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Mountain biking paradise

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June 2023 Issue

A Coronet Peak lift pass provides access to the best downhill trails in the country.

Fancy a figure eight of red-ribbon single-track offering fabulous views, even flow and a descent with an historic bent? It’s found right in the epicentre of the Queenstown Lakes District and New Zealand’s premier mountain biking area.

The track network is on Coronet Peak’s southern flank. It looks across the lifestyle blocks between Arthurs Point and Arrowtown. The lower slopes are a mix of scrub and natives, tall tussock and wilding pine. Innumerable streams dissect and shape these crumpled ridges and gullies.

Starting beside the Arrow River in the Arrowtown Domain, a short climb leads around the historic north side of Feehly Hill to Malaghans Road for a 7km pedal west, before turning right up Coronet Peak Station Road. There is a good shoulder for most of the way. At road’s end is a collection of farmhouses and outbuildings in varying states of disrepair. This marks the start of the first climb – a gradual one – up the Dan O’Connell Track. 

After 4km of cadence climbing, the historic Coronet Face Water Race Track is reached. This supplied water to gold claims in the late 1800s. Head left towards the Coronet Water Race Connector and climb a series of nicely graded switchbacks to the tar-sealed Coronet Peak Road.

Head uphill on an easy spin to the Coronet Peak Ski-field chairlift terminal where you can buy lift tickets and transport bikes to the top lift station.

Riding in Bush Stream. Photo: Dave Mitchell
On the Coronet Water Race Connector. Photo: Dave Mitchell

From here, the fun really begins.

Donning knee pads and lowering our seats, we flew down the Upper Rude Rock Track, swooping and flowing on schist and dirt through alpine tussock, hebes, and spaniard. It’s a grade 4 advanced descent but safe and manageable – trust the bike, trust the track and all will be okay.

Rude Rock Track hits Coronet Peak Road opposite the Coronet Water Race Connector and Upper Hot Rod Trail which provides a flowing grade 3 intermediate descent that will knock your socks off.

In no time the Coronet Face Water Race Track is rejoined, this time riding east to the top of the Lower Hot Rod Trail. It’s more flow and a stunning bush descent.

The bottom of Hot Rod is also the bottom of the Dan O’Connell Track which means a short climb back to the Coronet Peak Water Race Track. This delivers more history from the gold mining past. The water race provides an enjoyable ride along the steep sunny slope towards Arrowtown, passing gullies of cool clear streams, mining relics and some big drops above even bigger vistas.

At Bush Creek Saddle is one of the best downhills to be found anywhere. Exposed tree roots cross the trail like railway tracks in the deep forest, bridges over streams and short climbs interspersed with massive rocky outcrops. The last section descends a steep gorge before an easy exit along the Arrowtown pipeline and back to the domain.

Total Ascent
1700m (including ski lift)
Moderate / Difficult
From Arrowtown Domain