The full trail is an easy 2-day ride with stopovers at either Millers Flat or Beaumont villages. Accommodation is available at Millers Flat and Beaumont along with a range of farm home stays along the route. Accommodation is also available at either end of the trail at Lake Roxburgh village, Roxburgh and Lawrence towns.
The Clutha Gold Trail offers a unique heritage experience along the mighty Clutha Mata-au River, through the Beaumont Gorge, and into the verdant valleys of the historic gold mining town of Lawrence.
To enhance the experience, stories showcasing the area’s history of early Maori moa hunters, Chinese gold miners, European pastoral farming, mining and rail histories, as well as updates on local orchards, arts and culture are provided.
The trail forms part of an extensive network of Great Rides in Otago. For those looking for a longer cycling experience, it can be linked with the well-known Otago Central Rail Trail via the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, which continues along the true right bank of Lake Roxburgh to the Roxburgh Dam. Both trails will be achievable for most fitness levels, although the Roxburgh trail includes some grade 3 sections and a jetboat link.
The Clutha Gold can be ridden in either direction, setting off from any of the main access points, including Lake Roxburgh Village, Roxburgh, Millers Flat, Beaumont or Lawrence. Shorter days at a leisurely pace suit this trail well! It is described below heading north up the river over two days, suiting those interested in linking onto the Roxburgh Gorge on day 3.
Lawrence to Miller's Flat (42 km)
Set off from the historic gold mining town of Lawrence, not far from Gabriel's Gully - the gold discovery that launched New Zealand's first gold rush in 1861. The first section through to Beaumont (22 km) is inland, surrounded by farmland, and follows in part a historic rail line. A gradual climb takes you up to the 434m long Big Hill Tunnel. From here it is a nice steady descent back down to meet the Clutha Mata-au River, New Zealand's largest!
From here you'll be following the true left of the river for the rest of the route. The trail is easy, following a mix of historic road and rail line, with some sections of new trail too.The pleasant 20 km journey will take you up to Miller's Flat, where there are several accommodation options for the night.
Miller's Flat to Lake Roxburgh Village (31km)
You'll have a nice start to the day continuing on up the river, with impressive geology and rock formations on the surrounding hills. By the time you reach Pinder's Pond (16km), you will probably have warmed up enough to feel like a swim at this popular spot for a dip, despite the river water being rather brisk. From here you have a further 5km to the bridge that can take you across to Roxburgh, where there a shops for more supplies and cafes for lunch.
Crossing back over the river, carry on up the true left side. You have around 10 km left to get you to the trail head, passing orchards and fertile valleys as you go. The trail ends just prior to the Lake Roxburgh Dam, but continue on across the bridge to get into Lake Roxburgh Village for transfers, accommodation or to continue on along the connecting Roxburgh Gorge Trail which heads up the true right of the river.
Mountain bike riding is also available off trail on quiet gravel roads from Millers Flat to Lake Onslow, from Beaumont into the Blue Mountains and from Lawrence to Lake Mahinerangi. These 20-30km trails are at an elevation of about 1000m and are for experienced riders only.
Best time to ride
It is an all season trail, but summer and autumn offer the best riding experiences with local fruit harvesting underway, followed by vibrant autumn colours. Spring will appeal for green pastures and frolicking lambs, especially visible around Lawrence. Winter, although dry and cold with short, sunny days, and some moderate frosts, can still provide a charm of its own for those willing to brave the cold.