Hidden Treasures: Rapaki Track

I suspect that cycling fans in Christchurch fall into two camps: those who love all the flatness of Christchurch and avoid the hills, and those who like to get a bit of exercise by slogging up their favourite bit of the Port Hills (and whizzing down the other way!).

Not everyone is a fan of this…

This division may mean that there are a whole lot of people in the former group who never experience the fun of the Port Hills and Summit Road by bike because they are concerned about how they will get up there in the first place (other than with the assistance of a car or e-bike).

The lower half of Rapaki Track

The closest thing to an “easy” way up the Port Hills is via Rapaki Track from the St Martins valley. You still can’t get out of having to climb the 330m to the Rapaki Saddle, but the 4km of road and track give you a more moderate climb than many other route options (there’s even some flat bits!).

Rapaki Track locality map (yellow highlight)

Rapaki Track is a shared use path, very popular also with walkers, runners and dog-owners. Being a good width path though means that generally you won’t encounter much “congestion” riding your bike there.

“Rush hour” on Rapaki Track…

To get to Rapaki Track, you need to first get to Rapaki Rd off Centaurus Rd. While there is some on-street carparking, it is very limited – either expect to park further away or simply bike the whole way there.

Parking – probably simpler to bike there…

At the top of the road, follow the driveway to the gate and sign marking the start of the track itself.

Start of the track from the bottom

The first part rather pleasantly winds through some bush – particularly nice on a hot day.

Enjoy the shade while it lasts…

Once past the first cattle-grid, you’re out in the open for the rest of the way. So if it’s a sunny day, make sure that you are well protected from the sun.

Riders can just use the cattle grid to the right

The 3.5km track generally starts with an upwards climb, then flattens out for a while and then finishes with another short climb. Gradients aren’t too bad so long as you can plod away in low gear.

You still have to slog away on a few gradients

It doesn’t take long before you start to get some good views back down to Christchurch, so make sure you stop and have a look on your way.

Good views down below

The surface is an odd mixture of asphalt concrete bits and plain old gravel. Given the amount of human traffic, having some more hard wearing surfaces is sensible.

An unusual mixture of surfaces

About halfway up there is an alternative route off to the left. For keen mountain-bikers, this leads to the Montgomery Spur track, a 3km circuit for intermediate MTB riders.

Looking down to the side-track to Montgomery Spur

Another recent addition has been the creation of another intermediate MTB route largely parallel to the top half of the track. So if you’re wanting a slightly harder challenge (up or down) perhaps try this route.

Two track choices now…

Once you get to the top, the views are brilliant, both back towards Christchurch and over into Lyttelton Harbour. From here you can also make your way along the Summit Rd – the section east of here is closed to motor traffic.

Pretty good views at the top

Expect to take about 45-60 minutes uphill and (not surprisingly) far less on the downhill run. Make sure you take some water with you for your journey – there are no water supplies to tap into on this route.

A bit greener in winter, but still not much water…

No hill climb is completely easy but, as a gentle introduction to the Port Hills, Rapaki Track is a good one to start with.

Worst case scenario, you can always walk…

Have you ridden Rapaki Track? What did you think?

6 thoughts on “Hidden Treasures: Rapaki Track”

  1. Don’t encourage people to ride down Rapaki! They generally are not good riders going far too fast and not in good control! Also most of us don’t really like the climb here, a nice graded track (Makara peak style) would be preferred by pretty much everyone I know but apparently that will never be allowed to happen. I’m not from here so not sure of the history/ why this is

    1. Down is fine until you exceed your available skill level !

      Curiously, Rapaki is legally a paper road just like Worsleys Road, so you may encounter vehicles, and in theory normal road rules apply.

      1. Mercifully, last time I was on Worsleys Road, the gravel section was closed to motor vehicles

  2. for new comers I would suggest not riding rapaki when the southerly is howling it funnels down the ski ramp second climb and can be a character building experience, for a tail wind pick a day with a decent easterly turn left at the top and head over to evans pass and godley head(my favourite spot) much better than rolling back rapaki and dodging walkers/runners and other cyclists

  3. Great article thanks, I really enjoy this ride as a way of accessing the rest of the Port Hills tracks. The Montgomery Spur track is excellent too. Most people you run into up on the hills are in a good mood, enjoying this great resource right on our doorstep.

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