Saasveld Trail (Garden Route Dam, George)

The Garden Route region is famous for its legendary hiking, running and mountain biking trails. This time around our focus is on the rollicking network of singletrack spiderwebbing out from the Saasveld Campus ...
FAST FACTS BLOCK
Saasveld Trail (Garden Route Dam, George)
GRADING:Intermediate to Technical
DURATION:45miin – 3hrs
START POINT:
Garden Route Dam
CONFIGURATION:Various – your choice
TERRAIN:Gravel roads, jeep-track and  single-track
GPS COORDINATES:33°57’54.2″S / 22°30’45.7″E
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:Free access – donations or Hillbillies Pass suggested
CELL RECEPTION:Good Route Coverage
ACCOMMODATION:View accommodation options on www.visitgeorge.com

                                                                                                             – Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais

 Local Buzz:

George is sommer net lekker, my Tjaaina, especially when you’re exploring it from the saddle of an MTB. Despite the high year-round rainfall, you’re in for a moderate climatic experience, especially if you’re planning on getting stuck into some outdoor adventure.

This means you can hit the trails for most of the four seasons in a city originally rooted in the forestry industry. A booming eco-tourism industry is reshaping the area focus, which has repositioned George as a mountain biking mecca of note.

Endless gravel roads and tracks – often linked to the Outeniqua Hiking Trail access routes – offer unfettered access to much of these rugged slopes. Plus, purpose-built single-track traverses the indigenous forests and plantations, largely thanks to a dedicated crew, many of them members of the local Hillbillies MTB Club.

Historically, this beautiful part of the Cape was only settled around 1688, two centuries after the Portuguese seafarer, Bartholomew Dias, landed in Mossel Bay. The local Khoi tribes referred to this rich valley as the ‘Outeniqua’, or ‘land of milk and honey’.

The early settlement became known as ‘George Town’ in 1811, named in honour of the then reigning monarch, King George III of England. That is George in a nutshell, and it is obvious that it can no longer be overlooked as a prime Garden Route MTB destination.

Add to this an efficient airport, breathtaking mountains, great trails, a thriving foodie scene, craft breweries, proper old-skool values and bucket load, and you immediately KNOW you want to go! Check out www.visitgeorge.co.za


Trail Low-Down

Our routes in this BLOG centres around the ‘Garden Route Dam’ and encompass a number of segments built by the ‘Hillbillies MTB Club’, connecting the Groeneweide, Saasveld and ‘Pepsi Pools’ networks. Let’s kick it off by explaining how to get there …

First off you need to understand that George is no longer a dorp. With 250 000 inhabitants (and growing!) now living at the foot of the Outeniqua ranges, this city spreads all the way along the N2 and into the forested foothills.

Head from the city centre towards said mountains, either along Madiba Drive (Saasveld Rd) or one of the streets connecting via the Eden suburb to the new Garden Route Dam (many locals still call it George Dam, even though that dam is right up in the mountains).

Meyer or Stander Street will get you onto the gravel road to the dam, where you will need to sign in at the boom during office hours. About half a kay of dirt cranking will get you to the dam parking lot, but you just keep going across the dam wall.

You’ll see a sign depicting a moose up in the plantation ahead; this is good news, as you are in for a ‘Moose-A-Nice’ ride on the edge of the Garden Route Dam. This is a little bit like Forest Gump’s ‘box of chocolates, with half a dozen permutations awaiting you along the route network.

Keep it flat and fast along ‘Dam View’ jeep track, then power into a quick ascent up ‘Dam Drop’ and onto the meandering ‘Ridge Trail’ section. You will see signs to ‘Die Hark’ and ‘Bosvarkland’, popping you into the ‘Valley’. Keep in mind that there is no set route, so you can mix and match to suit your fitness and your mood on the day.

Life is not always downhill, though, so gear down and get ready to hit ‘Damn Climb’ all the way back up and over to the ‘Dam View’ jeep track again. From here, you could head back to the start to bomb the ‘Graveyard’ and ‘Moose-a-Nice’ sections to finish off your ride (it comes to around 12km in total from the gate).

Bump up your stoke by linking from here onto the SAASVELD Trail Network, just across the wooded valley to the east. ‘Root Farm’ and ‘Forest Buzzard’ connect off ‘Bosvark’ to the ‘Parking Trail’, with loops tripping along the Saasveld Entrance Road. Gooi mielies on ‘Yster Martiens’, ‘Drongos’, ‘Jelly Tot’ and the ‘Rooikat Run’, to name but a few (you can add at least 8km to your ride here).

Take a breather along the Saasveld Entrance Road to the scenic PEPSI POOLS, just off the ‘Dam View’ track. The trails to the north here link you into even more mountain bike magic, with ‘Lazy Horse’, ‘Elephant Bath’, ‘Short Kat’ and other singletrack segments all along the Top Contour and Railway Service Road.

In short, the Garden Route Dam and Saasveld Trail Networks are mostly on MTO Forestry land, with service roads and jeep tracks accessing the constantly evolving singletrack systems. Signage is limited outside Hillbillies territory, so best you download those GPX route files before you saddle up. Trails are Easy to Intermediate, spanning everything from family outrides to solo MTB missions.

Good Mapping Apps (both AllTrails and TrailForks will do the trick) to add to your riding pleasure, or you can just plug into www.georgetrails.org.za for directions. NOTE: Most tracks in George are free-to-ride, but out-of-town mountain bikers should donate on-line or buy a Hillbillies Pass to support trail builders.

Getting there:
Turn off the N2 highway into George along the N12 to Madiba Drive (Saasveld Road) before turning right to the NMU Campus Entrance. You can also follow Meyer or Stander Streets through the Eden Suburb and on to the Garden Route Dam dirt access road.

Best Time to Visit:
Generally, summers are warm and pleasant, especially in the forests, while winter may come packaged with snow or extreme cold, with the brunt of the elements high up near the rugged peaks.

 

Saasveld on Trailforks.com

 



 

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