A Ride in the High Country – Hogs Back Track


It is always nice to get out and explore new terrain and this is one of those adventures. With a weekend away to Arthur’s Pass and childless (no dogs) we used the opportunity to discover some new mountain bike trails and hikes. Hikes to follow later….

High country views Craigieburn Forest Park

Our latest ride is in the high country, on the drive across Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch in an area called Craigieburn Forest Park. This is pretty much ski field country but in the warmer months there is a great back country track up in the mountains of the Craigieburn and Broken River ski fields.

Thanks to a very dedicated group of volunteers predominately from the Canterbury mountain bike club and Castle Hill community and with the generous help of Ground Effect Clothing Company a new network of trails have been built to link the Park tracks with the small village of Castle Hill.

views to castle hill rocks Hogs back track

After seeing postings on Facebook showing the progress of the trail and reading of their efforts we thought we’d use this opportunity of checking the new trail out. Hogs Back – here we come.

Parking up in the Castle Hill village – basically at the end of the road our day’s adventure began. We didn’t really know what to expect, both of us for some reason under the impression that this was a bit of a flat valley ride – a ride for the family.

climbing the high country hogs back mtb track

hogs back mtb track castle hill

Oh dear how wrong we were. Heading into the beach forest, the trail immediately started climbing – that was pretty much us now for the next two hours. I’m the first to admit, this hurt. I biked where I could but found myself walking more of the first section than I was biking. I could see if this continued it was going to be long day for me out “with” my bike.  The trail sign said intermediate – technical wise yes, fitness wise – rather large question mark.

tussock land hogs back mtb track

Soon we came out of the bush-line and onto tussock land. Stephen made the comment “this should be pretty much flat riding from now on” …….. mmmm famous last words.  We met three lovely ladies hiking in the hills who I only just found out after the fact, made the comment “oh you guys are keen”.  Stephen thought they meant the climb we had just done – turned out they meant the continual climbing we were about to do.

high country mtb ride hogs back track

high country riding hogs back track

The trail gently continued to climb at a slight gradient up, up and up – with orange marker posts our calling points which in some respects was actually more demoralising as you could see them off in the distance – or more like up in the distance. 

hogs back mtb track to the river bed

Eventually we came to some downhill as the track dropped off the ridgeline and down across a river bed flat and into the bush again.  Again climbing ever so gently – enough to know you were working.

in the forest hogs back mtb track

The sections in the bush were good fun, ducking and weaving between the beach trees.  I often think the NZ Rimu is my favourite of our native trees until I’m in a beech forest and then I think no it is the beech tree. This is predominately mountain beech covered in a black lichen.  I think it is beautiful and the smell is gorgeous too.

views down Craigieburn Forest Park Castle Hill

Out of the forest and along another river bed, out again and up again and along again…. you get my drift.  I have to say though the countryside sure is beautiful and since we were going so darn slow we had plenty of time to take in the views and appreciate our surroundings.  Often we could see the Cheeseman ski field access road down below, meandering its way up the valley to the mountain.

views back towards castle hill and the track we just rode hogs back

After a stop at the Picnic Rock lookout – where we could see most of the trail we had just ridden, including the hill climb we would have to do to get back out, we had a final couple of knobs to go up and down before it seemed we started the decent to the ski field access road.  We could see some other bikers climbing up and thought it really wasn’t necessary for us to stand at the sign at the end saying we’d made it, when we could see it from here and would only have to climb back up again – we’d both had enough climbing by now.

hogs back track craigieburn forest park

I say enough climbing, there was still the knobs to be done again this time in reverse but they actually seemed easier riding in reverse.  Perhaps it was just the mental knowledge of knowing the real climbing was finally over.

picnic rock lookout hogs back mtb track

Back at the Picnic Rock lookout we decided to wait for the other riders and let them go past us.  They soon rounded the corner so we were able to have a quick chat.  We thought they must have come over from the Craigieburn Forest Park and been on a mission but no – they were doing the same trail as us but just one way – downhill.  Turns out they biked from the village, along the main highway, up the access road with the little climb we saw them on to now have some extreme downhill fun.  Thanks for telling us guys – we know for next time!

climbing hogs back track castle hill

high country scenes hogs back mtb track

So down we went – and it was fun.  What took us around 2 hours to ride up – and that did of course include lots of stops for photos….. it did…….. took us, ready for it – 20 minutes to bike back out.  Yes 20 minutes and that included the climb from the river bed back up to the tussock!  The final section down through the bush from where we met the ladies way back at the start of our day was steep – fun but steep.  No wonder I couldn’t bike up it or most of it anyway.  I didn’t feel so bad after going down it.

weird tree hogs back mtb track

Mission complete and all in all a good day out in the saddle.  Note for self though – if want a challenge do the ride in and out, if just want some fun, ride the access road and out.  Moaned as I did at times, and as hard as it was to breathe sometimes, it was a great ride in some amazing back country, in this land we call GodZone.  We sure are lucky to have it and I’m glad we did it as an in and out.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring and sharing their discoveries and adventures.

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About coastingnz

Jan and Stephen live on the Punakaiki coastline, north of Greymouth on the West Coast, NZ and run Breakers Boutique Accommodation. They both enjoy the outdoors and are passionate about things to see and do on the West Coast and would like to share their experiences with you.
This entry was posted in cycling, Mountain biking New Zealand, Nature, NZ flora and fauna, outdoors, photography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to A Ride in the High Country – Hogs Back Track

  1. bulldog says:

    Your comment that I was a good ambassador for my country had me thinking how great you and Stephen were at exactly that for yours… not only do you promote, describe and ride your mountain bike trails, you also share some of the most exquisite landscape photography of your beautiful country… if I was the NZ government I would be backing you two financially to continue promoting on a larger more followed media like TV…. you two should be recognised internationally by all that see the famous “Shakey Finger Photography” and there should be books “How, Where and When to ride the trails of NZ” by Jan and Stephen Roberts….

  2. Michael says:

    I cannot agree more with “bulldog” above. It’s so good to see you guys “getting out there” and discover the “real New Zealand” with all those hidden spots. BUT, you not only keeping those stories for yourself, but sharing them with the rest of the world thru your blogs. There really should be a TV series now on people like yourself… THANKS GUYS!!!

  3. joshi daniel says:

    stunningly gorgeous 🙂

  4. LuAnn says:

    I echo the commenters above. Such beautiful country that you are promoting. One day we hope to visit this exquisite landscape.

  5. G&B says:

    Hee hee, I read the same article in a magazine and I do recall that they advised to ride from the village …. lesson learnt the hard way huh ??? Oh well, at least when we get the chance (or should I say “I get the chance”) to ride this trail with you we’ll do it in the right direction.

    • coastingnz says:

      We did ride from the village – straight onto the track and up…… Don’t know that there is a wrong or right direction, all depends on what you want out of your ride or perhaps how much time you have. I wouldn’t have wanted to have done it one way for our first time. Was quite rewarding and satisfying knowing we’d done it both ways – we just weren’t mental prepared. Totally our fault but hey – it was an adventure and it was fun. Good one for Bernie to walk the way we went and we’ll meet her on our way out……. 🙂

  6. Another great adventure with great photos. Bulldog is right. –Curt

  7. suzjones says:

    It is great to see some of the ‘non-touristy’ parts of New Zealand. Whilst it is highly unlikely that I will ever ride a bike anywhere, I enjoyed visiting along with you.

    • coastingnz says:

      Thanks Suz – actually this one you can walk too! I was just out biking today thinking I must put that this is a dual purpose track and then I remember oh I should have said that about the Hogs Back too! Sometimes it is worth it just for the scenery. Welcome to “join” us on our rides anytime 🙂

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