5 of the Best Cycling Trails in Christchurch

Feeling the need to get out and explore? Here are our picks for 5 of the best cycling trails around Christchurch. Make the most of your weekends and get out exploring. These trails are suitable for all kinds of riders, bikes and fitness levels.

1. Otahuna Loop Tai Tapu

The Otahuna loop in Tai Tapu is one of the best-kept secrets of Christchurch cycling. Head East down Rhodes Road from the South end of Old Tai Tapu road. The route will take you up the valley towards the Port Hills. Enjoy riding under a canopy of trees for several hundred metres, over (small) rolling hills, and past the famous Otahuna lodge where many royals have stayed over the years. 

Looking toward the Otahuna Lodge from across the grounds.

The route is fully sealed aside from a small 400m section of gravel, usually easy to ride all year round. After completing the ride we recommend you stop in at the Raspberry Cafe at the start of the route, enjoy a coffee or check out the amazing cakes they have. You can always do another loop right?

In total, the route is 5.5km long with 55m elevation gain. It is suitable for all kinds of bikes and fitness levels.

2.  Te Ara Otakaro Avon River Trail

The Red Zone has been transformed into a biking and walking paradise.

A shared-use trail along the banks of the Avon/Otakaro River. Parts of this trail take you through the Red Zone and finishes in New Brighton. Our advice is to go during the month of June with your pannier or bike basket to score plenty of free Feijoas. 

You can start your offroad journey from The Promenade in the Central City but the official trail starts from the corner of Barbados St and Cambridge Terrace, heading North-West along the banks of the river to the end at New Brighton Rd and Hawke St. In total it is 11.5km long, a mix of gravel, shingle and paved road surface. The majority is all on closed roads but there are several intersections/road crossings along the way. 

Along the trail, there are several storyboards telling the story of how the environment and communities have been affected by the earthquakes. 

3. McLeans Island 

McLeans Island forest is on the banks of the Waimakariri River. It is one of the most popular places for Mountain Bikers, families cycling, runners and walkers in Christchurch. 

The trail is an easy singletrack, made up of sandy soil, hard-packed dirt and lots of pine needles. The ride takes you through pine forests, across logging roads and there is an option to head down to the Waimakariri River. 

A great trail for beginner mountain bikers or those looking for a gentle day out.

The total length of trails is 17km. However if you’re looking to go further it is possible to do as many loops until you are content. We recommend you use a mountain bike for this trail or alternatively a capable gravel/adventure bike. The trail is mostly flat with a few small steep uphills gaining 3-5m elevation each time. It is a great place to build confidence for mountain biking in the hills or spend time riding with your family and friends.

If you enjoy pushing yourself around here there is a night racing series in winter hosted by Blue Dog Events, be warned you will get EXTREMELY muddy!

4. Little River Rail Trail

The Little River Rail Trail is a Christchurch classic. On paper it starts in Hornby heading all the way out to Little River. We recommend starting at the end of River Road south of Tai Tapu as this is where the gravel/shingle bike trail really begins. You will ride through farmland seeing plenty of cows and sheep, new wetlands the Selwyn council is building and Lake Ellesmere. Be sure to explore inside the old Motukarara train station. 

The trail is 35km to Little River from the end of River Road. It is flat the whole way and suitable for all bikes and fitness levels. We recommend taking snacks and plenty of water with you if you’re planning to go the whole way.

Who can say no to a view like this over lunch?

There are two great cafes along the way – Gebbies Garden Cafe is on the main road at Motukarara. They make delicious pies! Little River Cafe is at the end of the ride depending on the direction you head. Make a point to stop in and explore the great local art gallery attached to the cafe. 

5.  Templars Island Trail

Templars Island Trail is a flat shared-use trail along the banks of the Waimakariri River. It’s a great escape from the urban riding you may be used to. Enjoy the variety of native plantings along the trail with over 40 different species planted, not to mention the countless birds you’ll spot along the way. 

Find the start at either McLeans Island Rd or Rock Spur Carpark. The trail is 17km long, flat and the surface is a mix of gravel, shingle and sandy soil. We recommend a gravel/adventure bike or a mountain bike for this trail. The trail tends to be wet, muddy and slippery during winter as the river may flood on occasion so we recommend riding here during the warmer months. Bring your togs and stop for a swim mid-ride!

We hope you enjoyed reading about what we think are the 5 best trails in Christchurch. If we missed any please let us know, we’d love to hear what your favourite is!

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