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Top Town NZ

What is New Zealand’s Top TRAIL Town? Hmm, could there be a bigger can of worms?
BCR chats with a few folks that rate their local spot as the top trail running spot in the country. We have broken the “Top Town” criteria into the following-

“The bread and butter run”- a quick and easy, no brainer option for scoring some nice off road/single track close to home. Ideally with little to no drive time.
“Fortune favours the brave”- long , endurance, adventure run – whatever you call it- this is the training run than gets you excited- the most work, with the biggest reward. Steep, long climbs, big loops, and high peaks, all with top notch NZ scenery are the highlights here.
“The biggest show in town”- the main attraction event wise- when people think of a race in your home town/area this is what they think of.
“Après Trail”- whether it be a good coffee, local micro brew, or the best thick shake in town- where is the best post run hang out. Most likely goes hand in hand with the “Fortune favours the brave” run or the “The biggest show in town” race. Quality pizza and/or burgers are a bonus.

This week Kristian Day lays claim to Napier. Young gun KDay has only been running around 3 years and busted onto the NZ ultra scene at the 2011 Tarawera 100km with a sub 10hr finish.

I can only base my opinion on what I know, so obviously I have to say Napier, or the greater Hawkes Bay in general.

The bread and butter run for me ever since I started trail running (3 years ago) has been the Mighty Eskdale Mountain Bike park. I used to make the 20 minute drive every day in order to get in 16-25km of sweet buttery single track in a setting that left me completely alone. I’ve since moved to Eskdale and can get the same run from my front door step. The park has over 100km of single track all up and it’s quite easy (with local knowledge) to run a 30-35km loop without touching the same section of track twice.

One can also head into the trails that surround Te mata peak, which is closer to Hastings or Havelock North. This also offers some sweet running and substantial vertical if you’re willing to zig zag around a bit.

Kristain in the Kawekas. Photo- DdM

The long endurance runs that get me most excited are definitely the runs that can be had in the Kawekas. My standard route is around 45km with over 3000 vertical meters of gain. This is probably one of the easier options and one can make loops of up to 100km in distance with over 10,000m of vertical gain if you’re that way inclined.
The Kawekas are around 50 minutes drive from Napier and roughly the same from Hastings.

“The biggest show in town” - Hopefully this will soon be the Kaweka Mountain Marathon!-42km and 3600m of vertical on a course that pays homage to the deceased Kaweka Challenge. Of course the Hawkes Bay also has it’s fair share of trail races Including the HB trail run series, the triple peaks (47km) and the Cape Kidnappers challenge. There are also a myriad of shorter 10km distance trail races scattered throughout the year.

“Après Trail”- Take your pick! The Hawkes Bay is well known for it’s wine and fancy dining so it’s really up to the individual as to where they want to grab a feed or a drop.  The GinTrap in Ahuriri by the dock is best place to grab a brew! – sweet food aswell.

What do you think? We would love to hear about your trail/mountain running experiences in Napier.

Think your home stomping grounds better what Napier has to offer? And want to share? Get in touch  at run@backcountryrunner.co.nz and let us know. 


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5 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. It would be nice to be located elsewhere, however Christchurch (south) has quick access to the Port Hills which abound with trails and routes that is left up to how adventurous you are. About 1 hour to Canterbury foothills a little bit further and into the heart of the Southern Alps and serious climbing/running. Have lived in Nelson for some time and this rates highly.

    • agree Steve Chch’s port hills and location close to the southern alps makes it pretty good. Nelson- that is next weeks “top town” feature!

  2. Having just visited Napier for a gathering of the whanau I was somewhat disappointed at the distance required to drive, before finding trails to run. The hospitality of the local trail runners is not that great either. One youngish lad without a job, drove straight past the place he knew we were staying without stopping by for a run in the Kawekers.

    We are now in Tauranga and the locals are much more inviting. Taking time out from their hectic work days to provide a guided tour of the Mount for not only myself but also my family.

  3. I also understand that Mr B O’Gun and his family scored some most excellent chocolate pudding last night. That’s pretty good for Après Trail.

  4. That’s what you deserve for staying in matapiro!

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A Backcountry Running Community for New Zealand trail, mountain and ultra runners- We want this to be the place you come for all things trail running including race previews and reports, interviews with New Zealand runners and hopefully a whole lot more! Our aim is to provide as much original content- previews/reports/interviews on New Zealand trail, mountain and ultra races. We can't be everywhere- so feel free to get in touch if you have the scoop on a race or event.

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