The Dun Mountain Trail

Written by      

Jonathan Kennett

The Dun Mountain Trail is a stunning one-day mountain-bike ride crossing a landscape of outstanding natural beauty and fascinating history. From Nelson city, it follows New Zealand’s first railway line, climbing at an easy gradient through beech forest to a large clearing at a shelter called Third House. From there, the railway line continues, but the forest becomes stunted and is suddenly left behind as you enter a dramatic landscape, beaten by the elements and devoid of almost any significant vegetation—a place where building a railway line seems crazy. The tracks were laid down in 1862, by those in search of not gold but chromite. They never found enough to bankroll their misguided endeavour, and the railway line, which ends at Coppermine Saddle, was only used for a few years. From the saddle, a massive downhill leads to the Maitai Dam, where Nelson city stores its water. Apart from the obvious—gravity is suddenly your best friend—you will also notice that the gradient is steeper and trail surface rougher. Those with full suspension bikes will love it, but others will have to take it easy and be ready to pick their way through a slalom course of rocks. From the dam, the trail follows the water pipeline towards Nelson, before dropping through forest onto a gentle country road that drifts down valley, right back to the city centre.