The Ultimate Guide to Conquering the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail

Are you ready for an adventure that combines breathtaking mountain vistas, leisurely cycling, and the warm hospitality of small Southland towns?

Look no further than the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail in New Zealand. This trail offers a long but largely leisurely journey that takes you through remote and rugged landscapes, showcasing the stunning beauty of the Von Valley, Mavora Lakes, and the deep, green Southland region.

This comprehensive guide will provide all the information you need to conquer the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail and make it an unforgettable experience.

Let’s dive in and discover everything you need to know about this incredible cycling adventure!

Overview of the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail

The Around the Mountains Cycle Trail is a renowned trail in New Zealand that offers cyclists the opportunity to immerse themselves in the stunning beauty of the Southland region. This trail is known for its incredible mountain vistas, remote landscapes, and the warm welcome of the small rural towns. It is primarily graded as easy-intermediate, making it suitable for many cyclists.

The trail covers a distance of approximately 196 kilometres and can be completed in 3-5 days, depending on your pace and preferences. It takes you through various terrains, including wide gravel paths, custom-made cycle trails, and some sections on public roads. Along the way, you’ll have ample opportunities to soak up the breathtaking views, explore charming towns, and experience the rich natural beauty of the Southland region.

Ride Experience

The ride experience on the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail is spectacular. As you pedal through the remote and rugged landscapes, you’ll be treated to vast views leaving you in awe. The trail offers mostly easy riding on wide, gravel paths, allowing you to immerse yourself in the surrounding beauty fully. It’s the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind, and connect with nature.

You can complete the entire trail, stay overnight in charming Southland towns, or opt for day ride options and tours offered by local cycle tour companies. One of the highlights of this trail is the stunning and remote Mavora Lakes section, which can be experienced as a day ride.

Choosing the Direction

The Around the Mountains Cycle Trail can be cycled in either direction, but starting from Queenstown and heading towards Kingston is the most commonly followed route. This direction takes advantage of the prevailing winds and topography, offering a more enjoyable riding experience. It also allows you to begin your journey with a scenic lake cruise from Queenstown to Walter Peak Station, adding an exciting element to your adventure.

Alternatively, if you prefer to start from Kingston and cycle clockwise, you can enjoy the historic steam train experience on the Kingston Flyer before embarking on your cycling journey. Whichever direction you choose, you’re guaranteed to be captivated by the stunning landscapes and warm hospitality.

Furthermore, be aware there is mostly nothing between Walter Peak station and Mossburn, so most cyclists need to organise a pickup or camp at Mavora lakes

Trail Sections

The Around the Mountains Cycle Trail is divided into several sections, each offering unique charm and beauty. Let’s explore these sections and discover what makes them unique.

Walter Peak Station to Mavora Lakes

This section of the trail starts with a scenic cruise across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown to Walter Peak Station. As you approach Walter Peak, you’ll be mesmerised by the breathtaking views of the mountaintops.

The trail takes you along the lakeshore towards Mt Nicholas Station, offering postcard views of the Richardson Mountains and Mt Aspiring National Park. The trail then climbs Von Hill before descending to the magical Mavora Lakes.

Mavora Lakes to Centre Hill Shelter

The Mavora Lakes section is a sight, surrounded by lush forests and between the Livingstone and Thomson Mountains. Take in the beauty of this magical environment, made famous by The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

From Mavora Lakes, the trail continues along a gravel road to Centre Hill. Please note that the gravel section can get dusty in summer, and shuttle transport is available if you prefer to avoid this segment.

Centre Hill Shelter to Mossburn

From Centre Hill Shelter, the trail joins a purpose-built off-road trail that takes you to Mossburn. Enjoy the charming rural countryside as you pedal through farmland and alongside the Oreti River. Mossburn, known as the deer capital of New Zealand, offers a splendid setting amid mountain surrounds and is a perfect place to stop overnight.

Mossburn to Lumsden

This section of the trail takes you through northern Southland, where rolling farmland replaces the tussock-clad high country. Spring is a delightful time to visit, as the fields come alive with frolicking lambs. The trail traverses a mix of old railway lines and well-graded tracks, providing a leisurely and enjoyable ride.

Lumsden to Athol

As you continue your adventure, you’ll be treated to more charming rural countryside. This section of the trail mostly follows the old railway line and traces the edge of the renowned Oreti River, known for its excellent fly fishing. Take a moment to rest and rehydrate at Five Rivers before continuing on the well-manicured track to Athol, where you can experience the warm hospitality of the southern folk.

Athol to Garston

The trail from Athol to Garston is constructed on an old disused railway line. This section offers panoramic views of Mid Dome, a prominent mountain in Northern Southland, and the surrounding mountains. Crossing the Mataura River on a suspension bridge, marvel at the crystal-clear waters where brown trout can often be spotted. Garston, the most inland town in New Zealand, is a perfect place to stop for refreshments and explore the local attractions.

Garston to Kingston

From Garston, the trail continues along the Mataura River, passing by the old stone ruins of Fairlight Station, once home to the historic Kingston Flyer train. Enjoy the stunning glacial moraine formations at the foot of the Eyre Mountains as you gradually descend towards Kingston. This small town on the southern edge of Lake Wakatipu offers a range of amenities, including a cafe, camping ground, and B&B lodges. Take a moment to soak in the beauty of the lake and reflect on your fantastic journey through a particular slice of New Zealand.

Lake to Lake Trail: Te Anau – Manapouri

As an optional add-on, you can explore the Lake to Lake Trail, which runs along the Waiau River in Fiordland. This trail takes you from Te Anau to Manapouri and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. It’s a perfect opportunity to extend your cycling adventure and explore more of the beautiful Southland region.


Booking accommodations for the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail can be a bit challenging if you’re planning to go it alone . However, if you decide to embark on the journey with Escape by Cycle, you’ll enjoy the convenience of staying at incredible hotels.

This includes a five-night stay at a selection of charming boutique B&Bs, convents, and vineyard cottages.
(options are available )with Escape by Cycle for the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail, where you can enjoy a five-night stay at a variety of charming boutique B&Bs, convents, and vineyard cottages.


Escape by Cycle will provide your choice of a new high-tech e-bike or standard mountain bike for the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail. These bikes are well-maintained and serviced, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable ride. It is highly recommended that you use e-bikes as it will make the trails more accessible.

7. Food and Refreshments

Exploring the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail is not just about the incredible scenery and cycling adventure; it’s also an opportunity to indulge in delicious local cuisine. During your journey, you’ll be treated to hearty breakfasts to start your day off right and lunches to keep you energised on the trail.

If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, be sure to inform Escape by Cycle when making your booking. While alcohol is not included in the tour cost, it is usually available at most accommodations and restaurants along the trail.

8. Safety and Preparation

When embarking on any cycling adventure, safety should be a top priority. Here are some essential safety tips and preparations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail:

Following these safety guidelines and adequately preparing for your cycling adventure can ensure a safe and memorable experience on the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail.

9. Additional Tips

Life Is Short, Embark On An Unforgettable Journey

The Around the Mountains Cycle Trail is a remarkable adventure that offers a perfect blend of breathtaking mountain vistas, leisurely cycling, and the warm hospitality of Southland towns.

With its easy-intermediate grading and stunning scenery, it’s a trail that cyclists of various fitness levels can enjoy. From the scenic lake cruise to the remote Mavora Lakes section, every moment on this trail is filled with awe-inspiring beauty.

Following the safety guidelines and additional tips, you can embark on a safe and unforgettable journey through the majestic landscapes of the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail.

So, get ready to conquer the trail, pedal through paradise, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Book your adventure today and immerse yourself in the wonders of the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail!