Mt Cook to Braemar Station
A2O SECTION 1 – MT COOK VILLAGE TO BRAEMAR STATION
Technical Difficulty: Grade 2
Fitness Required: Moderate
Trail Overview: A mix of cycle trail and gravel road with a helicopter flight required to cross the treacherous Tasman River. Parts of the trail are remote and subject to flooding after heavy rain or snow melt. It is highly likely you will get wet feet, even in summer. The road section is undulating and occasionally has livestock on the road.
The Alps to Ocean Cycle trail starts near Aoraki/Mt Cook Village in the heart of the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. The trail start sign is in the car park in front of building in the White Horse Camping area. The building has toilets and is a good place to top up your water. The purpose-built trail meanders through the national park for approx. 8km to the Mt Cook Airport. Be aware that section of trail is a duel use trail with walkers so look out for riders and walkers travelling in both directions.
There are 2 companies offering helicopter flights to take you and your bike over the icy cold and treacherous Tasman River. (Heliworks.co.nz and Helicopter.co.nz). Many people decide to miss this section of trail in order to save money on the flight. As the Mt Cook start and the remote section of trail opened up by the helicopter are two of the highlights, and points of difference, of this trail over all others in New Zealand, we highly recommend spending the money and taking the flight.
This first half of this section is on flat terrain along a dedicated cycle trail. But, this is the most remote section of trail, the surface is rough in places (river rocks/sand) and there are a few un-bridged streams to cross that may result in wet feet so make sure you do not wear cotton socks that will make your feet cold when wet. After heavy rain or snow melt, these streams may become dangerous to cross so check before you fly. It is possible to extend the helicopter flight to a safer landing area beyond the stream crossings (this will cost extra). Gale force NW winds also have the potential to delay or cancel your flight so make sure you have a plan B in place if the weather does not look good.
Remember to keep looking behind you as you ride away from the Mt Cook mountains at some of the most awe-inspiring Alpine views anywhere in the World!
The cycle trail then meets a quiet, unsealed gravel road that winds and undulates (that’s ‘Kiwi’ for has small hills!) alongside Lake Pukaki to Braemar Station. There is very limited accommodation here so you must plan your trip in advance. Unless you are on an organised Alps 2 Ocean Tour, you may need to consider riding section 2 on the same day and stay at Twizel instead. This will make the first day a long 77km.