Anybody with a keyboard knows that Queenstown is the unofficial ‘Home of the Adrenaline Rush’. From bungee jumping to jet boating, the tourism capital of New Zealand’s South Island has an adventure for everyone.
When it comes to their mountain bike offerings, the approach is no different. Hop on and ride downhill is the name of the game, and Queenstown is the multi-destination location for gravity fuelled mountain biking – and all our south Island MTB tours will take you there 🙂
Start at the Gondola
The Skyline Gondola is by far the most incredible way to see Queenstown vistas and ride a bike in the same afternoon. Hikers and sightseers come in droves just to take in the 450-metre ride to the top of one very scenic hill within the Ben Lomond reserve.
Other activities atop the gondola include a panoramic restaurant and bar, hiking trails, paragliding, bungee jumping, and the extremely popular Skyline luge. But for those who like to take adrenaline into their own hands, there’s the Queenstown Bike Park.
Mountain bikers enter the gondola line separately from hikers, and get a ride on every third to fourth gondola. Bikes are carefully hung outside the carriage, and only enhance the 360-degree view of town, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables.
After about 5 minutes of the most breathtaking views imaginable, bikers collect their rig from the lift operator at the peak, and pedal out to the start of the trails. From the top there are grade 2, 3, and 4 tracks, which then branch off into over 20 different well-marked trails ranging from grade 2 to grade 6.
Something for everyone
Beginners and families shouldn’t be discouraged by the groups of hardcore mountain bikers zooming by. Hammy’s Track is a dedicated grade 2 trail, wide with a mellow gradient, built for cyclists of all abilities. It’s a great place to test the legs and the brakes if it’s been awhile. And don’t for get we have expert MTB guides to help you navigate any tricky parts!
The recently added Thunder Goat is another wide and forgiving trail, which swoops down the hill in the open clear-cut, offering absolutely stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Thunder Goat is arguably one of the most beautiful MTB park trails in the world.
Once the legs are warmed up and the confidence is boosted, it’s time to check out one of the grade 3 or 4 tracks. Vertigo, for example, is an all-time favourite trail, with just enough rocks and roots to test out the suspension, yet still on the wider side- great for increasing the skills!
Vertigo was purpose built back in the 90’s for MTB touring before the lift…. We’re lucky today to get to ride it over and over without pedaling back to the top!
Gravity junkies will enjoy a warm up on the aforementioned trails, but then be looking for the steep, technical tracks Queenstown is known for. Conditions can be incredibly muddy and slick, incredibly dusty and dry, and anywhere in between.
Trails such as Thingymajig and Grundy offer thrilling steep rolls and G-outs, tricky root maneuvers, and optional big hucks for those with big bikes and big skills.
Tracks like GSD, World Cup, and Hobbit are even more serious still, with no-option drops and formidable rock gardens.
If the sign says double black diamond, believe it! Don’t drop in without experience, confidence, or one of our local MTB guides!
The mountain bike park is best enjoyed on a full suspension DH bike, yes, but not to worry. The majority of the tracks can be ripping fun on a trail bike as well! A few sections become more technical without that extra suspension, but that’s all part of the experience!
And of course there are a myriad of shops in town that rent DH rigs for those keen to go all in on the rowdy tracks. Most stores offer half and full day rentals, which mirror the half and full day MTB passes available at the gondola.
Skyline does close the gondola to mountain bikers over the Christmas/New Year period and over Easter, but do not even consider skipping Queenstown because of this! Nearby Coronet Peak offers a handful of big-grin descents accessible by pedaling or (even better) shuttle!
Rude Rock, a downhill track built in 2013, is classic, flowing, single-track heaven. Named after a protruding rock spire visible from the road, the track is really anything but rude! This 3km track can be shuttled over and over, as it starts from the top of the Coronet Peak access road.
Though it is technically a grade 4 because of a few steep swoops and exposed sections, it is truly one of those descents that is fun for anyone with moderate biking abilities.
Though Rude Rock is definitely the most popular track at Coronet Peak, there’s actually a handful of other options for those seeking variety and a little more challenge. An old DH track and XC track exist above the ski field car park, left over from the pre-gondola days when Coronet Peak ran chairlifts for mountain bikers in the summer.
Below Rude Rock is Zoot Track, famous from Anthill Farm’s “Follow Me”, a short but thrilling chunky single track descent with multiple option lines. Zoot is a great place to enjoy simple rough and exciting mountain biking; quite a contrast to the more mellow and flowy Rude Rock.
Starting at the same place as Zoot (or connecting to the bottom of Rude Rock) is Skipper’s Canyon track, a longer trail that winds it’s way down into the canyon for which it’s named after.
Skipper’s is a famous jet boating location, which is great and all, but they probably have no idea about the epic DH descent they’re passing on the drive down into the canyon!
The track is fairly raw and fast, dropping at a medium gradient that keeps riders alert and excited.
A few water crossings and fence jumps are a reminder that you’re really out there- but it’s really all about the scenery: more of Queenstown’s best. Massive rock spires and drastic crevices contrast with rolling tussock, making one wonder when the Hobbits and Orcs are going to show themselves.
Lastly, there exists Corotown: a super epic, very steep and technical trail linking Coronet Peak to neighboring Arrowtown. This trail is only advised for those extremely confident in their technical maneuvering, descending, and river crossing skills. A guide for Corotown is highly recommended!
Need a shuttle to keep the legs fresh and the stoke level high? Not a worry. Queenstown Bike Taxis offers a bike-only shuttle service and friendly advice for all of these locations and more. More? Like… Wynward Express!
Located adjacent to the Queentown Bike Park is Wynward Express, home to the mega “Dream Track” jump park. Not keen on 40 foot jumps? No worries, there’s a small line called Mini Dream with features like big 30 foot doubles scaling all the way down to beginner table tops. This is the place to hone your airborne skills, or even get off the ground for the first time!
A few fun berms and optional features flow into and out of the jump park, the area as a whole being known as Wynward Express. In the center of the jump park is a viewing platform, perfect for taking a moment to focus on the next sender, or to take a rest and watch the pros hit the big stuff!
Of course there are places to ride uphill down here, but what’s the moral of this story? Rest your pedaling legs for another place. Queenstown delivers majestic surroundings, incredible downhill tracks for everyone, and big wide grins!
What’s even better is that we have loads of dedicated MTB tours that take in this truly amazing are. Check out our NZ wide tour here, and our dedicated South Island tour here.
Check out our other NZ MTB Guides
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