Five easy mountainbike tracks in Christchurch
Christchurch is a mecca for mountainbikers, with both flat and hilly terrain on the city's doorstep. Here are five easily accessible tracks.
This easy, flat track north of the city meanders by several lakes, popular with wetland birds, such as the loud Australian coot, ducks and various species of geese.
At the north end of Sawyers Arms Rd, off Johns Rd, there is a small signposted car park on your right, which is where the track starts. From the car park, cycle on the gravel four-wheel-drive track across the small manmade mound, the site of an old landfill, to a high point overlooking Lake Roto Kohatu. The area is busy in summer with jet skis in one lake and fishing, sailing and a kayak course on the other.
Head towards the Otukaikino track sign and follow the track markers along the northern edge of the lake to a mini tunnel through a stop bank to pick up the double track beside the Otukaikino River. The banks of this wonderfully clear spring-fed river are being transformed from a willow-choked inaccessible maze, into a ribbon of native plantings along the waterway as it meanders towards its confluence with the Waimakariri River.
Fantails, bellbirds and other bush birds can be seen in these newly planted areas.
The route leads on to Clearwater Resort. Take the gravel track, then follow the roadside to the roundabout near the golf course and continue on to the Groynes from the north side of the road bridge. Ride carefully through the Groynes, as this much-loved picnic area is often busy with people. During summer, a small shop operates here.
Also at the Groynes is a kids' fishing lake where, with a licence, children under 17 can try their hand at catching a fish. Fish and Game release trout and salmon into the lakes and organise "Take a Kid Fishing" days.
The route now runs parallel to the popular dog park. Take the double track next to the river, going through two gates, keeping out of the fenced dog park and agility areas, as you cycle along a pleasant 2km route beside the river.
The track ends with an exit on to Darroch St, Belfast. The alternative return loop to the Groynes picnic area via the Waimairi Track is currently closed, so either retrace your tyre tracks, enjoying the trip in reverse, or arrange a pick-up from Darroch St. The ride takes about one hour each way.
Starting Point: Sawyers Arms Rd car park.
Difficulty: Easy, flat track.
Highlights: Wildlife, picnic spots and river views
BOTTLE LAKE FOREST PARK
The Bottle Lake Forest Park off Waitikiri Dr offers a tangle of tracks in the forest for a variety of users from walkers to runners, bikers and horse riders.
The roads run in a grid pattern, dividing the forest into blocks. Pick up a map from the information centre at the car park to help navigate the track and road system. With few clear views of landmarks, the forest can be disorienting.
Rides start from the main car park. You can choose to do a short loop or a longer combination of tracks. An enjoyable option is a ride to Spencer Park and back. Start on the main forest road, 22nd Ave, leading past the information centre, then pick up the start of the bike track on your left, just after Bravo Rd.
Follow this bike track as it twists and turns through the forest for about 4km to 13th Ave, where the left-hand bike track is signposted to Spencer Park.
At Spencer Park, ride through the picnic area to the campground, which has a shop at the entrance. This is a fine spot to rest, revive, and tank up on energy food before heading back.
If you have time, there is plenty to do at Spencer Park, with its adventure playground, an animal area with small and not-so-small fluffy animals and birds.
Adrenalin Forest, over the road from the campground, has an array of rope courses in pine trees from easy and low, to physically and emotionally challenging (a fee is charged for entry).
The return to the Bottle Lake car park goes closer to the coast, and some tracks offer coastal views and beach access. The bike tracks can be ridden in either direction so be prepared for oncoming traffic, as well as runners and horse riders crossing the bike tracks.
Bottle Lake is a commercial forest and blocks are felled from time to time, so take note of any signs redirecting tracks around felling sites. Dogs are welcome in the forest, and do not need to be on a lead, but should be under control.
Starting point: Bottle Lake Forest car park.
Difficulty: Easy and undulating.
Highlights: Forest trails, coffee and ice cream shop at halfway point.
RAPAKI TO CASTLE ROCK
It is not easy to find a flattish bike ride on the Port Hills, but this stretch of road is ideal for an easy bike ride on top of the hills, with stunning views.
From the car park at the top of Rapaki Track, the Summit Rd heading east is closed to cars. The road is also used by runners, horse riders and farm vehicles, as well as cyclists, so it is important to keep left - normal road rules apply.
Ride around the barrier and enjoy the smooth road surface that gently climbs eastward before steepening a little to the saddle between Castle Rock and the Tors, a great place to stop and take in the view. On a good day, the view extends across the plains to the Southern Alps, and Tapuae-o-Uenuku, in the Inland Kaikouras, to the north.
Closer at hand, harrier hawks can often be seen circling the slopes looking for food and, when the wind is right, parapenters also fly from here or nearby Mt Cavendish, landing in the Heathcote Valley below.
From the saddle, coast eastwards down to the top of the Bridle Path, where the view to the south opens up across Lyttelton Harbour to Quail Island and Mt Herbert. Those with sharp eyes will be able to pick out the wind turbine near Gebbies Pass and glimpse Lake Ellesmere beyond. This 3.5km ride takes about 30 minutes.
The road beyond the top of the Bridle Path is closed to all traffic, due to rock fall hazard under the gondola on the Mt Cavendish bluffs. Mitigation work is under way to make the road safe for non-motorised users.
From the top of the Bridle Path, return back along the Summit Rd to the Rapaki car park. It is possible to bike down either side of the Bridle Path but it is very steep and rough, and loose in places, requiring good brakes. Be prepared to walk your bike in places.
There is also a single track, a purpose-built mountain bike track, narrow and rocky, of an intermediate grade, which runs just below the Summit Rd from the Castle Rock saddle to the top of the Bridle Path.
Starting point: Top of Rapaki Track.
Difficulty: Easy, gentle climbing gradient. Road surface.
Highlights: Great views.
MCLEANS FOREST TRACK
This bike track, which loops through the pine plantation next to the Waimakariri River, has fully reopened after taking a big hit in the high winds earlier in the year.
On the north side of the Christchurch airport, the main car park and entrance is signposted off McLeans Island Rd, opposite the Orana Wildlife Park.
A bike hire business and shop operate from here during the weekends and public holidays. There is also plenty of space for picnicking before or after a ride.
The track is made to be ridden in one direction, so make sure you go the right way. It starts at the west end of the car park, soon climbing up and along a stop bank for a short section, before taking to the purpose-built bike track, twisting and turning in a large loop returning back to the car park.
The two main track options are 11km long or a second loop, which extends the ride to 16km.
Starting point: McLeans Island Rd car park.
Highlights: Single track. Forest ride.
Te Rauakaaka is one of the newest tracks in Environment Canterbury's expanding network of bike tracks on both sides of the Waimakariri River.
The track starts from Whites Crossing picnic area, at the end of Coutts Island Road, off Dickeys Rd. This is a pleasant riverside spot, with toilets and picnic tables.
Cross the Otukaikino River bridge and ride along the gravel road under the three bridges: State Highway 1, Main North Rd and the railway.
Cross the river access road and ride up the track on to the stop bank on your right. From here, simply follow along the top of the stop bank, all the way to Brooklands Lagoon, past the settlements of Kainga and Stewarts Gully.
As the track crosses a few roads heading to the Waimakariri River, be aware of vehicles at these crossing points. It also crosses the Styx River at the flood gates. There are native restoration plantings on this river to boost the habitat for native species.
This is big-sky country with expansive views across the salt marsh, to the north side of the Waimakariri River, to the foothills and across the lagoon to Brooklands Spit.
The Waimakariri River and side channels are home for numerous wetlands and wader species, including terns, gulls and dotterels, as well as bush birds in the willows and pines.
The track comes out at the Styx River confluence and boat ramp, where there is another public toilet.
It is possible to get to Spencer Park and Bottle Lake Forest by road from here, or return to the car park at Coutts Island Rd. If time allows, check out the Kainga Beach and Te Rauakaaka nature reserve.
For a longer 17km ride, Templars Trail extends west from Whites Crossing to McLeans Forest at McLeans Island, mainly along the stop banks. The route is closed to vehicles, but there are road crossings, so take care.
Starting point: Whites Crossing picnic area.
Highlights: Riverside track, expansive views, multiple options, access to nature reserve and birdlife.