One half of this lovely loop weaves through the trees beside the Clutha River to the historic village of Clyde, and the other half follows a rail trail across wide open plains.
Distance: 27 km loop
Ride Time: 2–4 hours
From the centre of Alexandra, head down Tarbert Street to the historic bridge across the Clutha. There is a car park below the bridge.
From the carpark, ride under the bridge and turn right to get up onto the footpath. After crossing the bridge, turn right again and carefully ride down a steep 50 metre track to the main riverside path. Follow this gravel path to Clyde.
This path was built in 1998 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of European settlement in Otago. There are maps and information boards along the way.
After 13 km you’ll reach the historic, single lane bridge across the mighty Clutha to the township of Clyde. You can either walk up a steep track just before the bridge and cross on a footpath, or go under the bridge before looping back around onto it, to cross on the road. You will climb 200 metres up Matau Street to the historic Clyde town centre.
Follow ‘Link Route’ cycle signs through Clyde, past the museum and, via a mix of quiet streets and off-road paths, to the Otago Central Rail Trail terminus. The last part of the link goes along Albert Drive and through a tunnel under Highway 8. At the terminus are toilets, information boards and two cycle hire companies.
It is easy to follow the rail trail to Alexandra station 8 km away. Compared with the river track, this section is relatively straight and offers expansive views.
From the car park at Alexandra Station the most direct route back to your start point is to follow the cycle lane down Tarbert Street back to the car park you started at, 1 km away. Alternatively, cross Tarbert Street, and follow the rail trail for 250 metres before veering off and taking the River Track down to River Road, which also leads to the carpark you started from.
Hot tip: To have a tailwind on the exposed rail trail section, do this loop clockwise during a nor’wester, and anticlockwise during a sou’easter.
Clyde township is just below a massive hydro dam, which was built in the 1980s and 1990s. The railway line was used to transport materials for the dam’s construction, but after it was completed, the railway line was sold to the Department of Conservation, who converted it into a 150 km rail trail. It has been a driver for regional tourism ever since, helping to rejuvenate the small towns along the route.
Cafes: There are several cafes for you to choose from in both Alexandra and Clyde.
Bike Hire: Trail Journeys in Clyde has hundreds of bikes and all other bits that you could possibly need for a ride. Check out their website www.trailjourneys.co.nz or phone 0800 030 381. Another company, Shebikehebikes, has set up a branch at Clyde, see www.shebikeshebikes.co.nz/ for more information.
Donations: Support the trail by donating to the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust on www.givealittle.co.nz/org/OCRTTrust
Also starting from Alexandra is a fabulous ride up the Roxburgh Gorge and back.