An hours drive from Christchurch, the Wharfdale Track is very accessible, and offers a great challenging ride with fantastic scenery. You can choose to ride the single track through the Beech forest to the old Townsend Hut site and turn back and return the way you came, or carry on along the 4WD track to Lees Valley Road and back to Oxford via Ashley George Road. There is also the option to stay a night at the Wharfdale Hut.
Allow about 1 hour to travel from Christchurch to Oxford. Once in Oxford, carry on through for about 3kms before turning right onto Woodstock Road. A further 10kms, turn off at Ingrams Road where the Wharfdale Track is signposted. 1 km along there is a ford to cross, and if it has been wet you may have to park here. The main car park is a further 6kms up a steady climb.
CAR PARK TO WHARFDALE HUT (~4 HOURS ONE WAY)
From the main car park, it is a mostly steady climb along a single track through the beech forest. There are plenty of streams to cross, but in dry weather it is mostly all ridable. There are some steep sections where the streams cross over the track, and lots of tree roots to negotiate. There is one downhill section before climbing back up to the saddle, parts of which are rocky and steep.
Once you get up to the saddle, the last section is a quick downhill run to the hut.
WHARFDALE HUT TO LEES VALLEY ROAD (~1.5 HOURS)
The single track carries on a further 20 minutes down to where the old Townsend Hut used to be. This section of track turns off a few metres before the Warfdale Hut, and is not clearly signposted. If you carry on along the track past the Hut and find yourself down at the river, you have gone to far.
From the Warfdale Hut to the old Townsend Hut site is mostly downhill and some parts are quite steep and narrow, with some of the track washed out.
From the old Townsend Hut site, the track changes from a single track to 4WD track. There are a couple of streams to cross, and a section of ruff river bed, otherwise it is a gradual descent towards the Lees Valley Road.
Before you reach the Lees Valley Road, there is a folk in the track. Take the right hand track at this point.
LEES VALLEY ROAD (~3 HOURS)
Once on the Lees Valley Road, it's a short distance before you cross over the Ashley River and start the first of two climbs on the way back to Oxford. The gravel road climbs at a steady gradient for a couple of kilometres before descending back down to the river. The second climb starts at a slightly steeper gradient, but it's not long to the top of the hill and then it's several kilometres of downhill coasting until you reach the Ashley Gorge Road.