The Old Ghost Road is an 85km singletrack through the mountains in the north-west of Aotearoa / New Zealand’s Te Waipounamu / South Island. Nigel and Sue spent four days enjoying the spectacular scenery in the mountains and along the river, riding some of the most challenging and enjoyable trails of their lives.

Quick Overview

The Old Ghost Road is an 85km point-to-point trail located in the remote mountains of the north-west of Aotearoa / New Zealand’s Te Waipounamu / South Island, around five hour’s drive from Ōtautahi / Christchurch.

This trail offers some of the most spectacular scenery (and challenging riding) you might ever experience. The Old Ghost Road follows old mining trails, crosses the mountains with incredible mountain views, and winds along the Mokihinui River valley.

About the Old Ghost Road

The Old Ghost Road is fast becoming one of the most popular multi-day rides in Aotearoa / New Zealand. While it’s possible to ride the entire 85km in a day (if you’re an extremely fit, very experienced rider), most people choose to spend two to four days riding the trail,  staying overnight in the well-appointed huts along the route.

The trail follows old miners’ roads from Lyell up into the mountains. Leaving the old mining road, the trail goes above the treeline, following the ridgeline before descending back down and following the Mokihinui River. After crossing many bridges, the trail finishes at the Rough and Tumble Lodge in Seddonville, where riders can enjoy a nice cold beer!


The Old Ghost Road – Aotearoa New Zealand’s Best Multi-Day Mountain Bike Ride, NAS Adventures, New Zealand, South Island, Mountain Biking

The Old Ghost Road History

The Old Ghost Road history is a story of determination, set backs (at one point a hydro dam was proposed which would’ve scuttled their plans), and finally triumph.

The trail began as an old gold-miners’ road, built in the 1880s. Only the two ends of the miners’ road were ever built as the miners couldn’t find a way to join them together. Over time, the roads were lost and the bush took over.

In 2007, Marion Boatwright, the owner of the Rough and Tumble Lodge in Seddonville, came into possession of an old map of the miners’ road. He became obsessed with re-building the trail and joining the two ends together.

Over an eight-year period, Boatwright (nick-named Weasel) and his colleagues secured enough funding and volunteer man-hours to build the trail. They also built four new huts and 16 bridges across the river to join up the two old mining roads.

The trail was opened in December 2015, and over 2,500 people rode it during the first two months. Since then, the Old Ghost Road has become popular with not only mountain bikers, but hikers as well.

A book about the building of the trail – Spirit to the Stone – can be found in each hut and makes great reading after a day on the trail.

How To Get to the Old Ghost Road

The Lyell trailhead is around 300km from Christchurch, 60km from Westport, and 30km from Murchison. With the amount of gear needed for this trip, driving yourself to one of the trailhead towns is the most practical option.

The trail finishes near Seddonville at a car park by the Rough and Tumble Lodge.

There are several tour operators who can transport your car to the end point using convenient key-drop and lock boxes at each end. We used Buller Adventures, one of six Old Ghost Road official partners, and this cost us $189 NZD ($173 AUD) for the two of us together.

Official partners can also arrange transport for you and your bike from Westport or Murchison.

We stayed the night in Murchison before starting the ride, but you could also stay in Lyell. The Lyell Historic Reserve has a campground and ample space for car parking. There are toilets here, and an insect- screened shelter (the sandflies are particularly vicious!).

Please note: Most riders choose to ride from Lyell to Seddonville due to the elevation profile, but the route can be ridden in reverse.


The Old Ghost Road – Aotearoa New Zealand’s Best Multi-Day Mountain Bike Ride, NAS Adventures, New Zealand, South Island, Mountain Biking

Where To Stay Along the Old Ghost Road

The best places to stay on the Old Ghost Road are the Category 1 (bookable) huts. These are maintained by volunteers and have water, cooking facilities, bunk beds, fire places, composting toilets, and even bush showers!!

There are six huts along the Old Ghost Road, four of which are bookable and have more facilities. The other two huts aren’t able to be booked in advance and only have very basic facilities.

The cost to ride (and stay in the huts) is $160 NZD ($148 AUD) per adult for a total of four nights. This is the cost whether you stay for one night or all four, it’s not calculated on a per night basis.  If you’re keen to save $60 NZD ($55 AUD), ride during the winter months when the cost is only $100 NZD ($91 AUD) per adult.

The private huts, or ‘sleepouts’, cost a flat-rate of $360 NZD ($333 AUD) per trip (up to four nights included) and have space for four adults.

Skill Level


The Old Ghost Road is a Grade 4 (advanced) trail, and is recommended for fit and experienced mountain bikers.

There are several sections of the Old Ghost Road that are very technical and challenging – we definitely weren’t as fit as we would’ve liked to be! Walking your bike may be necessary at times. I (Sue) certainly walked my bike quite a bit on day two (the most challenging day)!

In the last couple of years, fences have been erected along parts of the trail with exposed cliffs on one side. This definitely made the trail more manageable for us.

Distance / Duration / Elevation of the Old Ghost Road

85km / 2-4 days / 2,000m

The Old Ghost Road is 85km from end-to-end. While very fit, experienced riders can complete the trail in a day, most riders take two to four days to ride the full length.

Don’t forget to fill in a trip intention form before heading out!

Essential Gear For the Old Ghost Road

  • Mountain bike
  • Helmet
  • Bike clothes
  • Bike shoes
  • Riding gloves
  • Handlebar bag
  • Seat bag (or panniers if riding hard-tail)
  • Clothes to wear in huts
  • Camp towel
  • Food and snacks
  • First aid kit
  • Sleeping bag liner (you can hire sleeping bags at each hut but not sure how often they’re washed)
  • Rain jacket
  • Head torch
  • Candles for the huts
  • PLB (should be able to hire this)
  • Water bottle/backpack with bladder
  • Power bank (there’s no facility to charge devices along the route)
  • Camera with spare batteries (we took a GoPro)

Read more: Essential Gear for Bikepacking Adventures


The Old Ghost Road – Aotearoa New Zealand’s Best Multi-Day Mountain Bike Ride, NAS Adventures, New Zealand, South Island, Mountain Biking

What It’s Like to Ride the Old Ghost Road

Day 1 – Lyell Campground to Lyell Saddle Hut

Distance: 18km
Duration: 3 hours riding (5 hours total)
Navigation data: GPX file

Please note: As we were filming, we spent a lot of extra time setting up shots and getting the camera equipment sorted.

We began by crossing the river along the first of many suspension bridges, and then began the long uphill ride. The gradient wasn’t too steep, so it was comfortable riding. The scenery was spectacular as we rode through old forests, with ferns and huge trees shading us.

Now and again, we’d catch glimpses of views out across the valley, teasing at what awaited us higher up. We crossed several small waterfalls, which added to the beauty of the trail.


The Old Ghost Road – Aotearoa New Zealand’s Best Multi-Day Mountain Bike Ride, NAS Adventures, New Zealand, South Island, Mountain Biking


There was plenty of evidence of the mining history as we rode, with discarded artefacts strewn about on the side of the trail, and even an old hut in ruins. Noticeboards told the stories from those long-ago days.

We had to lift our bikes over a huge tree that had fallen across the trail. Speaking to a couple of hikers we caught up with who’d left the day before us, we realised the tree had fallen only hours before we got there!

After five hours on the trail we arrived at the Lyell Saddle Hut. We’d booked the summer sleepout – which is a private hut – but decided to stay in the main hut, as there was a fireplace. Despite being late December, it was quite cold!

The biggest surprise at the hut was the bathhouse, which was essentially a gravity-fed shower system. So we warmed up a large pot of water in the hut and had a hot shower!

Beware! If you’re staying at Lyell Saddle Hut, there are a couple of very cheeky Wekas (small, flightless Maori hens) living there who’ll run off with your food or clothing if given half a chance, so don’t leave anything lying around! We lost a couple of muesli bars and only just managed to recover a bag of jelly snakes.


Day 2 – Lyell Saddle to Stern Valley Hut

Distance: 25km
Duration: 4 hours riding (10 hours total – including lunch stop at Ghost Lake Hut)
Navigation data: GPX file

The second day’s ride began with around 10km weaving up the mountain, around tight switchbacks. The trail was quite rough, with large stones to negotiate. I had a tumble at one point – fortunately there was a large rock to catch my fall.

As we arrived above the treeline, it began to rain. We took shelter for a while in a small hut called Top Shelter and put on some more clothes before riding out along the exposed ridgeline.

This was the most spectacular section of the Old Ghost Road. While it was misty and raining, fortunately we weren’t totally fogged in, and the views were amazing. Seeing the trail snaking along the ridge in front of us was a highlight of the ride.

We stopped for lunch at the Ghost Hut and then began our descent. The 4km between the Ghost Hut and the Skyline Steps is the most challenging section of the entire Old Ghost Road. Even the official website says ‘large sections unrideable for all but the fittest and most competent riders. Riders dismount as necessary and be prepared to push your bike for extended sections’.  Honestly, I think I walked at least 75% of this section.


The Old Ghost Road – Aotearoa New Zealand’s Best Multi-Day Mountain Bike Ride, NAS Adventures, New Zealand, South Island, Mountain Biking


The Skyline Steps were the solution to the trail builders’ final obstacle – a 60m cliff!  All the individual pieces of the steps were helicoptered in and the stairs were built by hand. The steps mark the end of the challenging part of the trail. But figuring out how to get the bikes down the steps was a challenge in itself. Luckily for me, Nigel carried both bikes down.

After the Skyline Steps, the riding became FUN. Fast flowing trails took us back through the forest heading down to the river and the Stern Valley Hut.


Day 3 – Stern Valley Hut to Specimen Point Hut

Distance: 25km
Duration: 3 hours riding (5 hours 45 minutes total)
Navigation data: GPX file

Day three on the Old Ghost Road began with more uphill riding and switchbacks. We rode to Earnest Valley, then up through a barren rocky section called The Boneyard.  Again the views were spectacular, even though there was a bit of rain.

At the Solemn Saddle we had another Weka encounter, but this one didn’t score any of our snacks. The trail down from the Solemn Saddle to the Mokihinui River was the most fun of the entire ride. Beautiful, fast, flowing singletrack.

We arrived at Specimen Point just before lunch and really enjoyed the afternoon relaxing in the beautiful surroundings high above the river.


Day 4 – Specimen Point Hut to Seddonville

Distance: 17km
Duration: 2 hours riding (3 hours 30 minutes total)
Navigation data: GPX file

As our final day on the trail dawned, we had mixed emotions. We were looking forward to having a decent meal – and a beer –  at the end, but we were sad to be leaving the trail.

The sun came out for our final day’s ride as we followed the Mokihinui downstream, crossing many bridges and skirting the cliff edge. We started to see evidence of old mining activity again, and realised we were back on the historic mining road.

Just after the 81km sign, the trail gave us one last reminder as to what it was all about, with a steep 400m uphill section. After a stop at the top for the last of our jelly snakes, we continued back to our car and an icy cold beer at the Rough and Tumble Lodge. We spent time reflecting on what was one of the best adventures of our lives.


The Old Ghost Road – Aotearoa New Zealand’s Best Multi-Day Mountain Bike Ride, NAS Adventures, New Zealand, South Island, Mountain Biking

Tips For Riding the Old Ghost Trail

  • The hut accommodation books out far in advance, so make sure to get in early. We booked in May for our late December trip (20th-24th Dec 2022), and some of the huts were already getting full
  • Remember, this is an alpine environment, so even in the middle of summer, you can expect cold temperatures and rain along the trail. We took plenty of warm clothes and wore all of them
  • You can hire sleeping bags at each hut (book this before your departure – we used Buller Adventures). There’s a strong box with the sleeping bags inside, to save you carrying a bag along the route. I’m not sure how often they get washed though, so  we recommend taking a sleeping bag liner of your own
  • There’s rain water available at each hut. We boiled all the water we drank but did meet people who hadn’t bothered. Boiling water is recommended.
  • There’s no power at the huts, so you’ll need to take your own power banks or solar chargers if you want to charge your phone or other devices
  • There’s almost no mobile coverage on the trail. There are a couple of spots where you may get a fairly weak signal, and these are signposted on the trail
  • We hired a PLB from Buller Adventures in case of emergency

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

FAQs Old Ghost Road

How long does it take to ride the Old Ghost Road?

While super-fit and experienced riders can ride the Old Ghost Road in a day, most riders take two to four days to complete the 85km trail.

How hard is the Old Ghost Road?

The Old Ghost Road is classified as a Grade 4 (advanced) mountain bike trail. There are a couple of sections that approach Grade 5. However, you can always get off and push your bike!

How do you get to the Old Ghost Road?

You can drive to the Lyell Historic Reserve and start the Old Ghost Road trail from there. Alternatively you can book a transfer with one of the official partners. Public transport is limited but a bus does pass through town.

Why is it called the Old Ghost Road?

The name ‘Ghost Road’ came about in reference to the ghost of the old mining road that the trail builders were following. They later decided to add in the word ‘Old’.

Can you camp on the Old Ghost Road?

If you’d prefer to take your own tent for camping on the Old Ghost Road, it costs $50 per booking (two people for up to four nights).

How much does it cost to ride the Old Ghost Road?

The cost to ride the Old Ghost Road (and stay in the huts) is $160 NZD per adult – this is for one to four nights inclusive. During the winter months, the cost is reduced to $100 NZD ($92 AUD) per adult.

Do I need to book the Old Ghost Road huts in advance?

Yes! The four well-provisioned huts on the Old Ghost Road are all bookable, and popular dates do tend to fill quickly.