The Lake Dunstan Trail

Journey along Lake Dunstan, the Kawarau River and the mighty Clutha River Mata-au and soak in the scenery.

The Lake Dunston Trail has only been open since May 2021 but is already being touted as one of the best one-day rides in New Zealand.

Extending 55km from Clyde to Cromwell,  or vice versa, it travels through scenery that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Most choose to do the trail on an e-bike, though it is also proving popular with long-distance trail runners. Hiking the trail is best done over two days, or do just one section of the trail if time is short.

If you’re cycling under your own steam, you might want to get the hills out of the way early on and cruise for the latter part of the ride, in which case it is best to begin the trail at Clyde. The effort you put in at the beginning will reward later with wide rolling flats along the edge of the lake.

From Clyde, the trail steadily climbs 700m, which is where electric bikes come in handy. From the highest point you can see Mt Dunstan and all the way to Cromwell and the snow-clad mountains beyond.

Another highlight is the Hugo suspension bridge across the gorge (there is a walkable steep land option for those uncomfortable on the bridge) as well as spectacular views all the way and historical points of interest. And around the halfway point, there’s a boat café, Coffee Afloat, serving coffee and baking!

The grade 2-3 trail is an easy to intermediate ride, though not suitable for beginners. It is well graded and nicely packed with none of the gnarly bumps or steep downhill tracks you might expect on a mountain bike trail. However, there are a few tight turns and drop-offs to be aware of (look out for the guard rails).

It’s a one-way trail so it is important to arrange transport pick-up at the end, and/or bike pick up, which can be easily organised through the local bike hire operators in Clyde and Cromwell.

The trail can also be broken into sections if you don’t want to do it all.

Smiths Way to Cromwell Heritage Precinct, 16km (Grade 1) is a popular day ride or walk. It wends its way alongside Lake Dunstan from Smiths Way via Pisa Moorings to Cromwell and there are many spots to rest beside the lake. 

Cromwell Heritage Precinct to Bannockburn Inlet, 7km (Grade 2) follows the Kawarau arm of Lake Dunstan to the Bannockburn bridge, with amazing vistas across the lake to Bannockburn vineyards. Along the way there are sections where the land has been reshaped in the search for gold and then again when the lake was formed. From here, it is possible to return to Cromwell on a trail alongside Bannockburn Road – making for a wonderful short and family-friendly day ride. 

Trail notes

  • 55km
  • 1-2 days
  • Grade 2-3
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