Hanmer Springs is a small village of about 840 people located an hour and a half north of Christchurch, New Zealand. Best known for its thermal resort and golfing, it's a classic tourist destination that sustains a hive of activity on its main street. The town also has an active mountain bike community that has established a solid network of single track in the foothills out the back of the village. It's often overlooked as a serious riding destination, with the club focusing on tracks that cater to families over the last few years, but that seems to be changing as of late.
With the opening of a new track out the back of the forest, Craig, Ben and I decided to head up and check it out to see what the fuss was all about. The last time we had ridden there was a few year prior, and with good memories of the place we were eager to see what this track might add to the mix.In fact, the whole way up the boys couldn't help but look back down to assess riding potential. We found a few sweet corners and straights to play around on, and once above the bush line the options really started to open up.
Mt Isobel is typically a walking route, but there's no reason why you can't ride it as well. Going off a rumor that the Jollies Pass side was better to ride down, we had a plan, which also linked perfectly into the new trail we wanted to sample. After a lot of bike carrying we broke through the bush line, and suddenly we were almost there.As we approached the top, the excitement was palpable. Once we reached the top, we soaked in the view for a brief minute before dropping in.
Not wanting to hang around at the top for too long, we quickly tucked into a supreme descent. Near the top, the track was mostly undefined, with the best course of action being to follow the path of least resistance. This led to a few encounters with hidden rocks and drops, which added to the excitement. As we went further down, the trail became more defined, leading into a fast descent down a broad ridge. Once at the end of the ridge, the track dropped steeply back towards Hanmer Springs, leading down to Jollies Pass.
After descending off of Mt Isobel entirely, a new challenge awaited; trying to find the entrance to the new trail we had heard about. Luckily, Trailforks came through and helped us identify the start, which was no more than a snapped branch and some pink ribbon. Thanks team!After making our way back towards Hanmer, we couldn't help ourselves and went up Conical Hill to fit in a final jaunt down the original 'black' track that runs off the back of the hill. The though of a custard bun at the bakery was a great motivator for getting to the top of the hill.
After finishing up at the bakery, it was back in the car to make the short drive home to Christchurch!Things to know:
- The trails entrances are hard to find without some assistance, so having an app like Trailforks really helps. Alternatively, the local bike shop (on the main street of Hanmer) sells maps for a few dollars, which goes towards maintaining old trails and building new ones!
- As mentioned, it's well worth checking out the other aspects of the town (the hot pools), as there is a good reason they are so well known. Hanmer is also a great stop to break up the drive between Christchurch and Nelson.
- While there are no explicit warnings on riding the Mt Isobel tracks, the route is also very popular with walkers, so some caution is needed.
- The main trails nearer the village are pretty good as well, and don't require a big push to get to. They are a great option if you are pressed for time!Hanmer Springs MTB Tracks