The MTB Treasures of Wanaka, New Zealand

May 27, 2017
by teeneegee  
Part 1: Wanaka and His Unique "Sticky Forest"

We left our home in Switzerland on January first and went skiing in Japan for a month. After our short winter, we headed straight down into the Summer of New Zealand where we planned to spend four months on a road trip with our bikes. We started this adventure in Auckland and are making our way slowly down south in our campervan called “Chröser”. So far we stopped and rode our bikes in Rotorua, Wellington, and Nelson—where we rode the amazing Nydia track. After some Westcoast sightseeing, we got to Wanaka and where we've been shown around by friends who live in this area.

Our van shortly before arriving in Nelson

Our van shortly before arriving in Nelson

Wanaka, with its beautiful lake and mountains, offers a lot of famous hiking options. Rob Roy glacier and Roys Peak are well-frequented options in the area. But there are some mountain biking jewels as well that might get overshadowed by all the fame of Queenstown.

Beautiful Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka
Sticky Forest habitant
Sticky Forest habitant

Lucky us, Flo, a swiss friend who currently works in Wanaka, was able to sneak out of work and show us around in what became his home trails. Sticky Forest, which really is in the middle of Wanaka, has tons of trails built onto a very small hill. All of them are marked and added on Trailforks, but even then it can get tricky to navigate.

Sticky Forest is a sacred place for mountain bikers in Wanaka and after our first session, it became clear why. The biking community of Wanaka did an amazing job on those trails. I think I have never been in a trail center with a higher density of (quality) trails. Additionally, most of the jump trails are reasonable sized and are perfectly shaped. So much fun riding them—personal favorites were “Pedal or Die” and “GBH”.

The MTB Treasures of Wanaka New Zealand
The MTB Treasures of Wanaka New Zealand
Ben on GBH a super fun jump trail

The MTB Treasures of Wanaka New Zealand

Tina on a trail called Stumpy

The MTB Treasures of Wanaka New Zealand
The MTB Treasures of Wanaka New Zealand
Wanakas views are not too bad

“Sticky forest” is a trail center we wish we had on our doorstep. Short uphills, trails for every kind of riding and taste, a great community around it and well, you can’t complain about the views either.

Some of the trails lead you down to the lake—in summer a great way to end the ride with a dip in the lake. Right now maybe not, though. The trails down to the lake resemble a bit of the “south of France” riding feeling. South exposed, dusty and some pine trees in a wild mix of steep trails.

If you are in the region we can fully recommend a day in this playground. It's only an hour away and the drive from Queenstown to Wanaka is beautiful!

The MTB Treasures of Wanaka New Zealand

Wildberries that fit Bens shirt and a trail that gets steeper and steeper

There are some steep trails in Sticky Forest too

It really gets steeper

Wanaka is just beautiful

Golden light and Tina on a trail that will lead her down to the lake

The views from Sticky Forest are breathtaking—unfortunately, this might be a bad thing as there are notions to rezone the land to be able to build on it. I hope the MTB community succeeds in saving this unique trail center! More information about this and ways you can help can be found on the Wanaka Bike website

Part 2: Wanaka Backcountry Adventure

We arrived on a Monday in beautiful Wanaka after a week of bad weather on the west coast of New Zealand. After a bit of sight-seeing (the walks at diamond lake turned out to be beautiful and far less crowded than Roys Peak) we got the chance to join a backcountry adventure involving a heli uplift and some of the best views over Wanaka country you could get.

In the early morning of our heli backcountry adventure, we met with the rest of the group and John, our guide from Wanaka Bike Tours at the airport. We quickly loaded the heli from Alpine Helicopter and then—after some prep talk—we took off towards the Mount Pisa Range.

Ready for take off

For both of us it was the first time in a heli with our bikes hanging on the outside

Timing couldn’t have been better and we took of just a bit after sunrise (this might have been the plan all along but we didn’t know about it). The views around Wanaka are impressive, but from a bird's eye perspective even better. I am sure the whole group would agree to that.

What a nice way for an uphill
Only 15 minutes after take off we were approaching the peak of Mt. Pisa
Alpine Helicopters Wanaka
Unloading the heli

This will probably be the first time I am complaining about a quick uphill. But really. The flight only took about 15 minutes—enough to embrace the views but surely quite short. Good thing about having a Photog with you: You get to turn an extra round around the peak for some pictures of the helicopter with the bikes on. Thanks, Alpine Helicopters and John for this.

Alpine Helicopters Wanaka and sunrise

The heli just before landing on Mt. Pisa

After unloading the helicopter quickly made its way home and left us at the top of the mountain with the civilization far away.

Just a yet a giant and a helicopter

Classic heli biking shot

And so we started to make our way down. The ride felt a bit like cliché New Zealand MTB adventure. Amazing landscapes with a lake everywhere you look, that yellow/brownish grass everywhere and not much signs of civilization as far as you looked. And all of that concluded with some sweet trails – what more could you wish for??

Not so NZ cliché was the wind. Because there was none! I guess it really was our lucky day.

Probably the best mountainbike guide you will ever meet.
ridges are always great photo objects
Our guide John showing us the way down, on and off the trail

One of the nicest spots of the downhill was this ridge, which sums up the day pretty neatly. Besides the view of the lakes, we saw some of the highest peaks of New Zealand, including Mt. Aspiring and Mt. Cook.

ridges are always great photo objects

Mt. Aspiring, a remarkable peak in New Zealand, Lake Wanaka and this ridge - not much more that you could wish for

The trail was basically too beautiful it was hard to keep the eyes on the tracik
A loooong way down ahead of the group
Short climb
Short climb before it got even more down

According to John, this ride is considered one of New Zealand's longest, with a starting point of 6,500 feet and roughly one and a half hours of downhill—when you don't stop for the views.

Trying to keep up with the girl

Rare shot of the two of us—thanks John

short uphill before the last descent
Short uphills to give the arms a bit of a rest before it goes down again
Tina chasing our guide John
Tina and John

Views like that..
Last uphill and still a lot of downhill before us (we ended up in the flat you see in the background)

Our guide John explaining the trail features of the next downhill
Short break to rest and get some side info from our guide John
Classic NZ
Last but not least, we did meet a couple of sheep too

More information about this trip can be found on the Wanaka Bike Tours Website


  • 13 0
 Great to see Sticky Forest so beautifully portrayed here. And to hear so many people love our local trail network.

The sad thing is, Sticky Forest is threatened by residential development. The Queenstown Lakes District Council is currently considering an application by a property developer to have the forest's status changed from "Rural" to "Residential". Doing do would allow the land to be used for housing and a valuable community trail network would be lost.

It's a complicated situation because the land was owned by the Crown but passed to private ownership. Losing the forest would see an end to locals and visiting riders enjoying this awesome little trail network.

Let's not let it go quietly #savesticky

Local bike club Bike Wanaka is leading the community response.
  • 8 0
 I love New Zealand. Bike park 5 minutes ride from my house. Proper DH track finishing at my front door or 36km back country XC trail across the road.
  • 4 0
 wow! never thought that images, content and instagram takeovers would pay back so well!!! 1 month skiing in JAPAN 4 months biking including helicopters!!! damn! that's the life!
  • 4 0
 Exactly what I thought.
  • 2 0
 I'd love to know how they're making this work. Looks like an amazing way to live.
  • 2 0
 In fact, it doesn't pay back so well. We saved money for a year working on normal jobs before we took off for this trip.
We get supported from a couple of brands and had the benefit, that Mons Royale is based in NZ and has some good connections to local businesses. And well, we will be back home quite soon and have to find jobs again to earn real money - since we spent almost all of it in the past few months Wink I guess It is everybody's own choice how to spend their lifes and money, ours is definitely not always easy nor financical safe but full of priceless memories and that is what counts the most for us.
  • 2 0
 @teeneegee: You may not have been paid back financially, but experience is the currency of the soul. Money can be earned, but time can only be spent. This was time well spent, it seems. I applaud your efforts.
  • 2 0
 The most memorable ride I had in Sticky Forest was probably a race down Venus --and with a LeMans start at that-- with a bunch of Kiwis, a Scot and a Canadian (I take it that it's an institution there) I'll be back next year for a rematch guys!!!
  • 3 1
 Great write up! Do you remember the name of the trail that gets very steep in Sticky Forest?
  • 2 1
 Carrot Cake?
  • 2 0
 It drops in from the top of Thread the Needle.
  • 2 0
 Just had a look on Trailforks, this must have been Swoop 2. Its very short but fun Smile
  • 1 0
 The fire road!!
  • 2 0
 The Grove-- pretty steep that one!
  • 2 0
 OK Thanks everyone - So it's the "Carrot Cake Thread the Needle Swoop 2 Fire Road Grove" trail Big Grin
  • 1 0
 i loved living in wanaka, just gutted i wasnt a biker at the time. think i need to go and visit my friends and ride some trails.
  • 2 0
 Wanaka is awesome! Skiing in the morning and biking in the afternoon!
  • 2 0
 Part 1: Wanka and His Unique "Sticky Forest"
  • 1 0
 That's it, I'M MOVING TO NZ Australia, it's been a slice
  • 1 0
 Loved riding in Wanaka, one of my favourite stops when we were there
  • 1 1
 Boom There it is! My old house in sticky forest! 'wildberry photo' just down the trail on the left!
  • 1 0
 NZ...just perfekt!

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