail - note: this includes some footage of the nearby towns and accommodation available at the trailhead near Seddonville.

Pack List

  • Overnight gear - sleeping bags, warm clothes (make sure you pack enough gear - even in the summertime the weather can change very fast in New Zealand). Most huts have cooking utensils that you can use.
  • Insect repellent. In some places the sandflies are terrible but that's all part of the adventure!
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Added by Dulkara Martig

I'm a New Zealander and an avid hiker, packrafter, mountain biker, sea and whitewater kayaker and light mountaineer. My escapades take me to all corners of the world. I'm passionate about supporting others to get outside more often and to live a well-balanced life.


Mountain Biking, Hiking

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



52.2 Miles

Elev. Gain:

5577.4 Feet


Easy Parking
Picnic Area

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