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Down in Denniston, West Coast

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Down in DennistonBeginner - Intermediate

Submitted by Vicki Woolley

Info Info
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Trail Information





West Coast


Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Totally/mostly flat

Native bush

Beginner - Intermediate

2:00 (Slow)
1:30 (Moderate)
1:00 (Fast)



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This is not a run to set a PB on: rather, take your camera and sense of curiousity and wonder.
Explore at your leisure from the top carpark. Follow the signs: run the Brakehead Walk to Banbury Arch (1.1km): the Town Walk (1.3km) through the old town and past the bowling green, and the Coalbrookdale Walk (2km) for authentic mining relics. Venture to the vertiginous edge of the Brakehead and once you have taken an epic selfie, set off down the Denniston Bridle Track: a 4.2km descent to Conns Creek Road (Waimangaroa). Between 1884-1902 the only way to/from Denniston was via this track (by horse or foot) or the railway.
After a few zig-zags on rocky trails through dense bush, you will have the opportunity to venture out to the Incline itself via a short side-track off to the right: it is truly terrifying to witness the 1:2.22 gradient and look down to Middle Brake, an almost token gesture safety reprieve.
Return to the Denniston Bridle Track and continue down through bush. At the only junction, stay right and continue down the trail to Conns Creek Road carpark.
If your ride isn't meeting you here, turn left and jog 500m out to the junction with Denniston Road.
*Note: gpx route turns left and goes down the road to Conns Creek: stay right to stay on trail.

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Features of interest

Denniston Plateau towers abruptly 600m above the West Coast and is a hostile, barren, windswept environment. Denniston was once NZ's largest producer of coal: the modern-day visitor is hard pushed to visualise the bustling town with schools, hotels, shops, churches and sports clubs that existed in the early days of the 20th century. Denniston's primary claim to fame is 'The Incline': dubbed the eighth engineering wonder of the world, this steeply graded railway falls 510 metres in 1.7km: unsurprisingly, a number of workers and travelers met their demise on this notorious descent.

Make Up of Run

Easy Single Track: 100%

Route Data


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Wild Explorers

I did it!
  • Access

    Take SH67 north-east from Westport: the right turn into Denniston Rd is clearly marked after 18km. Drive until you see parking signposted for 'The Denniston Experience'.

    Several companies offer walking tours of Denniston. Ask around until you find one who will be happy to pick you up at the bottom of the Incline.

    25 km

    27 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Good signage and interpretation panels adorn the Plateau. Once on the Bridle Track there are only two junctions as described.


    Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map.

    Carry own water.

    Denniston has its own peculiar microclimate and is mired in cloud more often than not. Prepare for cold, wet, windswept conditions and celebrate any departure from this.

  • Post run indulgence

    The Townhouse
    13-15 Cobden Street, Westport
    We went for lunch... stayed on for afternoon tea.. probably would have settled in for dinner if we didn't have a plane to catch. Modern food, great service, lovely ambiance.

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