Could this be New Zealand’s best undiscovered hiking track?The Old Ghost Road is one of New Zealand’s lesser-known hiking and biking adventure destinations located on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The 85 kilometres (53 miles) track takes you from Lyell to Seddonville along an old gold mining route. It has something for everyone: spectacular views, mountain view huts, native forests and historic scenes. This relatively new bike-packing and hiking trail is quickly becoming one of the world’s top mountain bike routes. The truth is, it is well worth the hike too. With more than NZD$6.5 million invested on the track and hut accommodation, the track is well maintained and easy on the feet. As a bonus, the Old Ghost Road track is one of few tracks in the world that offer helicopter transfers. You can have your gear dropped off at the next hut and enjoy walking or biking with a day pack. For anyone looking for that next “Great Walk”, the Old Ghost Road is worth looking into. Below you can find information on the trail, itinerary, logistics, etc. If something is missing, or you would like specific information to be included, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the track as the topic.
“There is no wifi in the forest, but you’ll make a better connection” – Unknown
Old Ghost Road Track Info
The Old Ghost Road Track is one of New Zealand’s best hiking and biking destinations. From Lyell to Seddonville, the track is 85 kilometres long and takes you along an old gold mining road. There are significantly fewer hikers on the trail, which makes it even more special, most of the day you have the track to yourself.
The track takes you over mountain ridges and along cliff edges. Along the way, you get treated with many remaining artefacts and the remains of gold mining villages. But best of all, you walk through an area that has been unexplored for close to 100 years. This shows when you hike through the lush forests that look like something out of a movie and gives you one of the most beautiful remote wilderness settings New Zealand has to offer.
How long does it take to hike the Old Ghost Road?
Most hikers take 4 to 5 days to complete the track, staying in the huts along the way. The huts are spread in such a way that lets you enjoy the best the track has to offer. Of course, if you want to, you could skip a hut and complete the track in less time. Most mountain bikers complete the trail in 2 days.
Exclusive features of the Old Ghost Road
One of the exclusive features of the Old Ghost Road track is the helicopter transport. You can arrange your gear and even mountain bike to be dropped off at the hut. Alternatively, you can opt to be dropped off halfway and hike/bike only half of the track. This is one of the very few trails in the world that offer this luxury, making it even more interesting to explore. At most huts, you will find people flew in alcohol, food and other luxuries. As a hiker, this offers quite a different experience.
The track is well maintained and offers a well-graded path that is easy to walk on. It was one of the more enjoyable hiking tracks due to that reason alone already.
There are accommodation options for every standard, including private cabins. Facilities are top of the range with some huts offering wilderness showers and all huts offering fully equipped kitchens! On top of that, the track is managed well by a trust and a booking system takes care of overcrowding issues.
Where does the name “Old Ghost Road” come from?
The name of the “Old Ghost Road” track doesn’t come as a surprise after reading the story of how the track was built. I strongly recommend reading their book “Spirit to the Stone”, which tells you all about it in vivid writing. You can purchase it on the official Old Ghost Road website.
Below are the different sections of the Old Ghost Road Track with their distances and DOC walking times.
Below picture shows the elevation profile of the Old Ghost Road track. As you can see, there is one big climb and the rest is fairly flat.
How to get to the Old Ghost Road?
The logistics can be quite challenging when planning to hike or bike the Old Ghost Road. There are a few ways to get around it tho: several companies offer vehicle relocation services and luckily there are also a few local shuttle companies.
The easiest way to get to the trail is to leave your car at the trailhead in Seddonville or Lyell. In Lyell, the carpark is also a DOC campground next to the main road to the West Coast. The carpark at Seddonville is right next to the Rough and Tumble, which you will definitely learn more about during your hike. To get to the other side, you could use the vehicle relocation service from Buller Adventures or HikenBike Shuttle & Relocation or arrange a pick up on the other side.
By Public Transport
You can take the intercity bus between Nelson and Westport to get to the track. The intercity bus will drop you at the Lyell Campground. Please note, you need a booking if you want to be catch the intercity from the Lyell carpark. They don’t stop there unless people are booked in.
The intercity bus does not go all the way to Seddonville. If you want to start in Seddonville, you could switch to a local shuttle in Westport. To find out more about transportation from Westport, click here.
The other way to get to the Old Ghost Road is to take a trail shuttle bus from Nelson, which will take you to either Lyell (on request) or Seddonville.
From Seddonville the same companies offer a pickup. I booked the Heaphy Bus to continue my journey to the Heaphy Trail, but the Westport shuttles are certainly a worthy alternative. What other people also do, is arrange transport from where they booked their next accommodation.
Check out this website for your best itinerary to Lyell or Seddonville.
Camping & Accommodation
When hiking the Old Ghost Road track, you will stay at the Old Ghost Road/Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust sites. You can choose between a campsite, shared accommodation or your own private sleeping cabin. All of the accommodation needs to be booked in advance through the official website.
Accommodation on the trail
There are 4 official hut sites and 2 DOC huts along the track. Each official hut has 2 private cabins and 1 tent site. The private cabins have 2 double mattresses and hold up to 4 occupants. For more information click here.
- Lyell Campground (tent sites only)
- Lyell Saddle Hut: 10 bunks
- Ghost Lake Hut: 18 bunks
- Stern Valley Hut: 10 bunks
- Goat Creek Hut (DOC): 4 bunks
- Mokihinui Forks Hut (DOC): 10 bunks
- Specimen Point Hut: 14 bunks
Accommodation at the trailheads
At both ends of the Old Ghost Road track there is the option to camp. At the southern end,Lyell carpark is part of the DOC Lyell campground. In Seddonville there is a caravan park not too far from the northern terminus.
Below are your accommodation options in Seddonville:
Alternatively, you could try to get a lift to Karamea or Westport and find more options:
Gear and Resupplies
For a complete list of the gear that I carried on the hike, click here. The link will take you to my lighterpack gear list. It includes weight and links to more info.
Seddonville and Lyell are both very remote villages. They don’t have any outdoor shops or even a supermarket. However, there is a very small post office shop at the Seddonville Hotel, but it is very limited in supplies.
My best advice is to stock up in Westport or Nelson.
Sedonville offers several options to eat out, including the Rough n Tumble and the Seddonville Hotel. Also good to know is that there is no phone reception in town.
If you plan to continue hiking on any of the nearby trails, such as the Heaphy Track, you could arrange a resupply package to be posted to the Karamea i-site. They are an independent information centre, so please always check with them first. It is best practice to leave a note on the box to let them know when and by whom the package will be picked up.
This is one of the only tracks in the world that offers helicopter luggage transfer from hut to hut. A little birdy told me that you can also have food and beer delivered to the hut. Of course, everything comes at a price.
- Buller Adventures
- Heli Charter Karamea
- Murchison Heli Tours
- Helibike Nelson
- HikenBike Shuttle & Relocation Services
Maps and Guides:
Day 1: Nelson to Lyell car park and walk to Lyell Saddle hut (18 km):
- Morning transport to Lyell car park with the intercity bus.
- Long 18 km uphill track to Lyell Saddle hut.
- Only 2 other hikers, rest of the bunch in the hut were mountain bikers. Only 1 other international visitor.
- Tent sites only for freestanding tents…had to use sticks to put in the ground.
Day 2: Lyell Saddle hut to Ghost Lake hut (12 km)
- Another day mostly uphill.
- Amazing tent platforms with fantastic views at Ghost Lake hut.
- Helicopter visitors being dropped off.
- Everyone seems to have arranged some kind of alcohol to be dropped off.
Day 3: Ghost Lake hut to Stern Valley Hut (13 km):
- Very relaxed journey along the ridge lines.
- Beautiful lunch spot near the emergency shelter.
- Met the track maintenance crew.
- Safety is being improved on this section, but amazing to experience it without all the fences.
- We found beer that was left behind!
Day 4: Stern Valley hut to Mokohinui Forks (22 km):
- Very wet day.
- The boneyard!
- Long section or maybe it was because of the rain.
- All by myself at Mokohinui Forks hut – a bit scary.
- Made a nice fire and dried my clothes.
- Rats in the ceiling!!
Day 5: Mokohinui Forks hut to Seddonville (20 km):
- Early start to get to the finish for a late lunch.
- Beautiful last day of the walk – mainly flat and along rock edges.
- Amazing pizza at Rough and Tumble!
- Stayed at the caravan park in Seddonville.
- Laundry day in the afternoon :D.
- Dinner at the Seddonville Hotel!
FROM SEDDONVILLE I SET OFF TO HIKE THE HEAPHY TRACK – ONE OF NEW ZEALAND’S GREAT WALKS