“The long-forgotten 85km 'gold miners’ road leading from Lyell to the mighty Mokihinui River.
— Kerry Suter
Birding · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Traversing the stunning 85km Old Ghost Road and with more than 2,600 metres of ascent, the Old Ghost Trail is New Zealand's longest piece of uninterrupted singletrack connecting the old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) to the mighty Mokihinui River in the north.
Need to Know
This is a shared trail with mountain bikers so care should be taken approaching blind corners. Share the trails.
The Old Ghost Road is an 85km trail that winds its way through remote valleys, across mountain tops and down river gorges. It is suitable for trampers with a reasonable level of backcountry skills and experience. Due to the firm nature of the trail surface, it is recommended that trampers wear sturdy yet comfortable footwear. Stiff-soled tramping boots are likely to be an overkill!
There are fourteen bridges over waterways on The Old Ghost Road (and three other ‘land bridges’ over the infamous 'Suicide Slips'), yet there are still some waterways with potential to flood under heavy rainfall.
Lyell Carpark (DoC Campground) to Lyell Saddle Hut, 18km. Steady grade on the old benched track climbing to the Lyell Saddle hut (885 metres above sea level). Beech forest dominates.
Lyell Saddle Hut to Ghost Lake Hut, 12km. 6 km of graded climbing through cloud forest up to the tussock tops of the Lyell Range. Then it’s 6 km of relatively level open-tops travel to ‘Ghost Lake’ and the stunning Ghost Lake Hut. Unparalleled views of pure South Island majesty are yours with every stride. Note there is no water available once on the alpine tops. Carry sufficient supplies. Take your time and enjoy the scenic stopping points.
Ghost Lake Hut to Stern Valley Hut, 13km. Two sharp descents and ridge travel mark this day and it’s predominantly downhill (800 metres of altitude loss) all the way to Stern Valley Hut. There is no water in this section until Stern Creek is reached. Carry sufficient supplies. Prepare yourself for the Dr Seuss-like ‘Skyline Steps’ at the end of Skyline Ridge.
Stern Valley Hut to Specimen Point Hut, 25km. With various destination options this day (including intermediate but more basic hut sites at Goat Creek and Mokihinui Forks), you'll have plenty of options to choose from. The route makes its way on up Earnest Valley (north branch of Stern Creek) and through the strange but gorgeous open meadows of its catchment. At the twin lakes (Lake Grim and Lake Cheerful), the track switches back into climb mode through the ‘Boneyard’ heading for ‘Solemn Saddle’ and then leads on down through ‘The Hanging Judge’ into the headwaters of the Goat Creek catchment. Scrub and grass covered valleys form the way until the final couple of kilometres through bush to the historic Goat Creek Hut.
Stern Creek Hut to Goat Creek Hut 14 km. From Goat Creek Hut it’s 8 km of flat hiking down through the beautiful podocarp forest of the Mokihinui River South Branch to the Mokihinui Forks Hut. Then it's just a further 3 km down to the Specimen Point Hut settlement at the head of the mighty Mokihinui River Gorge.
Specimen Point Hut to Welcome Bay/Seddonville, 17km. Undulating terrain greets you as The Old Ghost Road picks up the old miners’ track hugging the true left bank of the mighty Mokihinui River gorge with stunning river views.