Swellendam Trails, Overberg

Here's the deal: the Swellendam Trails (all hand-crafted on space belonging to the local Municipality) is open and FREE. Yup, you heard correctly, and I guarantee you there is nowhere else in the Western Cape where you will have open public access to trails of this quality.

Squirt Top Trail

Swellendam MTB Trails

                                                                                                                                              – Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais

 Local Buzz:

Here’s the deal: the Swellendam Trails (all hand-crafted on space belonging to the local Municipality) is open and FREE. Yup, you heard correctly, and I guarantee you there is nowhere else in the Western Cape where you will have open public access to trails of this quality. The setting adjacent to Marloth Nature Reserve is pretty much as good as it gets, with purpose-built singletrack tripping through diverse fynbos and plantations blanketing the foothills of the breathtaking Langeberg ranges. (There is riding in the reserve as well, mostly along forestry roads, but to access these you will need a permit from Cape Nature).

These new trails are the business, though, and were made possible by a collaboration between the Western Cape Government, Swellendam Municipality, Swellendam Cycle Club, Petrichor Adventures and various other role players.

Most of the build was done by local rider and farmer, Rohan Germishuys, of Petrichor Adventures and one immediately gets a feel for his passion and dedication once you crank onto the route. It is possible to link into the Hermitage Valley and surrounding farms by venturing onto the public gravel roads, but with 33km of mostly singletrack, chances are you’ll need a coffee or a beer while resting those legs!

Surfaces vary from gritty downhill sections to rooty forest rips, with laid-back zigzags winding through ridges layered with pine needles. You can also expect the odd berm or wooden bridge, but the overall riding is suited to intermediate mountain bikers. There are ample trails for kids and family riders, too, but take it easy after heavy rain when you can expect mud and water run-off erosion.

The route is well-marked, but only in key places, so I would suggest that you download the KML, GPX, Garmin or Google map files at www.visitswellendam.co.za

A Look Around

Shot on Location

[gamipress_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/T892hDylVB8?rel=0″ width=”100%” height=”480″ autoplay=”no” controls=”yes”]


GRADING: Intermediate to Advanced
DURATION: 30min – 4hrs
START POINT: Swellendam Trails – Tourism Hub, Voortrek Street
Marloth MTB Trails – Marloth Offices
GPS COORDS:  Swellendam Trails – 34°01’04.3″S / 20°26’47.1″E
Marloth MTB Trails – 33° 58′ 4.08″S/ 20° 24′ 1.08″E
TERRAIN: Swellendam Trails – 90% single track; some gravel road
Marloth – mainly gravel road and jeep-track
MAP: Provided with permit purchase
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Access to Swellendam Trails is free
Marloth Nature Reserve – R50 per adult / R30 per child
MUST DO EVENT: Around the Pot MTB – www.aroundthepot.co.za
FACILITIES Ablution facilities at Marloth Nature Reserve entrance; great coffee shops and restaurants in Swellendam
BEWARE OF: Slippery conditions after rain
LOCAL CONTACT: Rohan Germishuys – +27 (0)83 659 4514

The Routes

Swellendam Trails Section
Let’s focus on the ‘Good Stuff’ here; in my book that means singletrack (and therefore the new trails created by Rohan on municipal land). The easiest access is from the central Swellendam Tourism hub, where you will find the historic Drostdy, as well as a host of quality coffee shops and restaurants. Here are your basic route options …

Red Route – Don’t check this 33.8km trail skeef, okay! Although there is ample flow, you can expect to work hard all the way as you crank from the centre of town into the hills rucking up towards the emerald ridges of the high Langeberg peaks. This longer route meanders anti-clockwise from town to where the Kid’s Track starts adjacent to the Old Cemetery.

Bomb the fynbos summit as you zigzag northwards towards Toring Koppie (you can’t miss the big telecommunications tower here) and can enjoy stunning across-the-bar views of this historic and scenic town. After a couple of kilometres, a fast downhill drops you onto Lichtenstein Street from where you will cross through the river and into a gritty and tough plantation ascent.

The trail keeps looping west as you approach the stunning Hermitage Valley, where the motherlode of all singletrack awaits. This arguably rates as the kiffest part of the trail as you duck and dive along the old irrigation and channel and over the dam wall, before going feral in the pine plantations around the municipal dam.

You’re approximately half-way into your ride now, with more plantation singletrack snaking onto the outskirts of the golf course. Keep an eye out for route signage as you approach the Wildebraam Berry Farm; the route actually follows the farm boundary, but nothing stops you from popping in for a quick tasting before you bomb onto the next downhill.

Contour segments and a few fast flats blast you back towards Swellendam below the Marloth Reserve entrance, so pin your ears back as you fly past Schoone Oord and some of the other historic lodges lining this architecturally stunning suburb of Swellendam. The most difficult part of the ride will be deciding on which coffee shop to go and kick back for your java fix right about now!

All these trails boast stunning views of the mountain, but keep in mind that the Red Route is aimed at relatively fit cyclists able to ride technical single track and switchbacks. The route has an elevation gain of nearly 900m and is rated Intermediate to Advanced.

There are a number of alternative trail configurations to tailor your ride: these routes are variations on the RED ROUTE theme, but with occasional sneaks here and there.

Blue Route – Again, for the more experienced and fit cyclist, this 20.9km route features some steep and challenging short climbs as well as singletrack and switchbacks. Elevation gain/loss is 474m/-473m; Rating is Intermediate/Advanced.

Green Route – A quick and challenging circular 9.71km route, offering a combination of a ‘Full Monty’ of singletrack and gravel roads. Elevation gain/loss 236m/-235m; Rating – Intermediate.

Yellow Route – A short 5.3km ride for beginners with a steep start on tar, then moving on to gravel followed by a free-flowing singletrack. There are few challenging sections and it is ideal for beginners, while delivering great scenery.

These are just four of the nine available routes in and around Swellendam. There are also two Kids Track options (1.1km and 3.1km). Maps and Route at www.visitswellendam.co.za/swellendam-trails

PLAN B: Marloth Nature Reserve Option
Various route options beckon, all meandering within the gorgeous 14,000ha Marloth Nature Reserve. Forestry roads and jeep-track traverse pine plantations, pockets of indigenous forest and expansive fields of mountain fynbos.  Choose between routes heading into The Hermitage valley, up towards Die Plaat or towards Two Feathers Horse Trails.

Most of the riding is along well-maintained gravel roads, with surfaces varying from eroded rock and sand to muddy sections after heavy rains.  The Langeberg certainly puts the ‘mountain’ in biking here, so expect sweaty climbs and white-knuckle downhills. Occasional mammal sightings are on the cards, while the bird list for the area is impressive. Further information on www.capenature.co.za

Things to Do

Swellendam nestles in the embrace of the Langeberg Mountains and the Breede River, located within 40 minutes’ drive from almost all the other 4 towns in the Greater Swellendam Area. A visit to Swellendam can include a wine tour or hiking & mountain biking, fine dining or tasting the local Wildebraam Berry Liqueur. You can travel back in time at the Drostdy, or meet Faeries at Saluna’s Sanctuary. Day trips can include Proteas, Whales or milkshakes in the Klein Karoo.

Swellendam is the third oldest town in South Africa, situated in the Western Cape Province approximately 220km from both Cape Town and George. So if you are here for adventure or just to relax and enjoy the hospitality in this farming community, you are sure to understand why travelers from all around the world have ended up never leaving Swellendam. Check out www.visitswellendam.co.za for more information.

Best Time to Visit

The regional climate is close to ideal, with long, lazy summer days and the occasional winter storm (and even then, the days are mostly mild). Snow occasionally tops the Langeberg peaks during July and August, making for picture-perfect views.

Squirt Top Tip!

Expert Advice

HERE’S HOW TO BOMB A TYRE! Snake-bites, side-wall cuts, acacia thorns … we all know that sometimes things don’t go as planned on the trails. When inflating your bike tyre with a C02 cartridge while out on a ride, always insure your valve is on the top end of the wheel. In other words, don’t spin the wheel to the point where the valve is closest to the ground as you actually want the valve as far away from the ground as possible. The reason for this is that your Sealant in your bike tyre will move to the lowest point in your wheel the whole time (Remember the ‘Laws of Gravity as per that old codger, Sir Isaac Newton ???? Chances are that – when the cold air of the Co2 meets the sealant – some sort of cryogenic scientific reaction will take place and damage the capabilities of your awesome #SquirtSeal to do it’s job properly. (Note: This is relevant for most sealant types) … and a huge shout-out to SQUIRT for another Top Tip!

Map, Elevation Profile & Flyover(s)

17/02/2021 15:05

Swellendam Red Route

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  • Distance Instructions
  • Distance 30 km
  • Time 2 h 44 min
  • Speed 10.9 km/h
  • Min altitude 141 m
  • Peak 272 m
  • Climb 747 m
  • Descent 741 m

Getting There

(and Staying Over)

How to Get There:

Swellendam is situated to the north of the N2, just on 220km from Cape Town.


Recommended stays at https://schooneoordt.co.za/ and http://www.ahilltop.co.za/ or check out www.visitswellendam.co.za for more options.

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