Wanaka well endowed with fantastic cycling tracks

The Upper Clutha track above the Clutha River, near Wanaka Airport. Photos my John Fridd/ Mark...
The Upper Clutha track above the Clutha River, near Wanaka Airport. Photos my John Fridd/ Mark Goodwin.
We're back in the Wanaka district for the final of our Summer Times bike rides. This is because Wanaka has so many new tracks I couldn't fit them into one article.

In my first article, I explored the Upper Clutha section of the 3000km Cape Reinga-Bluff Te Araroa trail. One of today's rides is being incorporated into another significant new walk/ride, the Mighty Clutha River Trail.

A hillclimb on the Deans Bank track.
A hillclimb on the Deans Bank track.
This trail, also known as the the Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway, will follow the Clutha River from its outlet near Wanaka 338km to the Pacific Ocean, near Kaka Point.

Just as with Te Araroa, there is still lots to do before this trail is finished, but again the resourceful Upper Clutha district has its section virtually completed and that's what we'll explore today.

Find your way out to the Lake Wanaka outlet (from the Wanaka central business district, bike out on the lakeside trail) or drive there on Beacon Point Rd.

Start pedalling down the trail beside the mighty Clutha, imagining how it will be when you can bike all the way to the ocean. The outlet track is a special place, as it's the only track in New Zealand which is part of both the Te Araroa trail and the Mighty Clutha River Trail.

Soon you'll arrive at Albert Town. Cross over the state highway near the bridge, bike along the street by the river and pick up the track again. This soon leaves the Clutha and heads up beside the Cardrona River for a short distance, to cross Pawson's Crossing bridge.

Soon, the track starts climbing up and over the Halliday Bluffs and you'll need reasonable fitness to ride all this section.

Before too long, you'll be up on the river terrace, which allows great vistas over New Zealand's biggest river. The undulating track has a variety of surfaces from gravel to clay and some sections get a little soft if the season has been wet.

The trail winds through kanuka stands, willow trees and open areas and a Wanaka rider tells me it has become a favourite with many riders, because it has a bit of everything.

About 15km from Albert Town, you'll arrive at the Red Bridge across the Clutha. Cross the highway to pick up a short track that takes you down beside the river to a spectacular bend in the Clutha, the Devil's Nook.

Unfortunately, this is as far as the Mighty Clutha River Trail goes for now, but you can keep riding.

Near the Devil's Nook, you'll see a wooden arch bridge marking the start of a new track up to Luggate township just south of here.

This 2km track winds up into rocky country above Luggate Creek and finishes at a new subdivision on the outskirts of Luggate.

If you are hungry and/or thirsty, the Luggate Hotel awaits. From Luggate, you can join your pick-up driver or bike back along the trail to your starting point, enjoying the great views to the Southern Alps.

Deans Bank Track
This 11.5km loop is the place to go if you want some fun on your bike close to Wanaka. Built by the proactive Bike Wanaka club on conservation land, it includes twisty downhills through forest and scrub areas, grunty climbs and sweeping corners, with some great views over the nearby Clutha River and Lake Wanaka.

It's mainly for intermediate or expert riders, but the trickier sections have bypasses for the more conservative rider.

To get to Deans Bank from Wanaka, cross the Clutha bridge at Albert Town and immediately turn left into the camping area.

Look for the sign to Deans Bank and note this is a directional track, so you're only supposed to ride one way. A video on the Bike Wanaka website gives a good idea what the track is like.

• More info on Wanaka tracks at these websites:

Bike Wanaka:
Upper Clutha Tracks Trust: uppercluthatrackstrust.org.nz/
Te Araroa NZ trail: www.teararoa.org.nz/otago/
Mighty Clutha River Trail:

At a glance

Distance: Lake Wanaka outlet to Luggate, 21km. Deans Bank loop 11.5km.
Main climb:
100m (Halliday Bluffs).
Estimated riding time without stops: Outlet to Luggate, 1 hours. Deans Bank, 50min per lap. 

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