Mt Hutt ski-field road climbs relentlessly in the Hakatere Conservation Park, but lucky for us the most excellent “Bike Methven Club” has built 30+ kms of trail in the Mt Hutt Mountain Bike Park. After the forestry plantation was logged and replanted the club purchased the land and restored their original MTB tracks, and have been busy building more. Ditte, Pete and I cut the climb in half, riding singletrack first, then the cooler section of metalled road to Scotts Saddle. Old school Scotts Saddle Express is a blast of a downhill commencing in the snow-grass and spaniards at Scott Saddle.
Further down we sampled flowing downhills, beautifully graded uphills and cross country trails, clocking up a respectable 1100 meters of climbing with about 20kms rolling under our wheels. There are stunning views of Mt Hutt, the Pudding Hill Ranges and the patchwork of the central Canterbury Plains from the top of the trails.
Methven is a great place to stay with tons of reasonably priced accommodation in summer, lots of cafes, restaurants and bars and plenty of other outdoor activities to indulge in.
The contrast of Lake Clearwater and the Ashburton lakes was not lost on the four of us as we rolled past the Kiwi bach settlement on the shores of Lake Clearwater. This is classic Kiwiana at it’s best. The Hakatere Conservation area provides a myriad of recreational opportunities in a remote, open and wild environment. Excellent windsurfing and fishing in the surrounding Ashburton lakes, plenty of tramping, hunting and of course mountain biking.
Pete, Kathy, Ditte and I set off from the settlement for an anticlockwise loop of Mystery Lake. We hadn’t gone far and we spotted a native falcon eyeing us from a tantalised fence post. A brilliant new section of singletrack has been built bypassing a nasty fence line climb to an un-named tarn, on which we came across our first Te Araroa (TA) walker. They march cross country from the back of Lake Heron and head for the Rangitata River in the hope of crossing to Mesopotamia Station and the Bush Stream Track. These new switchbacks made the uphill so much easier and we cruised up to the lake via an old fence line track passing a couple more tarns on the way.
After lunch in the sun, the track sidles around the south side of the lake and along the Dogs Range at the 1100 metre contour before descending steeply. The descent is well rutted and camouflaged by tall tussocks and prickly matagauri and no place to throw caution to the slowly rising easterly wind. We all made it down in one piece where the track intersects the TA trail which heads east and west. We gave way to a couple more TA-ers on their long journey before peddling east through the mounds of Hakatere, across the board-walked swamp that precedes Lake Clearwater and onto sweet singletrack.
We closed the loop via the southern side of the lake, but an equally valid trail exists on its northern aspect, some of which is 4WD. With the nearest watering hole, ice-cream cone, meat pie and accommodation back out at Mt Somers and riding options for Africa, camping in whatever form or vehicle, is the best option to fully enjoy the park. Unless you have a friend with one of the very cool Clearwater baches. Book a great weather forecast and adventure.