The Canterbury Backcountry Cycle Trail is great trip for those wanting to get off the tourist trail and cycle around Mid Canterbury’s dramatic glacial valleys and braided rivers that formed the Canterbury Plains.

We see a number of historic farms of Canterbury’s early run-holders and take a buggy ride around Erewhon Station, pulled by the mighty Clydesdale horses.

The Canterbury Backcountry Cycle Trail package holiday is a collection of cycle rides totaling 155km that Pure Trails have put together that showcase the South Island’s dramatic Mid Canterbury region. The tour features 75% cycling on sealed roads and 25% cycling on gravel roads. The riding is rated Grade 1 and there are a few gentle hills that can be skipped if desired, and our support vehicle is available throughout the cycle tour. Refer to our Level of Difficulty gradings for more information.

Canterbury Backcountry Cycle Trail Tour Highlights

  • Enjoy up to 155km+ of Grade 1 rated cycling
  • Take in the amazing and majestic vistas of the Southern Alps
  • Relax beside the crystal clear alpine lakes
  • Cycle Canterbury’s vast braided river valleys
  • Stay at a remote high country lodge
  • Visit Mt Sunday – the heart of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth
  • Take a buggy ride pulled by Erewhon Station’s famous Clydesdale horses
  • Learn the history of Canterbury’s early run holders

Day 1 Christchurch – Lake Coleridge

The Canterbury Backcountry Trail tour gets underway as we head west across the plains towards the Torlesse Range and through the town of Hororata. After a stop for morning tea we begin the first bike ride of the day to the Lake Coleridge Village (17.5km). Relax with a picnic lunch before a side trip to the far end of the lake to Harper River at the foot of the ranges. Our second cycle ride begins here as we ride past numerous alpine tarns with great views of the Craigieburn and Torlesse Ranges (10.5km). After the cycling there is time to explore the Coleridge village. Settle into our Lodge accommodation for the evening.
Cycle Distance: 28km
Meals (L/D)

Day 2 Lake Coleridge – Methven

Today we cross the mighty Rakaia River at the Gorge. Our first bike ride begins as we leave the highway and turn again towards the Southern Alps. Cycle 13km along the river terraces high above the Rakaia. Enjoy morning tea and a bus transfer along a hilly section, to where we can ride (15.5km) along the flat river terrace past where the Wilberforce and Mathias Valleys meet the Rakaia, deep in the Canterbury Backcountry. Here the valleys become wide and sparse, with amazing views of the surrounding mountain ranges. At the conclusion of the bike ride we head back to the plains and our accommodation for the evening at the small Canterbury rural service town of Methven. Relax in our comfortable accommodation.
Cycle Distance: 28km
Meals (B/L/D)

Day 3 Methven – Mt Somers

Today we enjoy some cycle rides around the farmland of the fertile and productive Canterbury Plains, taking in the rural vistas (45km). Enjoy lunch at a local cafe before we drive up through the Ashburton Gorge to Lake Clearwater, and on towards Erewhon Station ‘home of the working horse’ and enjoy an amazing horse wagon ride around the station, pulled by a team of mighty Clydesdale horses.  At the conclusion of the trip we travel a short distance to Mt Somers in the support vehicle to our accommodation for the next two evenings.
Cycle Distance: 45km
Meals (B/L/D)

Day 4 Mt Somers

This morning you have the opportunity to do a walk up Mt Sunday – the site of the set for Edoras, the fortress city of the Rohan people in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Nothing remains of the set, but the views of the surrounding countryside are stunning. We then travel to an area of the Canterbury backcountry that is dotted with many picturesque lakes, and remnants of ancient glaciers. The largest of these is Lake Heron, sitting at 700m above sea level and a key habitat for the endangered Crested Grebe. There is time to explore the area and have a cuppa before our cycle ride, heading 9km down the valley to yet another stunning alpine lake. Our second ride after lunch follows the Hakatere River 23km back to the Plains, and our  accommodation for the evening in the settlement of Mt Somers.
Cycle Distance: 31km
Meals (B/L/D)

Day 5 Mt Somers – Christchurch

Today we drive through the Rangitata River Valley and on to the historic Mesopotamia Station, nestled in the centre of the South Island’s middle earth. Take in the breathtaking scenery at the headwaters of the Rangitata, with sweeping views of the Two Thumbs Range and Southern Alps in all directions. We then enjoy a 21.5km cycle ride adjacent Mt Peel and through the Peel Forest Reserve. Take a short walk in the reserve to appreciate the magnificent old podocarps that once covered this landscape. Visit a lovely church, and ride on to the quaint hamlet of Arundel where our cycle trail comes to an end. We load up and transfer back to Christchurch, arriving at approximately 5pm.
Cycle Distance: 21km
Meals (B/L)

20 Apr 2017-
24 Apr 2017
Fully Booked
Guaranteed Departure
7 Nov 2017-
11 Nov 2017
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5 Dec 2017-
9 Dec 2017
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9 Jan 2018-
13 Jan 2018
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24 Feb 2018-
28 Feb 2018
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19 Mar 2018-
23 Mar 2018
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10 Apr 2018-
14 Apr 2018
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What’s included in the tour package?

  • 4 nights twinshare accommodation
  • 4 evening meals; 5 lunches; 4 breakfasts (indicated by B/L/D in the itinerary)
  • fruit, snacks & morning teas on the trail
  • the services of a tour leader who provides vehicle support & information
  • cycle repair support
  • all transport from/to Christchurch
  • buggy ride at Erewhon Station
  • Goods & Services Tax of 15%

Not included in the tour package:

  • wine; beer; espresso coffees
  • bike hire ($190) or e-bike hire ($450)
  • single accommodation supplement ($300)

Our Guiding Team

Peter Summerfield

Peter Summerfield

Tour Leader (since 2011)

Peter grew up in Christchurch and early in his working life spent three years in Twizel during the construction of the Upper Waitaki power scheme. A career change led to 35 years in the New Zealand Police with time spent in Central Otago and Canterbury. Peter was active in Search and Rescue for much of his Police service and completed two overseas deployments to Thailand following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. He is a keen cyclist and an active, if not always successful, lawn bowler.

John Weller

John Weller

Tour Leader/Operations Support (since 2008; Director)

John grew up in the town of Wanganui, where in his school days, he helped build the famed 'Wanganui High School Tramping Club Hut' on Mount Ruapehu. John retired from a career as a Property Valuer and Agricultural consultant where he practised for many years in Western Australia and Tauranga. John has travelled, walked and cycled extensively abroad and now enjoys introducing our visitors to favourite parts of NZ. Other hobbies include cycling, bridge, gardening & horse racing (don't get him started on the latter!)