The St James Cycle Trail is a 64km cycleway generally taking 1-2 days to complete depending on fitness levels. The track is well signposted with blue markers at regular intervals to guide cyclists on their way. For easy to intermediate riders it’s advised to stick to the beginning and ends of the track. The beginning and ends of the track still provide the challenge of traversing mountain passes and river valleys. The central section of the track is rated grade 4 and caters for the more advanced mountain biker due to the remote terrain, river crossing and bike carrying required in some sections.
What you need to know:
- Best time to ride: November to April.
- Fitness: Reasonable – no exit/access points along the track.
- Gear: A good mountain bike is a must
- Duration: 1-2 days
- Car-parking: Parking is available at the Mailing Pass entrance and St James Homestead.
The St James track is made up of four sections of similar lengths.
- Section 1 - Maling Car Park Waiau
- Section 2 – Waiau 4WD Road End – Saddle Spur Bridge
- Section 3 – Saddle Spur Bridge – Scotties Hut
- Section 4 – Scotties Hut – St James Homestead
Following the 4WD track the trail slowly gains altitude towards Maling Pass. Once at the top it’s a steep descent negotiating numerous ditches that cross the track through alpine meadows and beech forest crossing bubbling streams to Waiau valley. Once in the valley the trail levels out. It’s important to note that Maling Pass is the best place to turn back if you have any doubts about your ability to complete the trail.
- Duration: 12km – 60-90 mins
- Grade: 3
The first third of this section is purpose-built cycle track. The trail traverses the hillside to the left of the Waiau River before arriving onto the wide river terraces at the junction with Lake Guyon track (the 1km detour to the picturesque lake is well worth it). The trail continues on old stock tracks down the Waiau valley over grassy river flats and passing Little Lake and Muddy Lake before arriving at Saddle Spur Bridge. Be sure to look out for the St James wild horses on this section of the track.
- Duration: 15.5km – 2hrs 30mins
- Grade: 3
This section is the most challenging with rocky, uneven tracks, steep climbs, tough descent and a giant matagouri forest to contend with. The trail crosses Saddle Spur to reach Pool Hut. Once across McArthur Bridge an old farm track travels up a series of terraces before the step climb to Charlie’s Saddle. After the descent wade across Edwards River to arrive for a well-deserved rest at Scotties Hut.
- Duration: 14.5km – 3 hours
- Climb: +240 metres
The 4WD track up the Edwards Valley is mainly smooth although occasionally interrupted by short expanses of rocky riverbed. Be sure to look out for the side-track that takes you to Cow Steam hot pool. The short 1km detour is well worth it to soak aching muscles. Once revitalised depart for the last big climb on the trail – Peters Pass (900m). The trail departs the 4WD track for an easy downhill run through Peters Valley to the St James Homestead.
- Duration: 17km – 2hrs 30mins
- Grade: 2-3