IntroductionThis old gold miners' road is being revived as a tramping and mountain biking track. It traverses native forests, tussock tops, river flats and valleys with stunning views of the magnificent Mōkihinui Gorge and surrounds.
The Old Ghost Road traverses the majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys of the Buller region. Following the long forgotten gold miners' route, it connects the old dray road in the Lyell to the mighty Mōkihinui River in the north.
Lyell Campsite to Lyell Saddle Hut
Distance: 18 km
Time: Mountain biking: 3 - 4 hr, tramping: 4 - 6 hr
Follow the forgotten 19th century county dray road as it winds its way towards the Lyell Saddle (875 m).
For mountain bikers wanting an early start on the trail the Lyell Campsite offers a convenient camping option close to the trail start.
The Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust have built a hut at Lyell Saddle. Book by visiting the Old Ghost Road website.
Lyell Saddle Hut to Ghost Lake Hut
Distance: 12 km
Time: Mountain biking: 2 hr 30 min - 4 hr, tramping: 3 - 5 hr
From Lyell Saddle Hut continue another 6 km through bush to the top of the Lyell Range. Travel a further 6 km along predominately open tops that offer dramatic views before arriving at the breathtaking Ghost Lake Hut site. Sitting at 1200 metres the views are a highlight from this stunning setting.
The Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust have built a hut at Ghost Lake. Book by visiting the Old Ghost Road website.
Ghost Lake Hut to Stern Valley Hut
Distance: 13 km
Time: Mountain biking 2 - 3 hr, tramping: 3 - 4 hr
Check your brakes before departing from Ghost Lake Hut as the trail descends almost 800 metres over the next 13 km to Stern Valley Hut. The first 4 kilometres is the most technical of the entire trail reaching Grade 5 in places - be prepared. At the end of the breathtaking Skyline Ridge you reach the Skyline Steps. You need to carry your bike down 60 metres of narrow and winding steps, before descending into Stern Valley.
The Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust have built a hut at Stern Valley. Book by visiting the Old Ghost Road website.
Stern Valley Hut to Goat Creek Hut
Distance: 14 km
Time: Mountain biking 2 - 3 hr, tramping: 3 - 4 hr
From Stern Valley Hut the trail meanders on up through the interesting Ernest Valley, a tributory of Stern Creek. Some 'earnest' climbing is again required to get over the saddle that allows passage into the Goat Creek catchment and on down to the confluence with the Mōkihinui River South Branch.
Note that Goat Creek must be forded to reach the hut. This crossing may be hazardous or impassable in times of elevated creek flow or flood.
Goat Creek Hut
Goat Creek Hut to Mokihinui Forks Hut
Distance: 8 km
Time: Mountain biking 1 - 2 hr, tramping 2 - 3 hr
Travel through towering podacarp forest to reach the Mokihinui Forks Hut.
Mokihinui Forks Hut
Mokihinui Forks Hut to Specimen Point Hut
Distance: 3 km
Time: Mountain biking: 30 min - 1 hr, tramping: 1 - 1 hr 30 min
From the Mokihinui Forks Hut turn left down into the head of the Mōkihinui River Gorge.
The Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust have built a hut at Specimen Point. Book by visiting the Old Ghost Road website.
Specimen Point Hut to Seddonville
Distance: 17 km
Time: Mountain biking: 2 - 4 hr, tramping: 4 - 6 hr
From Specimen Point Hut, the Mōkihinui Gorge shows the way to the sea. The old miners' road is rejoined for the virtually flat journey out to Seddonville through the spectacular Mokihinui River gorge.
Understand if you are ready for the Old Ghost Road
Watch the NZ Mountain Safety Council’s walk-through video which takes you through how to prepare for this track. Including facilities, key decision points, hazards and typical conditions for the area.
Bookings are required for the huts managed by the Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust: Lyell Saddle, Ghost Lake, Stern Valley and Specimen Point huts. To book, visit the Old Ghost Road website.
Bookings are not required for the Goat Creek and Mokihinui Forks huts, which are managed by DOC and are available on a first come basis.
The southern end of the Old Ghost Road starts at the Lyell Conservation Campsite (State Highway 6) in the Upper Buller Gorge, a 50 minute drive from Westport.
The northern end of the Old Ghost Road finishes at Seddonville, 50 km north of Westport on State Highway 67.
What to expect
The Old Ghost Road passes through steep and remote terrain, ranging in altitude from near sea-level to more than 1300 metres. You will encounter:
- near-vertical drops next to the track
- uneven and narrow track
- unbridged creeks, which may become impassable in heavy rain
- fast-changing and wild weather – snow, heavy rain and freezing temperatures at any time of year.
For full information on what to expect, visit the Old Ghost Road website:
What you need
If tramping, you need:
- to be fit enough to walk for 8 hours a day
- experience in backcountry alpine tramping.
If mountain biking, you need the experience and skill to handle a Grade 4 (advanced) trail and:
- be able to ride along a narrow winding trail that is only 400-600 mm wide in places
- be competent and confident riding along a trail with steep, exposed edges and drops on one side
- be able to ride over rocks, drops and obstacles the size of soccer balls
- be fit enough to ride long steep hills for an hour at a time and ride for up to 8 hours each day.
How to plan and prepare
Prepare for your trip by reading about the trail, current conditions and safety on the Old Ghost Road website:
Always carry a distress beacon, a good first aid kit and plenty of warm and waterproof clothing. Trampers will find sturdy boots and walking poles very helpful, and bikers will need a repair kit (including tools, spare tubes and a pump).
Full packing lists are on the Old Ghost Road website.
Wasps are common in the lower section of the trail – carry antihistamines if you are allergic.
If you visit tracks that branch off the Old Ghost Road, take care and check signs. The Croesus stamping battery site has historical artifacts that originally contained cyanide – stay behind safety barriers and follow all warning signage.