Coppermine Trail

  • Walking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Circular Track (Loop)

This exciting one-day mountain trail from Nelson climbs to a height of 878m on Dun Mountain along New Zealand’s first railway line before descending back down to Nelson.

The Dun Mountain rises to 1129m and due to its unique geology, is one of the most distinctive mountains around Nelson.

Early sections give glimpses of the Waimea Plains to the south and west. More extensive views extend back across Nelson and beyond to Tasman Bay and Abel Tasman National Park.

Third House is a good place to pause for a break and is an opportunity to listen to bellbirds or be entertained by ever inquisitive weka.

The trail’s emergence onto the mountain tops near Windy Point and Coppermine Saddle offers stunning views of Tasman Bay, followed by one of New Zealand’s longest mountain bike downhills.

Although the ride time may only take 4-6 hours, it is recommended you allow a full day to enjoy this unique environment.

One of the most accessible back-country alpine cycle trails in the country, it requires a good fitness level and all riders should be competent mountain bikers.

Brook St Entrance to Third House

Time: Walking - 3 hours

Distance:  11.3 km

The trail follows the original railway alignment through the Codgers Mountainbike Park taking in pine forest and recently harvested land to reach  native forest in a couple of gullies before reaching Bullock Spur. The alignment continues through regenerating forest to Cummins Spur Crossing. (Four Corners) From here the trail continues at a pleasant gradient through mature beech forest eventually reaching the site of Third House at 660m.

Third House to Coppermine Saddle

Time: Walking 1.5 hours

Distance: 6 Km

The trail continues to Junction Saddle when the old railway alignment joins the main ridge. Beyond Junction Saddle the trail continues to climb steadily through stunning beech forest all the way to the site of Fourth House. Soon after Coads Creek is crossed a sudden change in vegetation from mature forest to the stunted manuka and shrubland of the 'mineral belt' occurs. This infertile, distinctly-coloured landform belt is also found in Otago and in several places between St Arnaud and D’urville Island. The single track takes you all the way from here to Coppermine Saddle (878m) for some great views of the Richmond Range down to the  Maitai Valley. 

Coppermine Saddle to Maitai Dam

Time: Walking – 2.5 hours

Distance: 9.3 Km

From here it’s mostly down hill to the Maitai Dam. The landscape is amazing and the scenery breathtaking, however this 10km section is a challenging and advanced technical descent on loose rocky terrain more suitable for a full suspension bike. Sections of this part of the track are narrow with deep drainage ditches on either side and care should be taken to moderate speed. Due to the nature of the larger rocks and rough creek crossings, punctures are common and it is suggested that you increase your rear tyre pressure and carry suitable spares. Maintenance/upgrade work is being planned for this section of the trail. 

Maitai Dam to Smiths Ford

Time: Walking - 1 hour

Distance: 3.8 Km

The route currently connects back to the start of the trail via the Maitai Valley Road, however a further section of new trail will be added soon which runs alongside the Nelson water pipeline and down a cruisy downhill to come out at Smiths Ford Bridge further down the Valley.

Smiths Ford to Maitai Entrance

Time: Walking - 1hour ( road walk)

Distance: 3.1 Km

From Smiths Ford the route continues on the road to the Maitai Motor Camp, then it’s either a road ride back to Nelson via the Maitai Valley Road or to follow the Maitai Valley Walkway down to Nile Street and Nelson City.


If you want to complete the circuit back to Brook St you can either head back into town and back up Brook St or head over the Groom Creek trail behind Maitai Motor Camp back to the Tantragee Saddle then down to Brook St on the first part of the trail you started on.


You will be a long way from assistance, and mobile phone reception is patchy, so please ensure you have sufficient food, drink, spare tubes and wet-weather gear to handle any problems you might encounter.

MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: Mobile phone coverage is patchy along the trail.

DRINKING WATER: Ensure you take enough drinking water (and food) to last you the entire trail.

NOTE: Check the Coppermine Mountain Trail website for any damage or closures before you go.

Please remember: The track is shared with mountain bikers. Bikers should always give way to walkers and stay in control of their bikes. No animals, firearms or fires are allowed. Be wary of sudden weather changes, especially beyond Third House.

How to get here

From Nelson, ride up to the trail interpretation board just past 135 Brook Street. This is the start to the Coppermine Trail.

Track Elevation

Map of Track

Mountain Safety Council Plan My Trip
Page last updated: Jan 6, 2021, 8:44 AM