The Eastern Cape is home to some of the most untouched nature scenes in the country. On your next road trip or weekend getaway, pack the bikes because there are some incredible mountain bike trails too. Take a look.
If you’ve heard fables of Green Madonnas and Blue Cypresses, this is where that magic stems from. Starting outside the Hogsback Inn, the Hogsback routes include gravel roads, jeep track and singletrack through forests, plantations and open grassland. There are even some waterfalls to enjoy.
There are three routes to choose from, depending on how tough you want to make things, or the fitter cyclist can combine them all, giving you a workout of a little over 30km.
We’re not sure when the trails last received any TLC but this area was once one of the most sought-after rides in South Africa. Nevertheless, you can tell a lot of thought went into the design, and the switchbacks, hairpins, wooden ramps and boardwalk bridges make it an exhilarating ride. Just be careful when things are wet and muddy as it can be dangerous.
The Blue Cypress Loop (8km) loops back to Hogsback via Oak Avenue, passing through an indigenous yellowwood forest. There are several streams, four of which have ramp crossings.
The Red Deodar Loop (14km) crosses the Tyume River and passes above Paradise Falls before joining the Cypress Loop.
The Green Madonna Loop (22km) sticks to the valley out towards King’s Neck and then down to Robinson and the Madonna and Child Falls before rejoining the blue route.
You may also combine all of the above routes, bumping up your total distance to close on 30 km.
2. Storms River
Storms River is a place so beautiful, you may be tempted to leave the bike at home for this one. But if you’re a cyclist, you’ll know that great views are even better when you’ve slogged to earn them.
For this 22km route you’ll need to fill in a (free) permit at the SANParks gate (in the box next to the gate), before winding down the steep 5km descent to the river. The climb onto the coastal bluff is then hard work but relatively short before it levels out. A sharp right will see you head through pine plantations and keep your eyes open for the viewpoint we mentioned. Brace yourself because the climbing isn’t over, you’ll rejoin the original route for the 5km slog back to the trailhead.
If you’re not sated the Misty Mountain Reserve, a hop, skip and jump from Storms River Village has even more cycling to enjoy, with four colour-coded trails. The trails range from easy (an 8.7km Forest Meander) to the more challenging 65km Classic.
The Forest Meander is good for the family although if you’re after that view, we’d recommend the 15km orange Look Out Adventure trail.
The 31km blue Family Epic rates as moderate and has a few loose rock sections while the 65km black MTB Classic combines all of the above plus an extra 35km including steep ravines, rocky sections and some technical riding. Permits from Misty Mountain Reserve.
3. Sebumo Tude
Sebumo Tude Nature’s Lounge is situated between Kenton-On-Sea and Port Alfred.
The resort offers 6.5km and 9km tracks appealing to beginner riders. Routes have been carefully developed in a beautiful section of indigenous bush.
We’ve included this option on our list for the family starting out their cycling adventure. Maybe you haven’t figured out f this whole MTB thing is for you just yet. Then head along without the hassle of typing bikes to the car and worrying that little Judy is going to tire of it 3km from the start.
Bookings are essential while rentals are available from The Cycle Asylum and can be delivered directly to you at the start.
4. Bedford Cycle Safari
There’s more than one Die Hel in South Africa, but as far as we know, there’s only one ‘Devil’. This adventure, starting at Request Farm, is a two-, three- or four-day cycle trek (depending on how tough you want to make it) that will see you take in between 180-200km through the Baviaans River Valley.
The route is fully guided and catered with comfortable and stylish accommodation at guest farms along the route. Despite it’s name, the route is not horrible and nasty. There is no single track and the riding is not technical. There are some punishing climbs though, and some descents are pretty steep.
If that sounds too much, there are 7km, 18km and 32km mountain-biking trails on the farm.
5. Commando Drift
This mountain bike trail in the Commando Drift Nature Reserve (Between Tarkastad and Cradock) will see you face a few challenging climbs but not overly tough. Riders can choose to make the route a simple circular route or, take a number of alternative paths back to the start. The trail should take around four hours to complete.
The area is quite rocky and there are thorns, so be prepared before setting off. The route will see riders take in spectacular Karoo mountains while passing through dense riverine thickets and past the Commando Drift Dam.
The mountain backdrop makes this a wonderful setting to cycle and there is plenty of wildlife in the reserve, including mountain zebra, red hartebeest, kudu, black wildebeest and reedbuck. Just don’t get too close.
A permit is required and is obtainable from the Commando Drift Nature Reserve Office. Conservation fees may apply.