The Coppermine Trail is a classic mountain bike ride and enjoyable wilderness adventure just minutes from Nelson for intermediate or advanced mountain bikers. Accessing the mountain by a short helicopter lift, we start with a brief alpine hike to the beginning of the Dun Mountain Trail. Created from New Zealand’s first railway and built in the 1800’s for a failed mining venture, we ride fifteen glorious downhill kilometres through native and exotic forest back to Nelson City. Simply Wild Journeys are the original operator on the trail, offering commercial trips since 2006.
Landing on the exposed and lunar like alpine terrain of Dun Saddle at 960metres (3000ft) offers stunning views into Mount Richmond Forest Park, towards Marlborough, and west to Tasman Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park. The trip begins with a 20 minute hike (optional) through the curious vegetation of the mineral belt to Coppermine Saddle, the site of a chromite mine in the 1860’s, where the helicopter drops off our mountain bikes.
The trail is initially 1.5 metres wide, gradually opening up beneath mountain beech forest to 2 metres along the site of the original horse drawn railway, built to service the mine. The trail winds down towards Nelson, passing through pine forest with excellent views of Nelson and Tasman Bay, before finishing on a single track alongside the Maitai River in Nelson City.
This trip is run as a private tour and suits a range of ages, but requires riders are comfortable and have some experience riding intermediate level mountain single trails. We also offer a day trip around the full 40 kilometre loop track using electric bikes.
We collect you from your accommodation or meet at the Visitor Centre in Nelson if you have your own transport. If you are staying in the Motueka area there may be a surcharge to collect you. Depending on the size of your group, we fly from our helicopter base near Wakefield or near the Maitai Dam, a short drive behind Nelson City.
The helicopter lift takes around 7 minutes, and we drop off a little beyond where we collect our bikes at Dun Saddle, to take in the spectacular views of the Mt Richmond Forest Park. The helicopter leaves the bikes at Coppermine Saddle, as we walk 20 minutes on a rocky trail around to the bikes.
At 1000 metres (3000ft) this is very much an alpine start, and you will ride back down to sea level. The trail, which has had a million dollar upgrade in the last few of years, is now a loop track. It takes around three to five hours from the start at sea level to 1000 metres, and back to sea level. As a helibike, we descend on one side of the loop, riding 15 kilometres back to the city.
The ride begins from Coppermine Saddle in open mountain tussock country. This section of trail is around a metre wide, with a surface which is a little rocky. The trail provides views of the ocean and Tasman Bay, and the surface becomes smoother as it enters mature beech forest.
We break at Third House where horses were rested on the original horse drawn mine railway in the 1860’s. The last section is through native bush and pine plantation to Nelson City, where trails return us to the Visitor Centre. Depending on ability and whether you opt to do the short hike at the start, the trip usually takes between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours.
We collect you from your accommodation and return you after the ride. This is included in the price if you are staying in Nelson City or close by.
Note: There may be an extra charge if you are staying in the Motueka area.
We provide dual suspension mountain bikes, helmet and morning or afternoon tea. The helicopter lift is included.
What gear do I need? At its upper end, the trip begins in an exposed alpine area of around 1000 metres. You will need appropriate clothing for the weather conditions forecast, with wool or polypropylene underclothing and windbreaker cold and windy. Running shoes or trainers are adequate footwear. We provide daypacks, bike and helmets. We also provide morning or afternoon tea appropriate to your trip (we can also provide a gourmet lunch). We collect you from your accommodation.
How difficult is the ride?
The walk and ride are accessible for most people used to wilderness walks, and who have at least intermediate level ability on a mountain bike. The walk is an alpine hike rather than a gentle graded track, but not difficult. The ride recently received a considerable upgrade, and while a little rocky on the first section, it is not technically demanding. When the track opens out, it is easily ridden by all riders. The ride is graded one in terms of difficulty out of six, (6 being the hardest). Given it is not technically difficult, experienced riders thoroughly enjoy it as well.