Cycling the Paparoa Track
This last section was mine and Sam’s favourite. After leaving Pororari Hut it feels like a very long, fun, flowy decent. You feel like you are ticking off the kms and just having a great time.
Recently we rode the Paparoa track on the west coast. This is a track that’s classified as one of the few “Great walks” of New Zealand. Luckily for us this track is open for both walking and mountain biking meaning many people can enjoy the beautiful scenery one way or another. This track was created as a memorial for the 29 miners who lost their lives in the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster.
The Paparoa is 55km and has 3 amazing DOC hut along the way fully equipped with bunks, mattresses, heating, gas cooktops, toilets and water supply. With all these supplies in the huts means packing your bags is considerably lighter making it easier for your chosen mode of transport.
The track starts 45min out of Greymouth at the Smoke Ho carpark. From here it is a 10.3km climb to the first hut, Ces Clark Hut. This section was where most of the climbing was done on the track. It zig-zags its way up the ridge between the Blackball and roaring meg creeks then climbs more steeply into the sub alpine forest. This was the most challenging section of track due to its rough and rocky riding surface.
On this occasion Sam and I decided to ride the Paparoa track in 1 day. The first climb for us was in a damp fog with limited vision. About 1km from Ces Clark Hut you pop out of the bush and into the open. We stopped for a bite to eat at Ces Clark before carrying on.
From Ces Clark Hut it was a 9.7km ride to Moonlight Tops Hut. This part of the track is undulating throughout alpine scrub and tussock with expansive views both out to sea and inland to Aoraki/Mt Cook. A lot of people decided to ride the Paparoa over 2 days and spend their night at this hut.
Unfortunately, due to the fog we couldn’t see the views from this hut, however, the fog was lifting and we could begin to see further and further ahead. We found this section of trail easier going due to the smoother riding surface and some rewarding descents. Multiple sour worms were consumed while hitting the highest altitude of the trail.
From Moonlight Tops Hut to Pororari Hut is the longest distance between huts at 19.1km. This riding was scattered between native West Coast bush and alpine terrain. 5km from the hut you are greeted with a view into the valley that holds the Pike River mine. If you look closely on a clear day you can see mining infrastructure. The next section of track takes you across the top of large limestone cliffs before reaching an emergency shelter.
The first part of this section felt eerie as you were back in the bush and it was foggy and misty. We found a huge worm on the trail. The West Coast snake. After a photo, we carried on and soon popped out into the open with views into the Pike River. Throughout this next section we stopped multiple times to look at cliffs, scenery, out to a cool waterfall and of course down towards the mine. We were lucky that the fog had lifted and we could see.
Another sandwich was consumed at the Emergency shelter before heading off down the hill. The majority of this next section was downhill and featured tighter corners. We soon came across a large swing bridge with a large waterfall falling just beside, it was very cool. We met a lot of trampers who were walking the trail through this section. Once at the bottom of the hill there was a small climb back up to Pororari Hut.
The final leg is from Pororari Hut back to the carpark 17.1km. From the hut the trail descends into the upper Pororari River. From here you follow the river as the track sidles the side of the gorge. You can find plenty of nice swimming holes/spots along the way. 4km from the finish the trail splits where hikers follow the Pororari River Track through the Pororari River Gorge. Mountain Bikers follow the Inland Pack Track over a low saddle and into the Punakaiki River Valley to finish.
This last section was mine and Sam’s favourite. After leaving Pororari Hut it feels like a very long, fun, flowy decent. You feel like you are ticking off the kms and just having a great time. Just note that when you think you are nearly there don’t get a false hope as there is one more hill! The final hill is about 3km long and it hurts… But you are rewarded with a fun downhill to finish.
We both really enjoyed riding the Paparoa!
Written by Sam Paris.
Sam P – Pivot Firebird
Sam H – Pivot Mach 6