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Level: Easiest
Length: 95 mi (152.9 km)
Surface: Doubletrack
Configuration: One-way
Elevation: -
Total: 7 riders

Mountain Biking Otago Central Rail Trail

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#79 of 387 mountain bike trails in New Zealand
#6,297 in the world

The Otago Central Rail Trail is New Zealand's most popular multi-day ride for casual recreational cyclists. At the height of the season - December to May - upwards of 200 people start the trail every day.

The 152 km (95 mile) trail crosses the stark, expansive, rugged, arid and majestic landscapes of Central Otago. It can be very hot in summer (December, January, February) and very cold in winter (June, July, August) but is usually quite mild. The panoramas are stunning and you pass interesting towns and villages. There are historic viaducts and bridges to cross and there are tunnels.

At the Middlemarch end you can link to Dunedin on the scenic Taieri Gorge Train and at the Clyde end you are close to Queenstown - scenic and adrenalin paradise with endless mountain biking trails.

The trail been around for many years and the infrastructure is well developed. There are many operators to help you plan an itinerary to suit your fitness, book your accommodation (endless options!), recommend eateries (plentiful and varied choices!) shuttle you in or out, give you maps and brochures, set you up on suitable bikes and so on. At the official website, www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz, you'll find lists of tour operators, bike outfitters, places to stay and eat and much much more. Don't miss their map.

On the bed of a former railway line, the all-weather trail has very gentle gradients. The gravel surface is a little jittery and at times the long, straight, flat riding can become tedious - especially when you're pumping into a head wind. The trail is free to ride and is open all year. In good weather, it's a mellow adventure for all the family. It's the kind of ride that you do in a group where the attraction is not so much about the pedalling - it's about the social setting, the cafes, the pubs, the wineries, the scenery and the history.

You can start the trail at either end. Most people start at Clyde to take advantage of the prevailing winds (which often don't prevail!).

A typical four day itinerary would be...
Clyde to Omakau, 37km...
Omakau to Wedderburn, 41 km...
Wedderburn to Kokonga, 32 km...
Kokonga to Middlemarch, 42 km...

And here's a typical three day itinerary...
Clyde to Lauder, 44 km...
Lauder to Ranfurly, 48 km...
Ranfurly to Middlemarch, 60 km...

From Middlemarch you can either take the spectacular Taieri Gorge train trip back to Dunedin, or shuttle back to Clyde.

There are a number of side trips you can do if you want to extend the pleasure. Naseby is famous for its curling court. It also has a good mountain bike park. St Bathans is another interesting place with a little lake in a stunning setting. The very short detour to historic Ophir is a must-do.

For a one day sample of the best of the trail get a double shuttle and ride from Ida Valley to Chatto Creek. You'll cross the Raggedy Range and take in the Poolburn Gorge with the Viaduct and two tunnels. The trail mostly slopes down here and the pub at Chatto Creek is a great place to re-live the adventure over a meal and drink.

For a longer adventure add the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail to the beginning or end of your ride. Both those trails have corners and undulations so they are a grade harder but still easy and their scenery is more varied.

In January, on long weekends and at Easter you should definitely book accommodation well ahead of time.

First added by searsandrewj on Jun 11, 2013. Last updated Apr 28, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: yes
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: yes
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: yes
  • Fat bike grooming: yes
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
Clyde or Middlemarch. They are both small villages so you won't have trouble getting onto the trail.
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Otago Central Rail Trail Trail map

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Pete Philpott (on Sep 15, 2018)
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Dry (on Aug 24, 2016)
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  • Paul Webber

    Was a good ride Great scenery. Would be better if there was some where to shower and change at the end of the trail

    Reply | Thank
  • Jim Cummings

    With plenty of service providers, oodles of eating and sleeping options, plenty of history, quaint towns, spectacular scenery, viaducts, tunnels, and very easy riding, the Otago Central Trail makes for a great mellow-adventure family cycling holiday.

    Reply | Thank