Casey Brown rides Wanaka: Cardrona Bike Park

Arguably one of the best female mountain bike athletes in the world, Casey Brown explores Wanaka riding terrain. First up, Cardrona Bike Park

Images by Callum Wood. Adapted from a story originally published in NZ Mountain Biker.

Casey Brown is a Canadian national mountain biking champion. She’s won Queen of Crankworx, she’s the first woman to complete Dream Track in Queenstown and now she’s got her sights set on being the first woman to ride Redbull Rampage. So - being that she’s also part Kiwi - we thought; who better to test out the riding in Wanaka?

In this three-part blog series, (try to) follow Casey as she tears up the trails in Wanaka. First stop: Cardrona Bike Park.

The park

If you’ve ridden high alpine terrain, then you’ll understand what it’s like to ride Cardrona Bike Park. The rugged ski-field-turned-bike-park landscape gives way to some incredible terrain, unlike anything lowland riders might be used to. Sharky rocks jut out of the ground, creating challenging yet rewarding trails and features. Everything feels just a little more exposed, but in a way that lights a rider’s adrenaline on fire – in a very good way. And with lift-accessed trails for all to enjoy, it’s only a matter of how many laps your legs can handle.

Mountain biker Casey Brown rides Cardrona Bike Park

Female mountain biker rides between rocks at Cardrona Bike Park in New ZealandCasey Brown takes in early morning views at Cardrona Bike Park in New Zealand

Peak to Pub

Locals will tell you that the Cardrona Hotel is a must-do and Casey was by no means going to skip it. Riders will often opt for Cardrona’s Peak to Pub trail – infinitely better than a boring drive down the mountain. The 10km trail weaves riders through the tussocks, covering 1270m of vertical descent and dropping you at the historic Cardrona Hotel – just in time for beer. 

Mountain biker rides tussocks at Cardrona Bike Park in New ZealandRiders at the Cardrona Hotel in Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

On-mountain stays

If you want to ride like the pros, you should stay like the pros. Casey parked herself up at the Cardrona Apartments, a mere 1min walk from the bike park lifts. Casey and her group loved having a space to stay on-mountain, particularly for the private kitchen, bathroom and living room – mountain bikers will tell you; it’s a lifestyle that involves a lot of shared hotel spaces and accommodation, so it’s great to have your own space in the Apartments.

Mountain biker at the Cardrona Apartments at Cardrona Bike Park

Highly recommended is The Mezz, the restaurant at Cardrona’s base lodge. Serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Mezz proudly uses locally sourced ingredients for their decadent meals.

Après-bike activities

After a day of riding, Casey and her group chose to wind down with a little stargazing. Cardrona offers some of the best conditions on Earth for stargazing and their tour offers access to high-powered telescopes – allowing guests to see the moon, Milky Way, nebulas and more up close.

Stargazing tour at Cardrona Bike Park in New Zealand

This is Cardrona

The South Island may have a reputation among mountain bikers for being gnarly, hard-out riding, but at Cardrona, the experience can be catered to a range of riders and visitors. Whether you’re up for a big day of non-stop brake-burning, a leisurely cruise down to the pub, or even mountain carts and stargazing – there’s something that will satisfy all dirt appetites.

Mountain views at Cardrona Bike Park in New Zealand

After Cardrona, Casey carried on down the road to Bike Glendhu, Wanaka’s newest pedal-powered riding area. Check out that adventure here.