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An epic day out at Wairoa Gorge

Waking up early to a crystal clear morning with an excellent forecast ahead, we had an early breakfast and headed to the meeting point for Wairoa Gorge at Robbies carpark (about an hour from Nelson). Our shuttle driver for the day (Dave) checked everybody off, let us through the gate and locked it behind us right on schedule – 8am. Don’t be late, the gate gets locked at 8am and you will miss out!

A short drive further along a gravel road and we stop at the next carpark, are assigned numbers and given a briefing (safety, shuttle logistics, group riding/gear requirements etc). We are also given walkie talkies so each group has contact with the other, and Dave, in case of emergency, getting lost and importantly making sure we don’t miss the next shuttle as Dave gives the “5 minute call”! At times this resulted in the group riding even faster downhill in the sheer panic we will miss the next uplift!

We loaded the bikes onto the trailer and began the bumpy ride up the hill in the back of the truck. The open back, along with the trailer full of 20 bikes rattling behind (over $150,000.00 worth of kit there!), and the amazing bush/valley views, add to the atmosphere (I took more photos from the shuttle than I did on the trails!). The group is quick to make introductions and sort out smaller groups to ride in for the day. Typical riding group size is about 5-6 and depending on ability.  

Wairoa Gorge Bikers getting on the shuttle

The Riding

At the top we drop our day packs in the hut, take in the view, and plan our first route to the bottom (we are supplied with detailed maps). On the advice of a local rider we start off on Benched As, Bermed as and Quattro. This took us back to the first shuttle pick up and everyone was brimming with smiles and seriously pumped! The descent took approx 30 mins riding (about 900m descent) and 40 mins all up as the group stopped at various points to make sure everyone was OK and basically talk about the epic sh*t we were riding!  

Dave left right on time for the next uplift (I will say here that the organisation is exceptional and to get the full 6 downhills in everyone needs to be on their game with regard to gear, navigation, helping each other out etc. When someone punctured we made sure they could get back to the road so they could get picked up by the shuttle on the way back up, and make their repair, and the rest of the group continued the descent).

The Trails

Before we knew it we were back at the hut planning our next descent. We did a mixture of mostly grade 3 trails with the odd grade 4 and grade 2 thrown in (mainly to get from one grade 3 to the other). We had lunch after 3 descents and did another 3 after, making it a long day (we were in the gate at 8 and out around 5:30). 

We rode several trails 2 or 3 times (Quattro, Creamed Rice, Kurtology and Rainbow Surfer to mention a few) which is recommended as they get better each time as your confidence and knowledge of the trails grow. As they say on the website “get to know the terrain and before you know it you’ll be shredding like a boss!”

Riders going over swing bridge Wairoa Gorg
Stoked Riders at Wairoa Gorge


  • The grading at Wairoa Gorge tends to be typical of the area…ie, a grade 3 on Wairoa is similar to grade 4 in the North Island and it is typically rocky and rooty like pretty much all South Island trails.
  • A couple of “pre rides” on Nelson trails beforehand (if you haven’t ridden South Island) is invaluable (Involution is a perfect example).
  • Don’t be late!
  • Ask your shuttle driver for advice, read the “important information for riders” on the website, be honest about your ability so you get into the right group.
  • Take plenty of water and food (you can leave them in a day pack at the hut).
  • Take a spare tyre, (even if you don’t need it there is a reasonable chance someone else will and then you will be a legend and owed many beers afterwards),
  • Have your bike serviced before you go, kneepads are compulsory, be prepared for punctures etc (have all necessary tools).
  • And keep Strava on so you can show off to your mates who haven’t done it! 

To ride at Wairoa Gorge you need to be a Member of the Nelson Mountain Biking Club.  We recommend that you should be a member of this club anyway if you are riding in the Nelson area. These guys are the best and the reason Nelson has so many awesome trails.

Join NMTBC here.

Donate to MTB Trails Trust here.

Book Wairoa Gorge here.

Contact Adventurers to start planning your custom MTB adventure here

Adventurers Travel Company

Author Adventurers Travel Company

I’m Rachel Howells, the owner and operator of Adventurers travel. I’m passionate about outdoor sports and activities, adventurous challenges – anything that involves the freedom and exhilaration of the great outdoors.

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