The South Island is instantly recognisable and home to some of the best riding in the world. Trails like Rude Rock snake along the tussock-riddled slopes of Coronet Peak, and on any summer’s day you’ll no doubt find some of the big names of our sport on the lift at Skyline Queenstown. Bike Glendhu is the latest addition to the South’s arsenal of riding destination.
Bike Glendhu, located in Glendhu Bay, is Wanaka’s newest riding destination, opened in January 2020 after a couple of years of development. John McRae, whose family has owned and farmed Glendhu Station for three generations, wanted to create a more sustainable farming experience for his family’s future generations. He partnered with Wanaka local, John Wilson, to build Bike Glendhu on 1000 hectares of the Glendhu Station. The big picture goal was to create a bike park that’s self-sufficient, both in terms of how they generate resources like power, and in the sense of having a positive impact on the land the park is built upon. The base is rad, with an on-site mechanic, bike rentals and a café (more on the café later) all built on the same ethos of preserving the natural landscape, whilst providing an awesome ride experience. When it comes to preserving and restoring, the land Glendhu’s built upon, they’ve already planted 4,500 native trees, with the goal of planting 30,000 total by 2025. The bike park also don’t print single-use trail maps, don’t sell single-use bottles or coffee cups and don’t print throwaway marketing material, instead opting to go for digital solutions like videos and supplying tablets to places like accommodation providers to showcase the bike park.
Glendhu has two ‘hubs’ in their network: Jack’s Point, which is halfway up the hill, and Falcon’s Nest, located at the very top. The thing that makes Glendhu a little different to some of it’s South Island counterparts, though, is that (for now) you’ve got to work for your reward – no chairlift, no shuttles it’s all pedal power in the bay! With that said, it’s about a 45-minute climb to the very top at an easy pace, and the team has done an exceptional job of building a climb that meanders gently up the hillside so that you’re not too tired once you arrive. The lower half of the hill consists of flow trails, with the two I heard most about being Jairolla and Hare Time; Glendhu’s jump line. Every. Single. Person. I spoke to about Glendhu raved about Jairolla and Hare Time, and for good reason. Jairolla swoops down the hillside with flowy berms, some easy roll-able jumps and of course stunning views out over Lake Wanaka. Hare Time starts off small and slowly gets bigger and bigger the further down the hillside you progress and features hips, table-tops berms and rollers. Everything is roll-able, so it’s perfect for working on your jumping skills, because if the jumps get too big, or you want to try hit something bigger than you have before, it’s easy enough to roll it, or come up short, without paying a big price. You’ve also got a green trail down, along with a light blue so that your friends and family who don’t ride can still come along and have some fun. I think one of the things I appreciated most about Glendhu was simply the fact that the trails are built with a wide skill range in mind, so if you’re riding with a group with a range of skill levels, you can all ride the same trails (for the most part) and have fun.
If you make it up to Falcon’s Nest, the first thing you’ll notice is the view! I was lucky enough to be up there for a sunrise and man does Wanaka know how to turn it on! From Falcon’s Nest your only option down for now is Upper Baywatch, another stupidly fun blue flow trail with some optional rock rollers and features on the way down to Boulders Cross, where you can continue down Lower Baywatch which carries on from Upper Baywatch, or head into the two hand-cut black trails: Dark Matter and Methane Train. Both pass through native bush and are laden with rock rolls, drops, jumps and berms and contrast nicely against the rest of Glendhu’s current network.
Something I really like about Glendhu, is that the trails aren’t ‘grouped’ by difficulty. It can be tough riding with a group with mixed abilities; what starts as a day with intentions of riding as a group can quickly end up with your group broken up as people go off to ride the trails that are more appealing to them and you go the whole day without seeing your buddies. At Glendhu, the climb offers the ability to ride with your buddies and tell your tales from the trails, before breaking up and heading down the trails that call your name once you’re backup to the top.
It goes without saying that I plan on getting back down to Bike Glendhu ASAP, and this time with the goal of spending a couple of days exploring the park. If you’re passing through the South, or have been wondering whether it’s worth making the trip into Glendhu, I can tell you it’s 100% worth it. For the next couple of weeks, up to the 14th August, Bike Glendhu season passes are available at an early bird rate. The goal is to open for the last two weekends of August, and then to extend hours into September.
Words: Cam Baker
Images: Callum Wood & Chris Wright