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The Great Rides and Cycle Trails of New Zealand

Kill Devil Track

Classic Mountain Bike Ride

Nelson Tasman, South Island

This challenging single track in Golden Bay is one of the region's best. The epic 44 km return track has a whopping 58 switchbacks with an overall climb of 1,820 metres - it's certainly a challenge, but those who conquer it give it rave reviews.

The Kill Devil Track is signposted from the Uruwhenua Road. You'll follow a gravel road along with the cows through some farmland before entering a forestry block. Sign the intention book at the start of the track and get ready for an epic ride. The farm road turns to single track and the real Kill Devil Track begins.

Without a doubt, the most challenging aspect of this ride is the climb up Kill Devil Spur. Don't say we didn't warn you - you'll face 58 (or is it 57?) switchbacks over 800 metres of climbing. The miners who build the track knew what they were doing and the track is quite well graded. You'll climb along a grassy terrace before entering the bush. The beech forest thickens about the same time the grade gets a bit more challenging.

The switchbacks range from smooth, to rocky, to erosion prone with large rocks. Your balance will certainly be tested over the course of the climb. Many of the tight corners are smooth in the approach so you can get a bit of momentum. Inevitably you'll be off the saddle (some more than others!) - especially in the last half of the climb where the switchbacks are quite eroded. Expect the climb to the ridge to take between 1.5 - 2.5 hours.

Just before you reach the summit, you'll reach a signposted stream. Fill up your water bottle or CamelBack as this is one of two reliable water sources on the track. Just past the stream the view opens up and there is a great spot for a refuel. The vies are superb - stretching all the way from Abel Tasman National Park to Devil River Peak and the Devil Range.

The ride along the ridge is fantastic - a mix of technical sections with fast, smooth and open sections make for a great 6 km ride. A couple gnarly, rocky descents down a tight ridge will ultimately drop you at the turnoff to Riordans Hut. You'll have to hop off your bike for the first 100 or so metres but after this it's all rideable. The hut has been refurbished, has big open fireplace and offers up some fantastic views. It's a great place to stay for the night.

After passing Riordans Hut you enter the Kahurangi National Park. While this is typically out-of-bounds as far as mountain bikes go, DOC has allowed a three year trial period and you can ride all the way to Waingaro Forks Hut. The ride to the Waingaro Forks Hut is fast and downhill with more rocky and technical switchbacks.

Be prepared for weather to come in quickly as much of the ridge is quite exposed. The ride down is an absolute rush though and just as challenging in reverse on the 58 switchbacks.

Thanks to Mountain Biking Zane for providing the photos on the ride.


  • Kill Devil 1
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  • Kill Devil 3
  • Kill Devil 4
  • Kill Devil 5
  • Kill Devil 6
  • Kill Devil 7