After much-animated discussion and debate here at the NavWorld headquarters, we narrowed down our five favourite MTB trails. These trails have been shredded more than once by the team here and we recommend you do too.
South Africa is one big treasure trove of exciting trails, some discovered and others still waiting to see the light of day. And, with our sunny climate allowing for riding just about every day of the year, not to mention our country's spectacularly varied landscape – many of us quite rightly consider ourselves to be in MTB heaven. That said, not all bike trails are created equal. This got us all thinking about which trails rock the best. After bouncing the topic around the NavWorld office for a few days, here's a list of the 5 favourite MTB trails we either like to ride on a regular basis, or wish we could visit more often.
Where do you ride, which MTB trails do you prefer, and what would you consider your ultimate biking holiday destination to be? Why not leave a comment at the bottom of this article and let us know.
Braamfontein Spruit (Johannesburg)
Location: Along the Jukskei River
GPS Coordinates (Emmarentia): S 26.1570, E 28.0014
Jozi bikers in search of some dirt hit the Braamfontein Spruit, or ‘The Spruit’ as it's known to locals. This popular sliver of greenbelt snakes through the heart of suburban Johannesburg – running from Melville Koppies in the south to Paulshof in the north. As a consequence, it appeals to a wide range of riders. For the hardcore, it can be a 60 km endurance dash, with away and return legs of 30 kilometres each. However, it's also a great, manageable trail for rookie riders starting out too. Northern parts of the trail can be quite pretty (especially during the rainy season), passing many rock pools that attract prolific bird life. No wonder it's one of the most ridden MTB routes in the country.
Although little more than a single-track footpath running alongside the Jukskei River, what makes it so popular is the ability for riders to access the trail from various points along the route – namely Albert's Farm, Emmarentia, Delta Park, the Study Centre in Louise Avenue (Parkmore), Sandton Field, Riverside and Bryanston Drive.
Following the trail from start to finish can be a challenge for those unfamiliar with its convoluted route. So it's advisable to first ride with someone who knows how to link the complicated network of paths between the various parks. The trail is smooth, relatively flat with few technical sections. It can also get busy – trail runners, dog walkers, kids on bicycles and hikers use the Spruit as well, so riders should be careful and yield accordingly.
How to get there
This is one of Johannesburg's most prominent greenbelts, starting on Melville Koppies in the south and ending in Paulshof in the north. The most popular stretch is between Emmarentia and Craighall, with the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens (Emmarentia) and Delta Park being popular starting and finishing points.
Harkerville MTB Trails (Garden Route)
Location: Between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay
GPS Coordinates: S 34.0467, E 23.2307
Mountain bikers visiting the Garden Route are spoilt for choice. Rivers and lagoons, lush forests and magnificent mountains, waterfalls and its awesome coastline – this veritable paradise has it all. If it wasn't for the hilly terrain you could almost call it relaxing. Before you know it, your mind starts unwinding as you ride under majestic yellowwoods and through colourful landscapes jam-packed with indigenous fynbos and birdlife. And, if you're lucky, you could even spot one of the antelope species that shyly roam the forests throughout the day.
The Harkerville Trail, situated in the lush Harkerville Forest is no exception – it's natural beauty will take your breath away. Four distinct colour-coded routes have been laid out through indigenous forest, plantation and coastal fynbos – ranging from easy, to fast-flowing single-track that gets quite technical.
Harkerville route options
Yellow: 13 km. Gravel forest service roads and the easiest of the routes for newbies.
Blue: 11 km. The route heads along Beukespad, a forest path, and through thick forest. The return
passes huge coastal redwood trees. The sections of single-track through the forest can get
tricky for beginners.
Green: 14 km. A moderately difficult trail along the Grooteiland path and Waterpad (includes
a swimming hole) with an optional loop along the Harkerville coastline path. The return
along the Perdekoppad is all single track.
Red: 24 km. Undoubtedly the toughest, most exhilarating, and longest of the routes – but
definitely one of the most scenic trails in the country that traverses deep forest, fynbos and
dizzying coastal road.
...this veritable paradise has it all. If it wasn't for the hilly terrain you could almost call it relaxing.
How to get there
Harkerville is on the N2 highway, 20km past Knysna en route to Plettenberg Bay. All routes may be started on the N2 opposite the Garden of Eden DWAF kiosk (where you pick up your permit), or from the Harkerville Forestry Office at the Kranshoek Road Gate.
Garden Route Trail Park (Garden Route)
Location: Between George and Knysna
GPS Coordinates: S 33.9177, E 22.8623
The Garden Route Trail Park is home to some of those legendary secret Knysna single-tracks that are always spoken about, but very seldom seen. It's located at the very foot of the Outeniqua Mountains and the Karatara River Gorge, slap bang in the middle of the Garden Route. Three carefully designed routes have been laid out to provide riders of all levels with a healthy supply of adrenalin, excitement, scenery and amazing views. Combined, they cover over 25km of hand-built single-track in the infamous farmer tradition – with flowing turns, burns, rollers and river crossings. All trails are circular, starting and ending at the Trail Cafe, and are considered moderate to ride.
Garden Route Trail Park options
Forest Frenzy: 10.1 km. Elevation: 217 metres. Includes technical detail but no climbs, lots of
single-track along (and across) the Karatara River through the forest.
Crazy Creek: 13.6 km. Elevation: 262 metres. For more experienced riders, it includes some
climbs, jumps and rhythm sections. There's also plenty of single track through the
forest and couple of river crossings.
Jungle Fever: 16.4 km. Elevation: 349 metres. Featuring long, testing climbs matched by faster
downhills, this one's definitely for fitter riders. If you're after views then this is the
Full Loop: A combination of all three, and well worth the effort.
There's also a pumptrack designed in a never-ending loop system for you to have a blast on. Its
outer loop, designed as a BMX track, is for those wanting to test their talent and get some air. Fortunately, it's just tame enough for mere mortals who want to ride it and get a feel.
How to get there
Drive 20km from Knysna towards George on the N2, turning right at the Ruigtevlei/Karatara sign. Cross the railway line and drive for 18km, then follow the sign to Barrington. At the T-junction turn right and look out for the Garden Route Trail Park on your left.
Wolwespruit MTB and Trail Park (Pretoria)
GPS coordinates: S 25.8130, E 28.2634
Named after the spruit that runs through it, the Wolwespruit MTB and Trail Park is well worth a visit. Granted, its three handcrafted single-track trails are relatively short. That said, they still provide more than enough flowing, adrenaline-fuelled action to keep most riders satisfied. Fitter riders, looking for a better workout can simply repeat their routes again – the fun factor on offer here makes doing two laps a serious option. Importantly, the park is also fully fenced, providing a secure environment for users to enjoy the outdoors right in the heart of Pretoria East.
The trails make full use of the park's topography, offering thrilling drops, jumps, river crossings and plenty of uphill – making it an ideal location to practice one's skills and get fit at the same time. At the moment the park has 22 km of single-track, involving about 300m of climbing, and 8 km of running trails. However, plans are afoot to expand the trails into a broader network of circle routes and loops in the near future (they have 90 ha of land to play with) – the idea being to provide more berms, obstacles and generally boost the exhilaration factor for all experience levels. So, with some pretty exiting upgrades in the pipeline, this is definitely a spot to keep your eye on.
Wolwespruit MTB routes
Green: 7.9 km. Easy, great for beginners
Blue: 6.5 km. Intermediate
Black: 1.5 km. Advanced
Wolwespruit MTB Park also boasts three attractions that have nothing to do with their trails; one of the largest pumptracks around, a skills clinic area and a jump line for those who need a double dose of adrenaline – all designed with the sole aim of increasing rider skill levels and confidence, not to mention providing hours of fun. Trailwolf Cycles, based in the park, offers a variety of bike products and services, from workshop, to MTB skills clinics and coffee – making it a one stop coffee, service and gear shop.
How to get there
From Pretoria take the Rigel Road off-ramp from the M1. Turn east onto Delmas Road, take the first left into Nossob Street, then take the first left again into Jochemus Street. The park entrance is at the end of the cul de sac.
Elgin MTB Trail (Elgin Valley)
Location: GrabouwGPS Coordinates: S 34.1687, E19.0855
With an amazing array of colours, wide open spaces and varying types of terrain, the greater Grabouw area offers a true piece of mountain biking magic. In fact, both amateur and professional riders come here regularly to train for the annual ABSA Cape Epic. This iconic Western Cape event includes more than 600 kilometres of track – a large chunk of which winds through the Elgin Valley.
Elgin MTB is a collaboration between neighbouring farms Paul Cluver and Oak Valley, who have combined the trails on each of their wine estates, creating one unique and quite spectacular riding experience.
Oak Valley trail options
The Oak Valley trails consist largely of well-maintained single-track, with bridges over farm fences and streams, making for a highly enjoyable ride. The three trails take riders through beautiful natural scenery, including forests of ancient oak trees, through vineyards, through apple and pear orchards and across rolling fields of grass pastures, set against the stunning backdrop of the protected fynbos on the slopes of the Groenlandberg Mountain.
Blue: 14km. Farm roads and easy single tracks
Red: 24km. Farm roads and some technical single track
Black: 32km. Technical single tracks requiring high level of expertise
Paul Cluver trail options
The Paul Cluver trails start in the amphitheatre, treating riders to Raka and The Swing – one a bridge built on a massive tree trunk, the other a suspension bridge. The fun continues with lots of berms, flowing singletrack with some technical riding. Look out for the Mamba, a rollercoaster ride through the river valley with 6 bridges. There are also some lung busting climbs that reward one with magnificent vistas over the Elgin valley. The Pofadder is a bermed bridge built from wine barrel slats at the foot of a waterfall, followed by more great riding and loads of singletrack.
Blue Short: 8km. Elevation gain 220m
Blue Long: 11km. Elevation gain 275m
Red: 34km. Elevation gain 740m
Black: 43km. Elevation gain 1000m
How to get there
From Cape Town take the N2, continuing past Somerset West and over Sir Lowry's Pass. After passing Grabouw keep an eye out for the Peregrine Farm Stall on your right and follow the sign boards.
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