As the winter season approaches, the cheerful fervour stirring up in the air is hard to ignore. It is wonderful to celebrate this joyous season the usual way, but what if we told you that this year, you could celebrate it in a completely different way? Picture yourself on a bike, navigating through South Africa’s diverse landscapes and untamed wilderness, passing through rugged terrains and encountering stunning vistas. Doesn’t it get you all excited and lights your soul up? This year, take a break away from the usual and embark on an unforgettable adventure through the untamed beauty of South Africa.
Flip the script and leave the ordinary behind – embrace the extraordinary as we dive headfirst into some of the most breathtaking biking trails this diverse country has to offer. Explore the Rainbow Nation on the saddle of a trusty bike.
Top scenic biking trails in South Africa
1. Table Mountain National Park, Western Cape
The Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town boasts a number of scenic biking trails. The iconic backdrop of Table Mountain sets the stage for an adventure of a lifetime. Whether you are a seasoned rider or just starting out, there’s a trail for everyone. Panorama Loop-Silvermine, Newlands Forest Loop, Twelve Apostles and Missing Link Loop are some of the most famous biking trails here. As you pedal along, the cityscape gradually fades, replaced by untamed fynbos and the distant call of seabirds. Take a moment to pause and soak in the panoramic views of Cape Town, with the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean stretching out before you. It’s a sight that etches itself into your memory, a reminder of the sheer majesty of nature.
2. Drakensberg, KwaZulu – Natal
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a haven for bikers seeking a challenge amidst awe-inspiring scenery. The trails here range from moderate to advanced, promising heart-pounding climbs and exhilarating descents. As you conquer each twist and turn, the grandeur of the Drakensberg unfolds around you. Sheer cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and alpine meadows create a landscape that feels almost surreal. 10 km Gypsy’s Bend is a great trail for beginners with a wide smooth smooth-flowing single track. 17 km Montusi Gorge Intermediate Trail and 20 km Trilby Trail are something that more experienced and technical bikers can try their hands on.
3. Gariep Dam Mountain Bike Trails, Free State
The mountain biking trails on the edge of Gariep Dam offer a combination of gravel roads, game paths and single track. The scenery across the trail is absolutely awe-inspiring and you might spot mountain zebra, kudu and red hartebeest, black wildebeest, oryx and herds of springbok during your adventure. Gariep Forever Resort or Oviston Nature Reserve gate serve as the starting points and the duration for covering the trails can vary from 1 to 5 hours. Travellers to the Gariep Dam Mountain Bike Trails can also take advantage of various amenities available in the area. These may include accommodation options, picnic spots, and even opportunities for water-based activities like boating and fishing in the Gariep Dam itself.
4. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Located in Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek, it is one of the best biking trails to experience in South Africa. Jonkershoek riding is more about vertical climbing and descending than the distance covered. Suitable for all levels of riders, there are a number of different trail options available for everyone. The mountain biking trails range from just 6 kilometres to a challenging 53 kilometres, varying in intensity and difficulty levels. These are colour-coded accordingly for the rider’s easy reference. Along the way, look out for the gorgeous array of bird species that live on and around the Jonkershoek Trails. This has become a popular spot for keen birders to hop off the saddle and take some time to listen, watch and photograph some fabulous avian species.
5. Thaba Trails, Gauteng
Situated just outside Johannesburg, Thaba Trails provides a range of beginner-friendly routes amid serene landscapes, making it an excellent starting point for new riders. Thaba Trails Mountain Biking Park offers one of the best trail networks for mountain biking and trail running in Gauteng. Safe for both solo and group rides, the trails are well marked, with colour-coded loops for different skill levels. The yellow colour-coded trails passing through a peaceful and serene tree-lined area, are for beginners and only 5 kilometres long.
Those with a little more experience can opt for orange trails while those looking for something challenging can venture on the green trail which offers an exciting 25 kilometres ride. Blue Trail is recommended for seasonal riders as it is quite technical to navigate – laced with serious obstacles and rock faces.
Each of these trails offers an exceptional biking experience, with its unique charm and challenges. Take a journey through South Africa’s wonderful biking gems and swap the ordinary with the extraordinary. Remember, even on beginner-friendly trails, it’s important to take necessary safety precautions. Always wear a helmet, carry water, and be aware of your surroundings. Enjoy the ride and the beautiful South African scenery!