Closest Town: Plettenberg Bay
Grading: Easy to advanced | Duration: 1–4 hours
Location (Area/Province): Garden Route
Configuration: Circular options
Start Point: Garden of Eden kiosk
Access: Permits obligatory! Purchase at the Thesen Island Office or at the Garden of Eden. Annual and seasonal tags also available
Beware of: Super-slippery roots and bridges; trees across route
Facilities: Ablution facilities, fairly secure parking
Cell Reception: Good coverage
Four colour-coded routes – ranging from easy family rides to superb single-track – meander through shady plantations, coastal fynbos and indigenous forest. The 13km Yellow route is the easiest and obviously the 22km Red route is the big daddy.
On your bike
The Yellow Route (13km) is an easy ride along level gravel plantation roads and jeep-tracks, perfect for the not-so-fit. The Blue Route (11km) is also an easy option but includes sections of single-track meandering through the forest before looping back through a glade of giant redwood trees. The Green Route (14km) is an intermediate, circular route banging onto the breath-taking and rugged coastline before returning through a section of tall, coastal forest. Finally, the Red Route (22km) is a challenging ride with wicked stretches of single-track and a vertiginous coastal cruise along towering fynbos cliffs.
To do the Red Route, crank off across the highway from the Garden of Eden or the parking at the Harkerville Forestry Office further down the N2 towards Plettenberg Bay. The trailhead on the Grooteilandpad T-junction starts along a single-track along the southern edge of the N2, dipping through the concrete irrigation channel before turning left (1km) to ascend into the forest. Cruise onto Markpad (2km) where you turn right along jeep-track for a few hundred metres.
Head left onto Beukespad amongst towering trees trailing bearded moss and verdant stands of seven-year ferns until you meet up with Markpad again (5.5km), then turn right and left again (6km) onto Olifantpad. Batten down into an absolute dream of a ride as you slope away towards the coast, taking care along the occasional stream crossing. A sharp climb takes you into the Gumbelt, but soon flattens out as you burst into fynbos country (11km) with stunning views across the rugged Indian Ocean coastline.
Hit the downhill along a rocky section of trail before you swoop down onto a bridge crossing along a steep gravel road (14km). This is a good spot to grab a swim on those sweltering summer days, especially as there is a stiff climb lurking en route to where you rejoin the Green Route (14 km). Huff and puff onto the Waterpad, then crank onto Kleineilandpad to re-enter the forest after 2km. A left onto Perdekoppad (19km) links to Geelstootpad (21km), and then you hit the final free-ride section of the Red Route to super-tube a zigzag descent amidst tall tree ferns (22km).
Off The Bike:
Situated halfway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, the area brims with a thousand magical must-do’s, from fishing, sea-kayaking, abseiling and creeking to feeding elephants or pigging out on oysters at the Knysna Waterfront.
Best Time of Year:
Throughout the year, with especially cool summer cranking through indigenous forest; routes may be closed in winter during excessively wet spells.
How to Get There:
Harkerville is on the N2 freeway 20km past Knysna en route to Plettenberg Bay. All routes the Harkerville routes start on the N2 opposite the Garden of Eden kiosk and parking.
Tel: Thesen Island +27-44-302-5600 and Garden of Eden +27-44-532-7793
Knysna Cycle Works offer guided rides to Harkerville: +27-44-382- 5153 / www.knysnacycles.co.za/mtb-trails/