Moke Lake/ Lake Dispute Loop Track Introduction
Moke Lake/ Lake Dispute loop is the convergence of two local gems, Goldigger and Phoenix. Both built by the volunteers at QTMBC (Great work guys!) Goldigger starts at the carpark on the corner of Glenorchy Road and Moke Lake Road. It follows parallel to Moke Lake Road for 5 km of rooty, switchback, singletrack fun. Exiting the forest by the cattle grid follow the road over Moke Lake Saddle before descending on the gravel road down to DOC owned Moke Lake Campsite. Spend the night here or continue riding around Moke Lake towards Lake Dispute following the signs. After Lake Dispute ride down the Lake Dispute Track or look for trail signs on the left for Phoenix. Follow Phoenix down to Wilson’s Bay and take the road back to Queenstown. Alternatively ride through 7 Mile Bikepark back to the carpark.
The entrance to Goldigger.
Riding the Trail
I wait until the sun sinks low, I follow it’s trajectory from directly above to slinking behind Ben Lomond. It’s been a scorching 27°C but thankfully it’s dropping. The starts of a breeze off Lake Wakatipu helps to dispel the heat of the day. The lake is busy with lots of boats and jet skis. A quiet vacation is what I’m looking for. I weave through town which is packed with Xmas holiday makers. When I get out to the start of the Sunshine Bay Track the crowds have cleared.
Hidden by the trees the air is much cooler and the buzz of boats is drowned out by birds in the treeline. The bike feels slightly sluggish with all the gear packed but I’m sure I will get used to the weight. The track undulates just underneath the road so traffic noises are drowned out. I see glimpses of the lake through the native bush glistening deep blue in the dying light of day.
Rejoining the Glenorchy Road by Sunshine Bay I follow the road for about 5 km. I see the turn of for Goldigger on the right hand side. This is where it an be tricky. Goldigger is steep and the terrain varied, pine cones like marbles send the wheels drifting, finally catching on the berms.There are lots of tight switchbacks for my XL 29er. The added weight and having to concentrate on the riding has me sweating buckets. It beads along my forehead and into my eyes, stinging them with sun cream. I can taste the salt in my mouth and feel my t shirt sticking to my chest.
I make 5 km climb back up to the road, more climbing to come but much easier on the tarmac. A Magpie takes it upon itself to welcome me to the valley with some bullying tactics. It dive bombs down from its nest, a monochrome missile. Six or seven times it comes shooting in kamikaze style before turning away last minute. They are actually Australian Magpies and an introduced species, they are also very territorial and well know for attacking people who get too close to it’s young. I ride away thankful I have my helmet on as I can’t ride very fast up the hill.
Cresting the saddle I feel the cool wind against my salt-lined skin as I rush down the gravel road towards Moke Lake. The sun is hidden by the sides of the valley and the light breeze from earlier has picked up in intensity. I didn’t fancy camping at Moke Lake for fear of overcrowding with Xmas holiday makers. So instead I take the Lake Dispute Track around the other side of the Moke Lake and pitch up. I can see the DOC campsite from my perch and see how crowded it is. Usually so peaceful even Moke Lake feels the brunt of the Xmas rush.
It’s cold in the tent. Due to the furious wind throughout the night and because I didn’t pack any warm clothes for sleeping in. However the next morning is glorious, the sun beaming over the tops of the surrounding mountains. I roll down the hill after breakfast and see a farmer driving cows through the paddock. He has a cowboy hat on, faded flannel jacket over rugby shorts and gumboots.
‘Beautiful place you got here’, I remark cheerily as I ride past.
‘Sure is, but don’t tell anyone!’ he grins, from within a deep, gristly beard beneath weathered skin. This man was about as kiwi as can be. I didn’t stop for a chat but I can guarantee that the handshake would have been firm and his hands rough as sandpaper.
A steep 4×4 track leads down to Lake Dispute and I bomb down, rocks flying in abandon. My smile widens as I skirt around Lake Dispute headed for Phoenix. I rode this trail a few weeks previous and it is awesome! So I ride it fast and loose (the best way!) My homemade handlebar harness sagging and flapping in the wind. I lose control a few times, a friend once described my biking as ‘all heart no talent’, sliding out in a corner and having to pull myself back onto the track.
My blood is pumping and I have tears in my eyes from the wind by the time I roll into Wilson’s Bay carpark. I go for a few laps around 7 Mile, all filled with adrenaline and breakfast, getting used to the extra weight of the bikepacking setup before headed home. A short ride yes but filled with some epic riding and a great way to avoid the Xmas crowds.
Carpark at corner of Glenorchy Road and Moke Lake Road (Trail Head) – toilet, water
Moke Lake Campsite – toilet, water,camping, no phone signal
Closeburn or Wilsons Bay Carpark (Trail Head) – toilet, water
45 km Round Trip.
1 Day trip (or camp half way.)
911 m Elevation Gain.
20% singletrack, 40% 4×4, 40% tarmac.