Closest Town: Heidelberg
Grading: Easy to intermediate | Duration: 1-2 hours
Location (Area/Province): Central Gauteng
Configuration: 8km MTB circuit; 60km+ of game viewing and sightseeing along the tourist route
Start Point: About 2km into reserve at start of 4x4 trail
Share this route:
Just off the N3 between Vosloorus and Heidelberg, you’ll find one of the shining diamonds in Jozi’s outdoor crown. This haven is Suikerbosrand, a nature reserve resplendent with all the kloofs, ridges and plains one could possibly explore in a day. The name stems from the abundant stands of suikerbos protea bristling amidst the rugged topography here. Riders are sure to see some wildlife, usually zebra and a variety of antelope or, if you’re lucky, a skulking black-backed jackal.
Established way back in 1974, the 13 300ha reserve was originally proclaimed in order to preserve not only the water catchment for this part of Pretoria, but also indigenous flora and fauna, and a selection of historic and archaeological sites. As the main focus of the reserve has always been environmental education, it was only recently that a couple of pilot bicycle trails were introduced.
On your bike
Suikerbosrand is pretty big (the perimeter fence alone is a good 90km long) and as such is imminently suited to mountain biking. The idea of a 3-day, overnight MTB trail has been mooted by trail builders in the area, but currently the ride is confined to Tamboekies, and specifically the area in the vicinity of the main gate and the Diepkloof farmhouse.
To get onto the MTB Route, continue from the main parking lot to just before the old Main Gate. You will see the start of the 4×4 Route to your left, which is basically the access to the MTB trail (if you reach a little dam on your right, you have gone too far). Please keep in mind that the trails are one-way, so follow the arrows!
The trail is but a measly 8-10km of off-road riding at present along the 4×4 track, but there are stacks of quiet tarmac roads with plenty uphills on which to play with your bike. No cycling is allowed on the hiking trails – please respect the rules.
Off the Bike:
Suikerbosrand boasts trails through a variety of biomes, including a mix of open grassland, riverine woodland, acacia woodland, marshland, fynbos and rare Bankenveld grassland. A network of 66km of hiking trails have been established, plus a short, 4km interpretive trail (Cheetah Trail) as well as the 17km Bokmakierie Day Trail. There is also a 60km motor vehicle tourist route
How to Get There:
Follow the N3 (S) from JHB past Vosloorus and take the R550/Alberton Road off-ramp and turn right, across the highway. There are brown ‘Suikerbosrand’ directional tourism signs along the route; continue for 6.4km, then turn left onto the reserve road. Alternatively, take the R59 from Alberton, turning left onto the R550; head east along the R550 for 14.5km to the reserve road. Turn right for 1.6km to the manned visitor’s gate.
Best Time of Year:
Year-round; extreme temperatures in summer.