Closest Town: Sabie
Grading: Easy to intermediate | Duration: Varies - depends on circuit
Location (Area/Province): Highlands & Lowveld and Mpumalanga
Configuration: Yellow Trail - 22km circuit Red Trail - 13km circuit Blue Trail - 25km circuit Green Trail - 45km circuit Black Trail - 45km return Sprog routes - 3-5km return
Start Point: Castle Rock Campsite
Access: Permit required - available from Merry Pebbles Resort
Beware of: No smoking or fires in forests. Fit correct off-road tyres. 'Slicks" and 'semi-slicks' are dangerous on the slippery terrain here. don't leave late in the afternoon as it gets dark early in the forest.
Facilities: Self catering accommodation.
Cell Reception: No
If there were one venue in Africa capable of hosting a top class world championship mountain bike event, Sabie would be it. Home to the world’s largest man-made forest, Sabie is also a tourist town strategically placed en route to the Kruger National Park.
With purpose-built MTB trails from a decade of cross-country racing in one of South Africa’s most beautiful settings, what you experience here will motivate many happy returns. You can literally do a different ride every day of the week. The many trails are in existence thanks to the efforts of a small but dedicated group of locals, namely the Sabie Chain-Gang Club and the Mpumalanga MTB Association (MAMBA). Working closely with major forestry corporates like SAPPI, MONDI, SAFCOL and Global Forestry Products, as well as stakeholders in the local tourism industry, they have gained and maintained land access for off-road cycling on private forestry property surrounding Sabie. Consequently, this has become a prime recreational and racing mecca for mountain-biking enthusiasts all over the country.
Sabie is the perfect hub for an off-road cycling holiday, from competitive riders consolidating their training to families with little fledgling cyclists. Road cyclists too will revel in mile upon mile of challenging mountain rides along quiet, wide tarred roads.
Guided MTB rides may be organized through Cycle Junkies. The Sabie Chain-Gang Club also welcomes visitors to join them on club rides. With the exception of the yellow and red rides, all routes are along forestry roads with some short singletrack sections.
On your bike
Yellow Trail (22km circuit): This ride starts off from the Castle Rock municipal campsite. A jeep track cuisse parallel to the Sabie River. With the tangled growth and moist cliffs of Castle Rock to one side, it’s a lovely way to start a ride. A singletrack to the left quickly lures riders off onto some lovingly built, tight singletrack – a veggie tunnel of dense bush and small strands of commercial plantation. This little treat reunites you with the jeep track which takes you to the Bridal Veil Falls road where you turn right, going downhill for about 1.5km. A left-hand fork turns off the Falls road taking you up the side of the mountain over Bridal Veil Falls, deep into Ceylon Forest and introducing you to the first of several still climbs, guaranteed to make you break into a sweat. Expect to spin out on slippery, loose slate and rocks on your way to the highest point on the ride, (1,400m above sea level). Views are often obscured by the forest, but this can all change when trees are harvested.
Alternately, you see the power lines and come to a T-junction where you go left and then keep on going right. The route undergoes metamorphosis from good dirt road to rough forestry track within a few kilometers. Then quite unexpectedly you hit some of the most awesome switchback singletrack going down the mountain. After this piece of cross-country heaven, everyone rolls out laughing onto a forestry road where a short, steep downhill will deliver you back to Castle Rock campsite.
Red Trail (13km circuit): This trail consists of short steep climbs and technical singletrack through Tweefontein Forest. Singletrack along the river and climb up forestry roads to 1,250m above sea level before plunging over the ridge on a series of winding, slithery singletracks, a wooden bridge and a 1.5m drop-off down a steep track to the finish.
Blue Trail (25km circuit): This return ride along forestry roads to Maritzbos hiking hut via Lone Creek Falls can be experienced as either a day or an overnight ride. Enjoy easy cruising for the first 8km along the river to Lone Creek, followed by a stiff 2km wake-up call, up and over the falls reuniting you with the river. Follow the watercourse to the hut.
Green Trail (45km circuit): Following the Sabie River past trout farms and oak plantations, an undulating gravel road takes you past Horseshoe Falls. Thereafter, it’s a demanding 4km climb off-road up to Misty Mountain Chalets via a Long Tom Pass forestry station. Views of distant waterfalls and the entire Sabie Valley are food for the soul near the top. Return to town via the tar road. Be warned – its not downhill all the way either.
Black Trail (45km return): Suitable for fit, experienced cyclists only, this is a very demanding ride via Maritzbos Forest ascending above the treeline. Continue riding on to the Stables hiking hut situated on the slopes on Mount Anderson, the highest peak in Mpumalanga. You’ll climb from 1,000m to 1,900m above sea level. The pristine flora and fauna, the incredible views and, of course, the 15km downhill back home are the reward. If your brakes are not properly set up, your arms and hands are going to ache from ‘deathgrip’. Experience it as an overnight trail or a one-day ‘trail’.
Sprog routes (3km to 5km return): Your 4 to 6 year olds will love a little return ride along the first section of the yellow route up to the junction with the Bridal Veil Falls Road. Pre-teens will be able to go further and ride to the Falls and back without too much whining. This route is always navigable for parents with baby trailers or baby chairs.
Off the bike
There’s hiking, horse-riding, tubing, river rafting, fly-fishing, and a ‘King Swing’ in nearby Graskop. A variety of relaxing day drives can be undertaken from Sabie to other nearby small towns like Pilgrim’s Rest, Graskop and Hazyview. The Sabie Forestry Museum provides good insight into the history of the area. But best of all, after a hard day’s pedaling, Sabie boasts numerous good restaurants where ravenous cyclists can stuff themselves.
Route information: Lowveld Chaingang
Telephone: Brett – +27 82 774 5821
Trips SA (Torusit Info Office) +27 13 764 1177
GPS: 25°05′35.2″South / 30°46′06.8″E