The Old Ghost Road
The 85km-long Old Ghost Road traverses majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys, providing days of adventure and spectacular huts for mountain bikers and trampers.
Mountain bikers and trampers in search of the ultimate back-country adventure need look no further than The Old Ghost Road.
85km one way
Advanced tramping track: 4-5 days
Mountain biking 2-3 days, advanced Grade 4
The Old Ghost Road traverses the majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys of the Buller region. Following the long forgotten gold miners' route, it connects the old dray road in the Lyell to the mighty Mōkihinui River in the north.
Quickly becoming known as a ‘bucket-list’ attraction, New Zealand’s longest single-track resurrects an old gold miners’ route between the ghost town of Lyell in the Buller Gorge and Seddonville on the West Coast.
While not for the faint-of-heart or inexperienced, if you match your capability and prepare appropriately, The Old Ghost Road will reward the fit and experienced adventurer with a premier multi-day backcountry experience.
Lyell Campsite to Lyell Saddle Hut
Distance: 18 km
Time: Mountain biking: 3 - 4 hr, tramping: 4 - 6 hr
Follow the forgotten 19th century county dray road as it winds its way towards the Lyell Saddle (875 m).
For mountain bikers wanting an early start on the trail the Lyell Campsite offers a convenient camping option close to the trail start.
The Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust have built a hut at Lyell Saddle. Book by visiting the Old Ghost Road website (external site).
Lyell Saddle Hut to Ghost Lake Hut
Distance: 12 km
Time: Mountain biking: 2 hr 30 min - 4 hr, tramping: 3 - 5 hr
From Lyell Saddle Hut continue another 6 km through bush to the top of the Lyell Range. Travel a further 6 km along predominately open tops that offer dramatic views before arriving at the breathtaking Ghost Lake Hut site. Sitting at 1200 metres the views are a highlight from this stunning setting.
The Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust have built a hut at Ghost Lake. Book by visiting the Old Ghost Road website (external site).
Ghost Lake Hut to Stern Valley Hut
Distance: 13 km
Time: Mountain biking 2 - 3 hr, tramping: 3 - 4 hr
Check your brakes before departing from Ghost Lake Hut as the trail descends almost 800 metres over the next 13 km to Stern Valley Hut. The first 4 kilometres is the most technical of the entire trail reaching Grade 5 in places - be prepared. At the end of the breathtaking Skyline Ridge you reach the Skyline Steps. You need to carry your bike down 60 metres of narrow and winding steps, before descending into Stern Valley.
The Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust have built a hut at Stern Valley. Book by visiting the Old Ghost Road website (external site).
Stern Valley Hut to Goat Creek Hut
Distance: 14 km
Time: Mountain biking 2 - 3 hr, tramping: 3 - 4 hr
From Stern Valley Hut the trail meanders on up through the interesting Ernest Valley, a tributory of Stern Creek. Some 'earnest' climbing is again required to get over the saddle that allows passage into the Goat Creek catchment and on down to the confluence with the Mōkihinui River South Branch.
Note that Goat Creek must be forded to reach the hut. This crossing may be hazardous or impassable in times of elevated creek flow or flood.
Goat Creek Hut to Mokihinui Forks Hut
Distance: 8 km
Time: Mountain biking 1 - 2 hr, tramping 2 - 3 hr
Travel through towering podacarp forest to reach the Mokihinui Forks Hut.
Mokihinui Forks Hut to Specimen Point Hut
Distance: 3 km
Time: Mountain biking: 30 min - 1 hr, tramping: 1 - 1 hr 30 min
From the Mokihinui Forks Hut turn left down into the head of the Mōkihinui River Gorge.
The Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust have built a hut at Specimen Point. Book by visiting the Old Ghost Road website (external site).
Specimen Point Hut to Seddonville
Distance: 17 km
Time: Mountain biking: 2 - 4 hr, tramping: 4 - 6 hr
From Specimen Point Hut, the Mōkihinui Gorge shows the way to the sea. The old miners' road is rejoined for the virtually flat journey out to Seddonville through the spectacular Mokihinui River gorge.
Bookings are required for the huts managed by the Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust: Lyell Saddle, Ghost Lake, Stern Valley and Specimen Point huts. To book, visit the Old Ghost Road website (external site).
Bookings are not required for the Goat Creek and Mokihinui Forks huts, which are managed by DOC and are available on a first come basis.
Know before you go
- The Old Ghost Road traverses rugged and remote terrain ranging in altitude from near sea-level to more than 1300 metres.
Weather can change very quickly and should never be taken for granted. Before embarking on your journey, check the most up-to-date forecasts. Good sources are:
- MetVUW (external site) and
- Metservice’s mountain (external site) and/or rural (external site) forecast.
- The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (external site) has some great guides for planning and undertaking trips in New Zealand’s backcountry::
- Backcountry mountainbiking guide (external site)
- Multiday tramping guide (external site).
- The Outdoor Safety Code’s (external site) simple 5-step checklist for staying safe in the outdoors relates to these activities. Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process (external site) on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
- The southern end of the Old Ghost Road starts at the Lyell Conservation Campsite (State Highway 6) in the Upper Buller Gorge, a 50 minute drive from Westport.
The northern end of the Old Ghost Road finishes at Seddonville, 50 km north of Westport on State Highway 67.
Accommodation & Refreshments in the Area:
To broaden the audience and to make the trail more accessible to a range of appetites, a set of new exciting packages – Old Ghost Adventures– has been created. Visit the official website for more details.