Leaving Omarama you ride east down the Waitaki Valley, following the off-road trail to the top of the Chain Hills [5km]. From here you descend beside State Highway 83, then follow the edge of Lake Benmore to Pumpkin Point [10km]. Once you are almost out of Omarama it is all off-road Trail (with a single crossing of SH83 prior to the Chain Hills) all the way to Benmore Dam. All of the ride Omarama to Sailors Cutting is Grade 2 (Easy).
Continue beside the lake to Sailors Cutting – a popular boating, fishing and camping destination [13km].
The new section from Sailors Cutting to Benmore Dam is now open to the public which means that there is no longer a requirement to ride on SH83 over the Otematata Saddle from Sailors Cutting.
This new 16km purpose built off-road cycle Trail is mix of Grade 2 (Easy) and some narrower and steeper Grade 3 (Intermediate) sections. The Trail is cut into the side of steep hills in places and we have heard reports that those that suffer from vertigo struggle with some parts of this Trail. There are safety barriers in place along the Trail where drops (as opposed to slopes) occur.
The scenery that this new Trail section opens up is amazing, so if you are a little nervous of your riding ability or fitness, leave plenty of time to take it slow and be prepared to walk any part you are not comfortable riding.
Take a supply of water and snacks - you need to be self sufficent - phone coverage is limited so you may also consider taking a PLB with your party. There is a toilet on this new section at about the 10km mark from Sailors Cutting towards Benmore Dam 29km.
At Benmore Dam you have a choice of visiting Otematata 35km, by staying on the west side of the dam and taking the mostly off-road cycle in to Otematata for a meal / provisions / icecream / accommodation (12km return) or continue on your journey to Kurow by crossing over the dam and continuing on the Te Akatarawa Rd down the North side of Lake Aviemore. Kurow is 38km from the top of Benmore Dam.
Take a VR tour of Sailors Cutting courtesy of Virtual Waitaki:
- Chain Hills Viewpoint
- Pumpkin Point
- Sailors Cutting Scenic Reserve
- Lake Benmore and views of Turnagain and Junction Islands
- Views from Benmore Peninsular and Dam
- Otematata Wetlands Walk
- Autumn Colours (April)
- Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring Geopark