Heli biking in New Zealand: The best MTB adventure ever?

Mar 13, 2019 BY Mark Pawlak

Looking for the best MTB adventure ever? Of course you are! And so am I… Up for consideration for this prestigious accolade is heli biking in New Zealand.

Heli biking in New Zealand The best MTB adventure ever Image courtesy of Heliview.co.nz

Why go mountain biking in New Zealand?

Few destinations compete with New Zealand in terms of beauty and variety of it’s wilderness. With epic alpine mountains, steaming volcanic landscapes, glaciers meeting temperate rainforest, stunning coastlines dotted with beautiful beaches and ancient woodland it has it all.

This is a volatile land, born out of seismic upheaval of rocks formed in the seas off the coast of the Gondwana supercontinent 540 million years ago. It wasn’t until 1.8 million years ago that New Zealand arose from the sea due to moving tectonic plates.

Since then New Zealand has been carved by ice and water, whilst being built upon by volcanic activity. What we see today is rugged and dramatic. It is also sparsely populated with just 15 people per square kilometer, and most of them live in the cities.

Meaning there’s plenty of wilderness to explore and ideal conditions for mountain bikers. Personally, I would get a backpacker campervan and travel with my bikes. I’d then drive around visiting the top mountain biking trails in NZ.

Best mountain biking trails in New Zealand flickr image by Mountain Bike Mt Cook

With such rugged terrain, there’s options for all level of MTBer including trails to test even the best riders. But much of it is very hard to reach – which is where helicopters come in!

Heli biking in New Zealand

The last decade or so has seen an upsurge in heli biking in New Zealand. With the use of a chopper riders are delivered to the spot they want to ride from.

Much like heli skiing this means you are usually dropped near the top so mainly ride downhill. A bike is not as restrictive as skis so you can also be dropped in the middle of nowhere and ride both the ups and downs.

But is heli biking the best MTB adventure ever?

Heli biking in New Zealand The best MTB adventure ever Image courtesy of HeliBike Rotorua

South Island heli MTB

On the South Island helicopter access gets you to many miles of single-track and cross-country routes. It’s trails that you’d never reach under your own steam.

Near Queenstown there’s plenty of backcountry and low-level single track to ride. But if you want to get up and over the Nevis Valley, it’s time to take a helicopter.

The anticipation builds as you fly over The Remarkables. Bikes are racked to either side of the chopper at you head for Crown Peak. 

The Old Woman Range and the Pisa Conservation Area are also popular heli drop points in the Otago region. Mountain biking with helicopter drops often include over 3,000m of descents. And in most instances you’ll have the single track all to yourselves.

Tyres scrambling for grip, forks shuddering as you descend fast into the valley. Heart in mouth, hands gripping the bars and feathering the brakes to keep it together. You’re just 2 minutes into your ride and already it’s on!

The Southern Alps are some of the fastest rising mountain ranges in the world – proof that these islands are ever changing. Not that you’ll notice as you descend at breakneck speed…

North Island

The head of the Rangihau Valley is a popular drop-off spot. From here there’s a 16km route packed with tracks, ruts and river crossings – and the heli gets you right to the top.

Another awesome start point for heli biking in New Zealand is Mount Tarawera. This route plummets off the rim of the island’s biggest volcano, through lunar landscapes and down the side of the mountain!

Around Rotorua there are more than 70 km of excellent trails in Whakarewarewa Forest. But why not get out into the wild and join one of the heli adventures to Whirinaki run by HeliBike Rotorua.

The best MTB adventure ever?

New to the heli biking concept? Not to worry, you’ll get full safety briefs and be accompanied by a guide throughout.

For most people Heli biking in New Zealand is a once in a lifetime experience. And as space on each lift is limited, it’ll always be a very personal experience.

But is New Zealand heli biking the best MTB adventure ever? Quite possibly! There are other places around the world that offer it but New Zealand is just so beautiful, wild and full of good trails that it is certainly hard to beat.

So, sort out your own group and share the best riding of your life! And whilst in the helicopter, stood atop a summit or when stopped on the trail just take it all in. This is New Zealand and it’s stunning!

Please check out ourNew Zealand adventure travel discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.


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