A top a Southland high country station is a wonderfully hand crafted and historic single track circuit with fabulous mountain and valley vistas. The duration of the trip if you are mountain biking is about 4 to 5 hours for an intermediate rider and 7 to 8 hours for hikers on a day trip. Overnighting in unique acccomodation is a whole new and wonderful journey.
Some of the highlights include high country scenery, historic and modern huts and glamping (glamorous camping) tents. Welcome Rock is steeped in local history and ecology, where the owners family have owned the private farm since 1911. The forth generation manager of the property Tom O’Brien has hand built the 27km loop trail using only pick and shovel, A phenomenal feat of pioneering endeavour much like the gold miners who built the water races 120 years earlier. The Roaring Lion trail has gentle gradients between 3 and 5 degrees, however is technically engaging and requires an average to good level of fitness.
What started life a one of New Zealand’s longest gold mining water races has been reinvented and extended into a dazzling single track circuit named after the prominent rock that served as a meeting point for early settlers. The trail owes its existence to the O’Brien family of Garston, one hour south of the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown.
Mostly smooth flowing and gentley undulating, the trail can be completed in one day by moderately fit people who enjoy mountain biking or hiking. If you really want to enjoy this incredibly unique Kiwi experience, overnighting is the key in one of the historic huts (The Mud Hut) or the super amazing lotus belle Glamping tents. The starting point, historic Southland Ski Hut lies at an altitude of around 1200 metres above sea level ,ensuring spectacular views from the get-go. The vistas alter dramatically, however as the track traces a path around the tussock-covered Slate Range. Out west, a patchwork of farmer’s fields is backdropped by the craggy Eyre Mountains, while to the east the landscape has a more remote, untouched feel with rolling tussock land and pockets of regenerating beech forest, dominating the wide visitas.
Helping bring the landscape to life are authentic rusty relics and information panels that evocatively relay the areas fascinating ecology and gold mining past. Lucky visitors may even discover the hidden cache of whiskey. Overnight visitors reap even more rewards- a soothing soak in an outdoor bath and the chance to see a spectacular sunset.
Being privately owned and operated, prior booking is essential and can be arranged along with bike hire and guided tours via the Welcome Rock website or Queenstown’s Outside Sports. The trail is open to mountain bikers from October through to April and all year round for hikers.