Mt Cook to Braemar Station
Section 1 – Mt Cook Village to Braemar Station
The Alps to Ocean Cycle trail starts from Aoraki/Mt Cook Village in the heart of the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Cycle out to Mt Cook Airfield for a short but exciting helicopter flight (Pre-book in “Book Activities”) over the icy cold and treacherous Tasman River to take you and your bike to the official start of the A2O trail. This first day is an easy day of cycling starting on mostly flat terrain along a dedicated cycle trail. Be aware that this is the most remote section of trail and there are a few un-bridged streams to cross that may result in wet feet. It is preferable to ride this section on a mountain bike with off road tyres. Remember to keep looking behind you at some of the most awe-inspiring Alpine views anywhere in the World!
The prepared cycle trail then meets a quiet, unsealed gravel road that winds alongside Lake Pukaki to Braemar Station. There is very limited accommodation here (See “Places To Stay”), so 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 82km. An alternative, if there’s no accommodation at Braemar Station and you don’t fancy a very long day in the saddle, is to miss out the top part of Lake Pukaki and fly from Glentanner Airport to start the trail at Braemar Station so you just have to ride the 45km to Twizel.
We’ve been asked about the environmental impact in the National Park of helicoptering people across to the start of the trail. If you compare the amount of fuel used on the short flight and the minimal impact a helicopter has on the land, with a vehicle driving for several hours around the lake to shuttle people to the start of the trail, there’s not much between the two options!
Please be considerate of the pristine environment around you and stick to the mountain bikers care code. If you think you may need one, please carry a Poo Pot (available from Mt. Cook Village, DOC info centre) as there are limited, if any (the toilets are sometimes closed) toilet facilities anywhere on the trail until the end of Lake Pukaki, about half way along section 2.
For Things to See & Do in Mt Cook Village, click on the Tab [BOOK ACTIVITIES] at the top of the page.
For Places to Stay in Mt Cook Village, click on the Tab [BOOK ACCOMMODATION] at the top of the page.
What To See & Do
Aoraki/Mt Cook Village
Before you fly across to start the cycleway, it’s worth exploring the history and scenery of the Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. First place to start has to be the DOC Information Centre. Recently rebuilt with an amazing array of displays on the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park funa, flora, history, geology and more, well worth a visit and its free
A unique 4WD & Argo adventure with close-up views of the Tasman Glacier and its gigantic moraine walls. Learn about the area and be entertained by the guide’s wealth of knowledge and local stories. A short walk to a vantage point overlooking the Tasman Glacier and Terminal Lake provides one of the most spectacular photographic opportunities in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
A tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary, the centre boasts a 126-seat custom-designed theatre, (the world’s only theatre with 2D, 3D and world-class deﬁniti® Digital Dome Planetarium, contained within the same space) and museum showcasing the history of the Mount Cook region through transport, climbing, The Hermitage Hotel and pioneer extraordinaire, Sir Edmund Hillary himself.
Glacier Explorers Tasman Glacier Boat Trip or Walk
The only tour of its kind in New Zealand and one of the only accessible glacial lakes containing icebergs in the world. An amazing up close encounter with New Zealand’s largest glacier, the Tasman Glacier. Explore and learn about the ever-changing glacial landscape as you journey across the terminal lake in custom-built Boats with experienced guides.
Mount Cook is far from the city lights and therefore has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand – perfect for viewing the night sky! The new Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, including Aoraki Mt Cook village, is only the 4th reserve in the world. Begin with an introduction and orientation in the comfort of our Theatre Planetarium, then take a short drive (transport provided) to our outdoor stargazing site.
Helicopter Flight to the start of the trail
Using a helicopter is the only way to get to the official start of the trail, without having to cycle in an out to retrace your steps. The helicopter crosses the cold and treacherous Tasman River that runs from the Tasman Glacier Lake further up the valley.
There are 2 companies who will fly you across the Tasman river to the start point and they use very different methods to shuttle you and your bike.
Heliworks are based at Mt Cook airport so you cycle right up to their door on the trail. They operate with a cage system rather than bike racks so they take you and your bikes across in 2 separate loads. The bikes are loaded into a cage and stropped on a line under the helicopter. The trip is very short so it’s worth paying extra if you want a scenic flight.
To Book, call: 0800 66 66 68 (NZ only) or +64 3 435 1460 (outside NZ)
- Helicopter Line
They fly from Glentanner, about 20 minutes drive south of Mt Cook Village, or are able to pick you up from near the trail, near the Mt Cook airport.
To Book, call: 0800 650 651 (NZ only) or +64 3 435 1801 (outside NZ)
There are 2 potential weather issues that must be considered:
- In poor weather, the helicopter may be unable to fly. You must have a back up plan to get to the start of the trail or down to your next accommodation stop. Glentanner and Mt Cook Airport may have different weather, check both options.
- After heavy rain, the first section of trail may be unrideable. If in doubt, you may need to pay extra for the helicopter to fly you further to access the rideable sections of trail at the Jolly Carpark.
Where to Stay
Aoraki/Mt Cook Village
Mt Cook village has several options to suit most budgets. But, be aware, it’s the most expensive location on the entire cycleway. The options include the Hermitage Hotel, the Mt Cook Backpackers, the YHA and a Motel and there are a couple of places to eat.
Braemar Station is one of the accommodation bottlenecks on this cycleway as the only place to stay, at this moment, is Braemar Station itself!