“One of New Zealand's best technical rides with an awesome 800m descent of roots and switchbacks.
— Alan Eskrick
There is a locked forestry gate on the Onamalutu Road and access is currently restricted to weekends only due to logging operations. You either have a long 7km ride up the forestry road to the start of the track or you can take a commercial shuttle. Blue Moon Backpackers (phone: 021-140-8204) have a key to the gate and can pick you up at Canvastown or Havelock and take you right to the start of the track at Onamalutu. $50 per person, minimum 6. Well worth it!
An awesome point to point ride featuring climbing and a stellar 800m descent littered with roots and technical challenges. Although you could self-shuttle, it's recommended to hire a shuttle for this ride.
From the carpark at the start of the track at the Onamalutu end, there are extensive views out to Blenheim and the Wairau Plains. The track starts through native bush along a ridge, first descending gently then climbing steadily on a well-graded benched track through the bush for over an hour to Fosters Clearing. There is a water supply at Fosters Clearing.
From the clearing, the track descends on a fairly good grade with some interesting technical, rocky sections before descending some tight switchbacks and reaching a large creek. This is the last chance to fill up water bottles before the climb to the highest point on the track at 1,066m. This involves a 30-minute carry section.
Once the top is reached and composure regained, the mega 800m descent through beech forest for 2.5km begins. It starts with some small technical root challenges before the grade increases and there is an almost continuous smorgasbord of roots and small drops to keep you on your toes. This morphs into a series of seemingly endless switchbacks, some steep and tight, some with roots to try and throw you, and all challenging.
Eventually, you arrive, buzzing, in a clearing at the 6 bunk Devils Creek Hut. This is a good place to take a break before heading down the track high above the Wakamarina River to the road end.
There is still some climbing to do, however, and some tricky creek crossings to navigate before a steep rocky descent with three tight, technical switchbacks to the Doom Creek footbridge across a narrow gorge. The track then climbs again steeply to join an old water race then becomes a doubletrack for the last 1-2kms out to the road end at Butchers Flat.
If you don't have a vehicle here, it is an easy 15km ride out to Canvastown. Total ride time is 4 to 7 hours. The track was used as part of the New Zealand Enduro Series in 2015. A good intermediate grade ride is an out and back to Devils Creek Hut from the Wakamarina end.
History & Background
The Wakamarina Track, an old goldminers trail, crosses the Richmond Range from the Wairau Valley to the Wakamarina Valley. Gold was first discovered in the Wakamarina River in 1860. However, it was not until 1864, after a reward was offered by the superintendent of Marlborough for the discovery of a workable goldfield, that it was prospected and found to be one of the richest goldfields in New Zealand. By July 1864, there were about 2,800 miners working between Doom Creek and Canvastown.