Riding the Old Ghost Road - Buller Gorge Return

Riding the Old Ghost Road - Buller Gorge Return

Guest blog by Ritchie Bath - Pushbikes Ambassador

I am always on the hunt for ride ideas, and if any of you are like me, I don’t always enjoy scouring the internet for info, looking at maps, planning etc. Sometimes I just like to have the idea handed to me on a plate. So given that I have just returned from two of the best days I have had on the bike, I thought I would share the plan all packaged up and ready to go.

Day One: Drive Christchurch to Murchison - Stay at Riverside Holiday Park (Cabins from $30)

Day Two: Early Start suggested - Drive to Lyell and ride the Old Ghost Road through to Seddonville - Stay at either Rough and Tumble Lodge or the Seddonville Hotel

Day Three: Ride back on the road along the Buller Gorge Back to Lyell to drive home.

Of course - If two 6+ hour ride days don’t do it for you then this can very easily be broken up with a stay in one of the huts on Old Ghost Road - The Ghost Lake Hut is relatively central and absolutely stunning

So now the fun part, how about the ride.

Old Ghost Road is an incredible ride, 130 years ago there was a plan to connect the Lyell Goldfields to the Mohikinui however the terrain was too challenging and the road never completed. In 2007, a Seddonville man found the original reconnaissance plans and dreamt up the idea of completing the trail for walking and mountain biking. You have to see it to believe it, the fact that someone had this vision is just incredible and the finished product is unbelievable.

You start in Lyell and certainly warm your legs up fast, the first 18 km's is basically a gradual climb with no relief, nothing overly steep but nothing flat either. After 18 km's you are welcomed to the Lyell Hut, we thought the perfect opportunity for a coffee and to warm up a little after some time riding in the dark.

Old Ghost ROad

You then continue to climb for 12 km’s onto what would be the most stunning MTB section I have ever ridden. You will follow a ridgeline and feel like you are tramping on your bike, riding to the Ghost Lake Hut at 1200m above sea level. On a clear day, the views are amazing, if not, there is something rather special about riding your MTB above the clouds.

Old Ghost Road

Have a good fuel up here and make sure you are hydrated as the next 10 km's or so will keep you sharp. By far the most technical section of the trail, you will then descend through some rather steep and rough rocky sections, and find yourself at what I think is a piece of engineering brilliance. The only way to get riders and trampers through a section of trail was to build 240 small steps on what feels like a sheer drop. Its stunning, the forest is amazing and the creativity in designing this trail mindblowing.

You will be super excited to be back on the bike, some fast flowy forest trails lead you through to an honest climb out of what they call the Boneyard and soon you will be counting down the KM’s of paradise heading towards the end of the trail.

Old Ghost Road

The day is solid - It took two of us quite experienced and relatively fit riders around 8 hours ride time to ride, I would suggest splitting it into two days with a night in the Ghost Lake Hut for those who want to take in the views not just push past them.

We rode out to the Seddonville Hotel for the night, a very warm welcome, an incredibly friendly team and staff and just the kind of meal everyone needs after a long day in the saddle.

Not sure if any of you are like me in the fact that if you explore a place riding you like lots of variety? We opted to ride back to Lyell via the road, I know this may seem a little boring compared to back on the trail or even the popular Charming Creek option however for me, the speed we ride at is an amazing opportunity to see little towns, to notice things, and to take places in, in a way that you can’t as easily travelling at 100kph in a car.

We left early and got a beautiful sunrise on the coast, and an hour or so later were in Westport for a very well needed coffee and breakfast. Once you leave Westport (Remember to fill your bottles as not many water stops from here) You will ride along the Buller Gorge ( A deep and fast flowing canyon between Westport and Murchison), it's simply stunning, will keep you very entertained with stunning views and so many great photo opportunities.

Old Ghost Road

The Berlin's Cafe is a must stop, a huge cabinet full of perfect ride food, some great local history and a chance to put the feet up for a while during the ride. We loved the stop here and clearly so many people travelling through make it a part of their journey.

Finishing up you have 30 stunning km’s of road, a beautiful river to your left and dense thick west coast native bush on the right. By now the legs had started to recover a little from day one and we enjoyed spinning them out along this great road before arriving at the van for the drive home.

Old Ghost Road

Information for the Trip

Day One - We started riding at 6 am - approx 8 hours ride time (10 hours total time) - 85 km

Day Two - We started at 6 am - Approx 6 hrs ride time (Singlespeed MTB meant I could only ride at 19 km/h) comfortably - 110 km so a much easier day for those of you who ride gears.

Suggested Gear to make the trip easier - Giant HL900 Bar Light - You can run on low setting for 10 hours, its waterproof and has the battery internal so it's on the bars and out of the way. A perfect option for the stars both mornings in the dark. - Apidura Saddle Pack - I can tell you from experience that for long days in the saddle, keep all of the weight that you pack off your back and on your bike, The big seat mounted packs works awesome, are easy to access and are surprisingly stable when bombing downhill. - Good Tyres and a good repair kit - One thing I always feel when out on these rides is how remote you are, a blown tyre, or a mechanical could mean literally a day or more of walking out to help, and not even to a local bike shop. It may seem like overkill but I run a new set of tyres and ensure I have all of the tools for basic repairs out on the trail. Pushbikes run amazing workshops, where for next to nothing they will help you learn to look after and repair your bike and to deal with those emergency mechanicals out on the trail. I couldn't recommend these highly enough before a ride like this. - Warm gloves and a high-quality jacket - I chose to ride in the Madison Premio race jacket, stretchy, super breathable and quick drying - Yes you pay for it, but man it's worth it. The team at Pushbikes will help you through the range if you need a jacket and want to be confident you are getting the right one.

There is drinking water all over the trail so no need to carry more than a bottle, however for food I would suggest you pack lightweight but lots - PLan for 12+ hours out there on day one and you will be safe. Day two is a lot easier if you relax like us and are looking for excuses to stop at the local cafes.

Have an amazing ride, I hope this helps, please do reach out if you want to ask any questions whatsoever or if I can help you plan your ride.

References for planning your trip

Oldghostroad.org.nz - Official OGR website for ride details and info + Hut bookings.

Pushbikes Training Courses - To bring you up to speed with any mechanicals you may have.

www.seddonvillehotel.co.nz - A great option to stay on the end of the trail -

Riversidemurchison.co.nz - A great holiday park to stay the night before you start.


  • Not sure about doing it in one day, as I have done it in two days, enjoying the outdoor ambience and staying at the Stern Hut. Beautiful ride and scenery! Highly recommend the ride.
    Not sure about the ride back along a busy highway, nor about using a single speed. Too slow along a lot of the sections and definintely the road, and maybe (for me) too high a gear for some of the relentless climbs….

    Julian Doesburg
  • Cool trip.

    You don’t need to start so early if you don’t mind missing KBT (Kiwi Bed Time)!

    Any suggestions for a stop on the way back up (we did day 1 & 2 below until lunch last time – but then washed bikes, had a shower, ate dinner and drinks instead of riding more)

    Day 1 – drive CHCH to OGR + ride to ghost lake hut for Dinner & Buckfast
    Day 2 – late start & tumbledown for lunch….. then ride to??
    Day 3 – ride back to the car in morning & drive to CHCH (or somewhere else to ride).

    Any other more off-road options for the way back – I don’t want to look at maps :)

  • You can return to Lyell via the Denniston Shortcut after riding the OGR if riding back on the Road doesn’t appeal :
    Combining with the Old Ghost Road to form a loop, this connector ride starts (and being a loop, finishes) at the northern end of the Old Ghost Road, near Seddonville, and takes in the aptly named Charming Creek and formidable Denniston Shortcut. (Mackleys Road)
    From Seddonville, the Roundabout seeks out the Charming Creek Walkway and a short stretch of highway before climbing up to the bare and desolate Denniston Plateau. It then follows the ‘Denniston Shortcut’ through the remote Orikaka Ecological Area to the Lyell car park at the southern end of the Old Ghost Road.


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