De Hoop MTB Trails, Western Cape

‘The Hush’: some places have it, and others do not .... De Hoop Nature Reserve is of the former kind, and surely rates as one of those wilderness spaces where the tranquillity will come and find you.

De Hoop MTB Trails, Western Cape

                                                                                       – Copy and images : Jacques Marais

Local Buzz

This time, decide to trip to the south of the N2 into the Overstrand Region, where the unequalled De Hoop Reserve rates as a compulsory stop. This conservation destination is one of the Cape’s premier hiking destinations, with the Whale Trail offering an unparalleled coastal experience.

You can expect a pristine wilderness, where the headspace will come and find you. Windswept dunes, rolling fynbos meadows, cliff-top hiking trails, spreading trees rooted deep within the southern tip of Africa and, of course, the mesmerizingly blue swathe of shimmering sea.

It is to the ocean that most visitors flock, in order to gape at vast pods of gargantuan southern right whales breaching and crashing in the waves, which suits me just fine. I like the whales, too, but there are just as many treasures hidden on terra firma in this World Heritage site.

Crested woodpeckers nest within hollowed-out branches of gnarled milkwood trees; industrious dung beetles get their shit together to roll it doggedly in great balls to wherever they keep their precious erm … shit; pelicans laboriously take to the air, but then soar flamboyantly like great Lockheed craft as they spiral upon the air currents …

And over the bars of your bike, you’re bound to bump into great herds of eland gathering at dawn to go galumphing across the monochromatic fynbos plains. Those who are sharp of eye may even spot a few Cape clawless otters performing their mercurial aqua ballet upon the edge of the endless vlei.

Within this wide-sky space, you will also find the Fig Tree Restaurant, and unlike most park eateries, this one is a culinary gem, featuring both fabulous food and superb wines. (The Lomond Syrah paired with their rare fillet of venison makes me salivate on my keyboard just reminiscing about it)! Worth a visit? Hell yeah, but go for at least a week :-)

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The Routes

On the Bike

More recently, the reserve has become a favourite with mountain bikers, who come here to get lost in the beauty of endless back roads and fynbos singletrack. De Hoop Nature Reserve boast no less than five unique MTB routes, most of them recently established by Overberg MTB Events, allowing those of the pedal-power persuasion to ride for days … here’s where to start.

De Hoop Vlei MTB – Route 1 (12km/19km):
Crank off from De Hoop Opstal and follow the route up a limestone and rocky, but very scenic, jeep track with views of the Vlei to your right. As you get closer to the cliff and the historic De Mond House, you will find yourself surrounded by herds of bontebok and eland as you navigate the fynbos.

There are two options – follow along the circular route back (12km) or extend the ride to Melk Kamer, which will see you top out at 19km in total. This route is typically used for the De Hoop Vlei Sunset Scramble and has the most amazing sundowner scenery, game and bird life viewing.

Tierhoek MTB – Route 2 (10km): This quickie route starts from Opstal and follows the road to Tierhoek on the northern side of the Vlei. The ride is mostly along open and flattish jeep tracks, ideal for the recreational rider to warm up the legs or for non-technical riders and beginners.

Koppie Alleen MTB – Route 3 (18km): Once again, you saddle up from ‘Die Opstal’, following the same direction as Route #2, but instead crossing to the eastern side of the Nature Reserve. You may once again find herds of eland grazing on the serene landscape as you negotiate the jeep track. The trail eventually links onto a paved road to Koppie Alleen.

There is an option to return from here, or otherwise simply retrace your route along the same trail. It is best to follow the signs all the way to Koppie Alleen, especially at sunrise or sunset. Riders will cross the Dronkvlei Dash Stava section, which is a beautiful stretch just before you link up with the paved road to Koppie Alleen, with breathtaking views over the dunes and some of the most sought-after sections of De Hoop.

Fat Bike Riding – Route 4 (45km): This route flows in the same direction as Route #3, but forks left on a sandy jeep track which takes you to a circular loop to the sea and back to the jeep track. You can either turn left again up a tricky and challenging climb to return to Koppie Alleen (well worth it) or continue along the same road to the starting point. Please note, this is not a ride for beginners and an intermediate to strong level of fitness is required.

De Hoop Vlei Experience – Route 5 (55km): Hands up if you want a technical challenge along an exciting route suited to stronger riders! Purpose-built and completed for Overberg MTB Events, this route introduces a brand-spanking new track to the north of the Vlei, going all the way to Buchu Bush Camp, without ever touching the main tar road.

Once you reach the top of ‘Flat Rock’ singletrack, you may start feeling the burn, but it will soon fade away as you bliss out on the best views of De Hoop. To the south, an expansive view of the entire Vlei unfolds, backdropped by towering sand dunes rolling toward the deep blue sea. Gaze eastwards and you may see the breathtaking sunrise over Potberg, or revel in the westerly aspect, where the historic Melk Kamer languishes upon the flood plains stretching towards Arniston and Struisbaai.

This makes for an extraordinary and diverse route – and when the Vlei reaches full capacity – it will surely provide riders (and trail runners or walkers) with an experience reminiscent of an outing on the picturesque Croatian coast. The infamous ‘Dennis the Menace’ singletrack climb up to Buchu Bush Camp is no ordinary challenge, with proper technical surfaces. Expect rocky and steep switchbacks, but once you have mastered the route, you’ll be back for more –

Off the Bike

The reserve is a hikers’ paradise, with the Klipspringer and Coastal Trails explore the rich and diverse fynbos floral kingdom, brimming with botanical and wildlife. There are at least 40 endemic plants only found at De Hoop, and the renowned Whale Trail offers a chance to spot both southern right whales or dolphins along the coast.

There are large, clear rock pools for swimming and snorkelling, adjoining the marine reserve which is an aquatic wonderworld brimming with everything from Gilchrist’s flat-worm to the afore-mentioned whales (the dunes at Koppie Alleen is a perfect place to spot these behemoths). You can also book a guided Eco Boat Trip to explore the De Hoop Vlei, or join a qualified guide for an interpretive marine walk along the coastal rock pools and sandy beaches.

In addition, you’ll revel in an abundance of bird species and plains game encounters at De Hoop. Look out for Cape mountain zebra, rhebok, eland, baboon, bontebok, mountain tortoises, ostriches, yellow mongoose and even leopard or caracal if you’re very lucky!

Best time of year

From January through May and August through December the temperatures are warm with very little precipitation. During September and October, the vegetations brims with wildflowers.

A Look Around

Route Maps

30/06/2021 11:25

De Hoop Vlei MTB

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  • Distance Instructions
  • Distance 30 km
  • Time 0 s
  • Speed 0.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 10 m
  • Peak 41 m
  • Climb 201 m
  • Descent 200 m
30/06/2021 11:30

De Hoop Vlei

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  • Distance Instructions
  • Distance 7 km
  • Time 0 s
  • Speed 0.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 0 m
  • Peak 0 m
  • Climb 100 m
  • Descent 100 m
30/06/2021 11:35

De Hoop Vlei

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  • Distance Instructions
  • Distance 26 km
  • Time 0 s
  • Speed 0.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 12 m
  • Peak 71 m
  • Climb 234 m
  • Descent 234 m
30/06/2021 11:38

De Hoop Vlei

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  • Distance Instructions
  • Distance 43 km
  • Time 11 h 13 min
  • Speed 4.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 12 m
  • Peak 112 m
  • Climb 363 m
  • Descent 371 m
30/06/2021 11:41

De Hoop Vlei

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  • Distance Instructions
  • Distance 49 km
  • Time 0 s
  • Speed 0.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 11 m
  • Peak 209 m
  • Climb 721 m
  • Descent 711 m
GRADING: Easy to difficult
DURATION: 2-3 hours return
Various options
 De Hoop Opstal
 TERRAIN: Sandy and rocky jeep track, gravel road and singletrack
 De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience (May)
 ACCESS:  Day Visitor’s Fee or Reserve Rate
 ACCOMMODATION: Various options –
 TRAILHEAD: 34°03’20.8″S / 20°28’23.9″E


Getting There

And Staying

Follow the R319 from Bredasdorp in the direction of Swellendam, but turn right after 6km at the sign to De Hoop/Malagas/Infanta. Follow the gravel road for a further 33km to the reserve entrance; the reserve office is about 12km into the reserve.

De Mond Villa – newly refurbished and restored, the luxury Villa boasts stunning décor and views to die for across the water. There are five en-suite bedrooms overlooking the RAMSAR protected estuary with its spectacular birdlife. A sparkling pool, extensive outdoor braai area, patio and all the mod-cons await you for an unparalleled getaway.


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