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Ultimate Queenstown

Welcome Rock Trail

Welcome Rock Trail

Posted by Dave Fahey: 1st Feb 2015 @ 14:10:40

Last Saturday I loaded the bike onto the back of the Subaru and burst out of the Queenstown bubble – Destination Garston. It’s not often you say that your heading for Gaston but now finally there is a legitimate reason to visit.

In December of last year Tom and Katie O’Brien opened Welcome Rock Trails on the Nevis - Gaston Road, departing from the historic Gaston Ski Hut. At this point it’s worth noting that the current 27km of trail is completely hand built – these guys are nuts! Most trails these days are blazed through the landscape in a timely manner with a digger and a team of guys. This one on the other hand was produced entirely by hand by Tom and his team of volunteers through the often brutal Southland winter. For some reason I always enjoy a trail like this more, every inch of the trail is built with hard yacka and has that nice tight single track feel, rather that the mountain top version of a city sidewalk.

The name Welcome Rock comes from the rock protruding from the ridgeline above the original homestead and track, named by the early settlers who used the landmark as a meeting point for trading.

The trail itself is single direction but dual use. Meaning that it always pays to be riding with the thought of crossing paths with a walker on your mind. The trail weaves across the alpine landscape following the old historic Chinese built water race, which was constructed 110 years ago to aid gold extraction from the area. Following the water race means that the gradient of the trail remains gently for the vast majority. Even when not following the water race the guys have done a great job of producing a trail that is user friendly to ride, without any steep climbs or descents. Meaning a true trail for people of all fitness levels.

Although not too steep in any place a reasonable riding level and sense of adventure is always needed to take on any alpine trail of 27km. Bike confidence is especially important as the trail joins the Nokamai Valley, where the trail narrows up in places with steeper sides leading to the valley below. Riders would benefit from allowing 3–5 hours to complete the trail, which allows for ample opportunity to stop for photos, lunch and well-earned rest break at one of the many stunning vantage points. The regular trail blazer could happily expect to knock this over in a couple of hours though.

In my opinion the back side of the valley was where it’s at – beautiful beach forest, more technical single track, mining relics and stunning panoramic views.

Unfortunately, I only had the day up my sleeve, but with three huts on the property an overnighter is an option. While these are not the Hilton by any means, the two that I stopped at were brimming with character and provided an awesome window back in time. Mud Hut was certainly my pick, with what would be amazing sunset views across the native beach forest and down the Nokamai Valley. I could easily see myself returning, slowing down the pace and making an overnight trip of it.

A well worthwhile trail ride for people of most fitness levels and riding abilities. A little more infrastructure and some more trails (which are on the cards) with set this place alight. My personal tip is take some water! In mid-summer it gets hot up the and water supplies are not plentiful so take plenty to avoid getting caught short.

It is always worth noting though that this is purely just the opinion and view of one rider and as we know what one rider hates another one loves. So jump on, do your research, grab ya bike and get up there!

For more information on the trails, bookings and accommodation options visit – www.welcomerock.co.nz

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