Dun Coppermine Loop
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The Dun Coppermine track is a ride with a wilderness feel that can be ridden right from Nelson City. The trail surface is such that it can be ridden in most (but not extreme) weather. As Coppermine Saddle is at 870m always pack at least a windbreaker as conditions from Windy Point (which is not a misnomer), can be quite different to Nelson. There are a number of information signs along the trail relating some of the history of the Dun Mountain.
From Nelson City head up Brook St and hook on to Codgers Trail, which heads left off Brook St just before Betsy Eyre Park. Go all the way up Codgers on to the road up past the water treatment plant and continue straight ahead at the first intersection rather than up to Tantragee Saddle. It is well signposted. From here the route follows the old Dun Mountain Railway, so is an easy grade apart from a couple of short steeper sections before Third House.
An alternative route is to keep riding up the Brook to just before the motor camp where a wooden gate beside a locked pipe and wire gate gives access to a 4wd track known as the Classic. This is a more direct route, but much steeper and is only attempted by really fit riders.
After Third House the track is slightly downhill to Junction Saddle before resuming its steady climb to Coppermine Saddle. There are a couple of steep ascents out of creeks before the bush edge that most riders will struggle to ride up, but they are very short.
The vegetation changes abruptly when you reach the mineral belt and at Windy Point you emerge into open rocky tussock country with views out across the Richmond Ranges. As part of the Government's National Cycleways scheme the whole trail has been upgraded, but the difference is most noticeable from here on. The track now sidles across the mountainside without much change in elevation to Coppermine Saddle from where you begin a long descent into the South Maitai Valley. Parts of this used to be unrideable but is now (2012) of a grade 3 standard. There are numerous switchbacks to ease the gradient and a few rocky creeks to add a bit of challenge. There are still some sections of the old track that can be ridden for those who like a grade 5 technical challenge, but you have to know where to look to find them.
Once down to the South Maitai the grade eases and a bridge takes you across the river for a blast out to the 4wd road. Beware of walkers on the trail at all times so stay under control. Follow the 4wd road until it swings right across the river. Go straight ahead here without crossing the river on to another single track, which follows the water supply pipeline. Keep on this track hugging the hill on an almost flat grade. Eventually the trail descends through bush with 3 or 4 switchbacks and drops you on the Maitai Valley Rd just below Smiths Ford Bridge. Bike down the road towards Nelson. Just before the Maitai Motor Camp cross a pipe bridge on your left that arches across the Maitai River and pick up the Maitai track that takes you all the way back to the city. It's a lot more pleasant than the road.
Fit riders do this loop in under 3 hours, but allow up to 5 hours if you have a more relaxed pace and like to drink in the scenery. As this ride gets up into sub-alpine country it shouldn't be taken lightly. Make sure you have extra clothing, snacks and tools to repair your bike no matter what time of the year. Water is available from creeks along the way most of the time.
The track before Third House
Windy Point on a rare calm day
From Windy Point the grade is easy
...except for one short steep grunt
The wind blasted sign on Coppermine Saddle
Easy switchbacks mark the start of the descent
The scenery is stunning as you descend
Switchbacks to ease the grade
The South Maitai bridge
Red beech forest along the S. Maitai
The pipeline section
Descending to Smiths Ford