Peaking Ridge descends off the eastern side of Sunrise Ridge in the upper Maitai Valley and is regarded as one of Nelson’s iconic rides. Primarily used for riding, Peaking Ridge is a rocky and rooty affair through the beech forest of the Maitai Water Reserve, which gives it a Black Diamond difficulty rating. It is commonly combined with Fringed Hill, Black Diamond Ridge and Sunrise Ridge to create a 3-5 hour long technical loop that can be completed from central Nelson. Peaking Ridge was originally a tramping track, and can still be walked, though you will need to be very aware of bikers descending at high speed.
Peaking Ridge can only be ridden in the downhill direction; going uphill from the Maitai will result in a walk rather than a ride. This will require you to reach Sunrise Ridge, off which Peaking Ridge descends. Many riders reach the start of Peaking Ridge via Fringed Hill, Black Diamond Ridge and Sunrise Ridge. Indeed the latter is probably the most sensible route to take. Peaking Ridge begins on Sunrise Ridge 2.4 km (about two thirds of the way along the ridge) from the intersection with Black Diamond Ridge (the latter is at point 812 m on the topo map). The alternative way to access Sunrise Ridge is via Dun Mountain Trail where you can connect with Black Diamond Ridge at Junction Saddle.
The track begins steeply down the ridge, dropping down a chute with lots of loose rock and beech tree roots. The gradient eases but the roots and rocks don’t, with both featuring prominently the whole way down. A few hundred metres in there is a wooden ramp with a drop to be aware of. After this there are a few small drops and tree trunks to negotiate, and for the most part the track continues straight down the ridge with few turns. The majority of the track passes through open beech forest with very little undergrowth. The effects of the wind storm of 2008 are still evident, with large patches of the beech forest yet to fully recover from the tree fall. As the track descends to lower elevation Manuka and Mamaku become more prevalent.
Peaking Ridge Track joins Dun Mountain Trail next to the water intake weir on the Maitai River South Branch. From here it is an easy 2.4 km back to Maitai Valley Road end or 13 km into central Nelson via Dun Mountain Trail (along the pipeline) and Maitai River Walkway.