St James Trail

OverviewTrail Status: Open

Maling Pass — St James Homestead (1-2 days, 64km)

The first of the Great Rides to open, this fantastic trail passes through the iconic St James Station, near the alpine spa village of Hanmer Springs.

Established in 1862, the St James Station was one of the largest cattle and sheep farms in New Zealand, before being purchased by the New Zealand Government in 2008 to form the St James Conservation Area.

The 64km trail offers a mix of riding grades through stunning and diverse scenery, including soaring mountain peaks, crystal clear rivers, high country lakes, alpine meadows, sub-alpine beech forest and expansive grassy river flats.

In spring the alpine meadows are in full bloom, while from summer through to mid-autumn riders can experience rich contrasting colours on long evenings, with the chance to see the famous St James wild horses.

The St James Cycle Trail is an enthralling and challenging journey through some of New Zealand’s most spectacular and historic high country – a true mountain-biking experience to be proud of, and one you will never forget!

In early 2013 a new family-friendly ride called the Homestead Run was opened. This 15km loop starts from the end of the St James Cycle Trail at St James Homestead and is a great option for families or riders who don’t have enough time to attempt the full trail.

Thermal pools

Relax, unwind and indulge at the multiple award-winning Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa. You will have to travel a long way to match the experience of this outdoor thermal retreat, and you can ‘take the waters’ in this alpine environment year round.

Discover the healing qualities of the open-air thermal pools, sulphur pools, or relax in your own private pool. There are three AquaTherapy pools, a heated freshwater lap pool with LazyRiver, an AquaPlay area (for children under 10 years old) and a SuperBowl waterslide.

Forest walks and rides

Hanmer Springs village is linked to an extensive network of walking and biking tracks in the nearby Hanmer Heritage Forest, an old experimental forest containing a mix of exotic tree species with some more than 100 years old.

Be Prepared

While access into the St James is relatively easy, riders must be prepared for the worst at all times.

Your safety is your responsibility

The St James Cycle Trail travels through a remote alpine environment, subject to weather extremes, flooded rivers and avalanches.

Before your trip ensure you have:

  • Official Trail Guide.
  • Thoroughly prepared your bicycle for the trip.
  • Obtained current trail status information from the DOC website or Hanmer Springs i-SITE.
  • Checked the latest weather forecast.
  • Left your intentions with someone.
  • Essential bicycle spares and tools.
  • A 406MHz personal locator beacon (PLB) or mountain radio.
  • Enough warm clothing and extra food to spend the night out if you have to.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Insect repellent.

There is no mobile phone coverage beyond Jacks Pass. You are on your own unless you take a satellite phone, mountain radio or PLB (hire outlets are listed on


Treat all rivers with respect; never attempt to cross swollen rivers or streams.


Maling Pass can be affected by avalanches in spring/early summer when warmer temperatures or rain make the snow unstable. Even if you cannot see snow from the track there may be enough snow out of sight on upper slopes to form an avalanche that could reach the track.


There are toilets at the start/finish of the trail and at all the huts along the trail.


Camping areas are provided at each end of the Trail at Lake Tennyson and at the St James Homestead. There is also a day shelter at the Homestead. The trail offers three 4-bunk huts and numerous camping spots, providing the opportunity for a multi-day trip.

Note: The historic huts are maintained to preserve their heritage and provide basic shelter with limited facilities.

Drinking Water

Water is accessible at many points along the Trail, but its purity cannot be taken for granted. We recommend you boil, filter or treat your water. Avoid taking water from the lakes as waterfowl are often present in large numbers.

Shared-use tracks

All sections of the Trail are open to walkers and some sections are also open to 4WD vehicles and horse-riders. Please respect other users and follow the code of conduct for shared-use tracks:

  • Respect that other users have different, and valid, reasons for being there.
  • Anticipate other users around corners or in blind spots.
  • Expect the unexpected; cycle at a speed from which you can stop safely if a hazard arises.
  • Do not startle other users – greet them when approaching, especially from behind.
  • The basic give-way rule for shared-use tracks is: 4WD and other motorised vehicles give way to walkers, cyclists and horses; cyclists give way to walkers and horses; and walkers give way to horses.
  • Common sense and courtesy prevail at all times.

Weather Info

The St James Cycle Trail is subject to the notoriously erratic and changeable weather of New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Sudden wind changes can result in a rapid deterioration of the weather, bringing gales, extreme cold, heavy rain and snow at any time of the year.

During the summer, temperatures can range from scorching heat during the day to bitter cold at night, with wind and high UV levels a constant feature. The prevailing wind is from the west and typically builds during the day, making an early start desirable.

Trail Partner

Kate Wilkinson, former Minister of Conservation
The St James Trail is a real tourism asset and I have no doubt it will draw thousands of cyclists a year. The landscape is stunning. KATE WILKINSON – Former Minister of Conservation