Today's Topic: Hidden Gems
These are short trails that provide plenty of bang for buck. Short enough that you could squeeze them in before or after work or you could connect them into your weekend long run. They are also reasonably technical and steep in parts- ideal training for events like the Mt Somers, Mt Oxford, Mt Difficulty, Motatapu Ultra, Shotover Moonlight events, and practicing becoming proficient on technical terrain for events such as the Mountain Run at Coast to Coast or Ring of Fire.
#1) The Ridge up Linda Woods Reserve.
From the carpark off Port Hills Road (between Duncan Park and a wetland) go through a pedestrian gate and pick up a trail that does a short zigzag to gain the bottom of the ridge. From here it's all up! The first km will see you climb steadily through a couple of gates, horse paddocks and past the power pylon into Linda Woods Reserve. The next section to the top is where the magic happens. Rocky (some of it loose) single track, mostly steep on or just below the ridgeline. It flattens off just before the top, the summit itself is nondescript and opens out into tussock and grassland. Just 2.2km to the top but around 400m of climbing, I recommend doing the gentler few hundred meters past the summit down to the summit rd/crater rim trail to bump the return trip up to 5km and you'll see how to link this into future long runs.
What goes up must come down and now you've got to plummet back down to the carpark. For this trail and terrain, I'd recommend trail shoes with great grip on rock and durability. I'm thinking that the Kaptiva and Bushido from La Sportiva as well as the Topo Mountain Racer are ideal here.
#2) Dry Bush/Gorge track to the shelter
From the end of Albert terrace, there is a 1.5km trail through the valley between Huntsbury and Mt Vernon. Throw your min/km expectations out the door. This is no highway, the trail is technical and narrow in spots, be prepared for wet feet if it has been raining too. This may only be short but within a couple of minutes, you won't even remember you're in a city. Almost immediately you enter a forested gorge crossing the creek a few times, traversing fallen logs, and clambering around rocks before the track opens out to tussock, can you spot the shelter above the valley in the distance? From the shelter, you can return the way you come or you have options to cross the stile below you and then follow a trail up to where Huntsbury Ave ends; pick up a trail from the shelter that leads back to the farm track; or you can continue up the valley you're in, often faint/untracked, to join the Summit Road where it meets the top of Huntsbury 4wd track. Good trail shoes are recommended, especially if it has been wet. Think Hoka Speedgoat, Asics Trabuco, Saucony Peregrine.
#3) Lava Flow
One of my favorite technical and steep trails. This is actually a downhill mtb track so keep your eyes and ears peeled and give way to any mountain bikers crazy enough to come down here. From the end of Bowenvale ave, you have 1.6km of warmup on the wide dual-use trail along the bottom of the valley climbing steadily. You'll pass over 3 wooden bridges in short succession, directly after the 3rd pick up the faint trail on your left. This is getting a bit overgrown and not being maintained at the moment- this also means there are no bikes through this section. Follow this trail up until you cross a stile and rejoin the mountain bike trail. The climb becomes steep in parts with a couple of decent bits of clambering and the top 1/3rd becomes increasingly exposed and gnarly volcanic rock. This top section, where it is less steep but still technical, is especially good for repetitions training for technical trail events. You'll intersect the Bowenvale traverse mountain bike trail just below the Summit Road with the option to return the way you came or head down the Zigzag or Elevator for a less technical descent. If you are looking at doing these trails with lots of exposed volcanic rock often I'd recommend durable trail shoes like the Kaptiva and Bushido from La Sportiva or Topo Mountain Racer.