This summer has seen an inordinate number of pro riders check out the riding scene in Nelson, so we thought it was high time we compiled a list of the ten best trails in the area to see just how good the place really is!
This list of ten are in no particular order, the trails are so different it was impossible to rank them, what might be our favourite on one day might have been bottom of the pile the next depending on a number of variables; mood, energy levels, fear factor..... What we do know is that there is something here for everyone, from the steep and gnarly intense ones, to the back country specials, right down to your after work staples, check them out.....
1. Peaking Ridge
Peaking Ridge is an absolute must ride if you travel to Nelson, you can't say you have ridden there without experiencing the crazy, root infested track. It's that type of track that is body breaking to ride in one go as you shake, rattle and roll down the trail. If you can spend more than 10 percent of your trail time not touching the roots you'll be doing very well indeed. Ride it a couple of times, get to know it and it will make you feel like an EWS king!
Named 629 as it starts exactly 629m above sea level, this is often ridden after Peaking Ridge and is another of Nelson's 'must ride' trails. A completely different kettle of fish to the last track, 629 flows though native beech goodness at the top before hitting a fire road and transitioning into short, young pines where the trail takes a series of gnarly switchbacks and fast traverses to the valley floor. On a good day 629 is a blast, if you are having an 'off day' then it will eat you up and spit you into the Maitai river.
3. Rimu / Supplejack
Ok, so yes this is two trails but they both have a distinctly similar flavour. Starting out from the top of Sharlands Forest both run down the same side of the hill, both are narrow, both contain rocky technical switchbacks and both are an absolute blast in the wet or the dry (but not anywhere in between!). Give Supplejack a go and if you are feeling good then take on Rimu - it's the same just narrower and a bit steeper!
This is your classic after work lap, if you have only got an hour, a quick up and down Firball will have you grinning from ear to ear. It's fast, flowing and has a nice manageable, 350m of climbing and descending. At the top is one of the sweetest views over Nelson city, into the sea with the Abel Tasman in the distance, perfect for a nice beverage and good sunset too.....
5. The Coppermine
The Coppermine is a 3hr (ish) loop that we think is best seen at sunset and sunrise. It's a long climb up to the Coppermine Saddle but it's a good easy gradient with great views at the top. Detour and hike on a bit further and you can ride down from the top of Dun Mountain to Dew Lakes over a testing boulder field that gets more fun the further you descend or follow the Coppermine loop down a flat out and drifty descent into the Maitai valley.
This one isn't strictly in Nelson, it begins at the top of the Takaka Hill just over an hour from town. The trail is around 18km long and a proper feel good blast, take a look at our recent adventure on the trail here. The top section is fairly flat but great fun to pedal and work your way across through beautiful native bush to the main downhill sections. These are well maintained and super fun to ride, it's about a grade 3 - 4 which just gets harder the faster you go! It's best to get a shuttle to pick you up at the end but we have ridden back up the trail to our car which took about 5hrs without any stops or mechanicals. It's not as awful as it sounds, honest.....
7. Whites Bay
Another trail, that is not in Nelson but easily done in a day, over near Blenheim. Recently used in the NZ Enduro, the Loop Track here is one of our all time favourites. It's a bit of a push and a slog, unless you have XC whippet in your blood, to the highest point on the loop but so worth the climb. Descending right to the beach this trail has everything you every need in a trail, narrow singletrack, roots to huck, steep chutes, rock gardens and the odd climb or two, all with an awesome natural feel - the trail builders here worked magic with this one!
Back in Nelson and in the same area as Peaking Ridge and 629, those of you that raced The Mammoth Enduro will remember Krankenstein as the trail that broke many souls on day one. One of the toughest trails in Nelson, the steep technical rocky chutes and the tree lined ridge riding are definitely sections you will want to take on in the dry. To ride this trail well feels like an achievement and you'll certainly have earnt your post ride beer.
9. Kill Devil
Here is your overnight, back country ride just over the Takaka Hill. It's a there and back ride with a descent and a climb on each day meaning full fun and an easy mission to navigate. The descent to the hut turns from rocky and open to narrow, wooded, barely ridden singletrack which sounds like it should be anything other than rideable but it's actually awesome. Day two's decent takes on the switchbacks you climbed the previous day in a 30 minute blast from top to bottom. You'll be back to the car by midday and ready for an ice cream in Takaka.
10. Fringe Hill DH
Last used in the Nelson Top Gun the downhill track on Fringe Hill is a Nelson staple. An 800m descent takes riders from the top of Fringe Hill to Brook Street on the outskirts of town in a relatively short time frame. The trail subtly changes on the way down the hill from native beech to fast open motorway and into the pines, but you'll probably be going so fast you won't realise! There is a cool view across town atop one of the steep chutes, we've only every noticed it when looking for good photo opportunities though......