I feel the warmth on the back of my neck. It’s late October but already starting to heat up. The sun breaks weakly through the birch trees. I crane my neck to watch the wild goats, climbing up in the cliffs high above, there bleating calls echo through the gorge. They sound like people shouting in the distance.
I turn left before the Edith Cavell Bridge, below me are jet boats, hurtling through the narrow canyon. Their bow a meter away from the sheer granite walls, spray from the turquoise water shooting into the air leaving a rainbow in the mist. Where is the beautiful place you ask?
Getting To The Moonlight Track
Just a short ride away from Queenstown is the secluded suburb of Arthur’s Point. It spreads across either side of the Shotover River Gorge. This steep, rugged area has breathtaking views and incredible bike trails.
I grade this trail a Grade 3 (see here for grading systems) mostly for it’s high exposure.There is tight singletrack where a drop off the edge will send you deep into the valley.
It is well signposted and you can drive to the start if you prefer to stay off the roads. If you aren’t riding all the way through to Moke Lake you can park here and it will be perfectly safe.
The track is uphill at the start and a little muddy, I’m soon sweating and breathing hard, I take a second to cool myself, splashing from the stream crossing the trail (a good point to fill up your water with some delicious mountain spring water!)
I wind my way along the narrow trail surrounded by recently burnt ferns. The scorched stalks contrasting against vibrant green of the fresh grass stalks peeking out from the blackened earth.
The path winds gradually up and the views expand as I climb, filling my peripheries with Mount Dewar on my right. Ben Lomond is hidden behind a false summit on left. Ahead, barely visible, is the trail, scratched into the side of the valley. In the far distance the vista of the Southern Alps is just visible snow-capped beneath a blue sky.
The trail requires focus, landslips make the track even narrower, adding an extra burst of adrenaline as I look down a steep fall. Below is jagged rocks then one hell of a fall down toward the river!
At 6 km there is an incredible lookout, at the highest point of the trail (660m). Here I am greeted with an epic panorama, the multiple valleys all winding and braiding into one another. Far below white water of tributaries rush down to join the Shotover River. They look like tiny veins splitting out through the valley. The wind rushes past howling down the valley carrying a stiff cold mountain air. Crickets churp and the wind rustles through the Matagouri bushes. Their sharp thorns wearing sheeps wool like the tinsel on a tree.
After this point there is a long downhill through the Matagouri Trees. For those of you who have never come across these prickly New Zealand natives you are lucky! These are certainly not a good place to rest after a fall off the bike this ‘tree’ (more like a bush) sports many 5 cm long thorns. Definitely strong enough to go through a tyre so be warned! Short and usually wind swept these trees are abundant throughout the Otago area and much of alpine New Zealand.
So after the lookout I recommend heading back to the start if you only fancy a quick ride and blast back to where you began. Making the most of that hard earned 400 m elevation gain!
Or keep on heading through all the way to Moke Lake. You can join the Moke Lake/ Lake Dispute Track here ( follow this link for my review of that track)
Enjoy and be sure to let people know where your going as there is patchy cell service along the canyon!
- Arthurs Point- Trail Head- Carparking, Cell Phone Recepetion, Stream Water
- Moke Lake- Car Parking-Camping, Toilet, Stream Water
- 12 km return to lookout
- 38 km to Moke Lake
- 400 m Elevation Gain
- 80% Singletrack, 20% 4×4 Track