By TRACEY ROXBURGH
Queenstown’s backcountry tourism has added another string to its bow, with the opening of a new world-class 50-plus kilometre loop trail around Coronet Peak.
Officially opened last night, the Coronet Loop, for mountain bikers and hikers, opens up a unique part of the area’s backcountry, previously inaccessible to the public.
Steeped in mining history, the predominantly single-track trail is the result of five years’ work and a collaboration between the Queenstown Trails Trust, Soho Property Ltd, QEII National Trust, and Mahu Whenua Open Spaces Covenant.
It’s also been supported by the Walking Access Commission, Department of Conservation, Queenstown’s council and LINZ.
Trails trust boss Mark Williams says the Coronet Loop’s ‘‘the epic backcountry mountain
bike trail that Queenstown has been missing’’, and an ‘‘incredible addition’’ to New Zealand’s trail network.
He expects it will play a significant role in the regeneration of the Whakatipu’s tourism
industry, attracting domestic and, in time, international tourists.
Starting in Arrowtown, the trail climbs Bush Creek and crosses the face of Coronet Peak, taking in views of the Whakatipu Basin, before descending the Skippers Pack Track into Long Gully.
It climbs again over Greengates Saddle, then drops into Deep Creek.
Passing through river gorges and under waterfalls, it follows relic water races and passes old sluicing dams and historic huts before finishing back in Arrowtown.
Williams doffs his cap to everyone involved in the project, particularly long-time local
Barry Sarginson, who lived and worked in the remote area to build the trail.
He says while it can be done in a day, there’s the option to make it an overnight adventure, but notes there’s limited mobile reception, so people need to be self-sufficient, carry a personal locator beacon and be prepared for rapidly-changing weather.