Sani Spoors is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s stand-out mountain biking destinations, and offers what can only be described as an intoxicating mix of mountain bike trails of varying degrees of difficulty. All skills levels are catered for, providing fun and excitement for the whole family. So, if you want to tick off the full gamut of MTB options – from adrenaline-fuelled downhills, gritty climbs and gently meandering trails to technical bridges – go get it all at Sani Spoors in one safe and spectacularly beautiful destination.
On your bike
Sani Spoors is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s stand-out mountain biking destinations and offers what can only be described as an intoxicating mix of mountain bike trails of varying degrees of difficulty. All skills levels are catered for along 50km of trails, providing fun and excitement for the whole family. So, if you want to tick off the full gamut of MTB options – from adrenaline-fuelled downhills, gritty climbs and gently meandering trails to technical bridges – go get it all at Sani Spoors in one safe and spectacularly beautiful destination.
The 3.3km Intshitshi Spoor (Dark-green Arrows; Difficulty 2/10) is an easy cruise along the banks of the Umzimkulu River, perfect for novices and children. There are several wooden stiles over farm fences along the way, but enough speed and momentum will get you safely across these (walk them until you’ve gained the necessary confidence).
The 7km Mzimkulu Run (Dark-blue Arrows; Difficulty 3/10) splits from the Intshitshi Spoor at a dangerous bridge to add in an extra bit of flat riverside riding as well as a few fast downhills, then re-joins the Intshitshi Spoor.
The 10km Milk Run (Yellow Arrows; Difficulty 5/10) is your access route to single-track heaven. Long climbs, some nice pine plantation single-track and incredible berg views are on the menu. The Milk Run, Jackal Jol and Heaven and Hell trails all start in the same direction. You cross the tar road at the Olde Duck main entrance and follow the initial cattle tracks, and river crossings, alongside and through some maize fields and then into the bottom of the pine forests. After that it’s a question of pain versus payback. The more you climb up the jeep tracks the more fun you have on the way down on the fast-flowing single tracks. A couple of rocky sections and switchbacks are thrown in just to keep you on your toes – but these trails are just pure unadulterated fun. Watch out for tree felling operations or fallen branches/trees – as you may need a sudden bunny-hop to negotiate these.
So, once at the top of the Milk Run, you can either hit the Jackal Jol or crank back along the Milk Run to the start point. This is the only section of the trail where you risk encountering oncoming traffic. Remember, ascending cyclists have right of way, so please be cautious and courteous.
Once it splits up with the Milk Run, the 17km Jackal Jol (Red Arrows; Difficulty 6/10) will throw more climbing your way, but it is all worth it. Forestry roads take you to the highest point on the property, from where a number of technical and rocky descents with fantastic downhill switchbacks will seduce the Gravity crowd with adrenaline hit after hit.
From the Milk Run, you can also opt for the 17km Heaven & Hell (Black Arrows; Difficulty 7/10). Again, much the same as for Milk Run and Jackal Jol – with some spectacular views over farm dams, meadows and fields to the Giants Cup and Drakensberg Mountains. After the testing climb, where you can feel the effects of the altitude, enjoy the exhilarating down-hill forest single tracks… catch your breath… and then head back to the Olde Duck for a well-deserved cool one.
On the 17km Rainbow/Khotso Clamber (Orange Arrows; Difficulty 5/10) you won’t have to crank that much in granny gear, as it starts with 5 – 8km of the beautiful flowing trails right next to the river. You’ll have your share of bends, dips, turns, bridges and some rocky sections to keep you constantly awake & interested. Just don’t get too absorbed by the beautiful view as you might end up in the river.
After crossing the tar road and riding the Rainbow Valley (again right next to a little stream) you start making your way back via the Khotso cliffs. Lovely views of the Umzimkulu River from a slightly elevated position – but again beware, as there a number of technical sections along this home stretch before getting back to the tar road at Mt Grace. Cross the tar road and back-track on the Intshitshi Spoor and Mzimkulu Run to the trailhead.
Finally, those looking for a serious workout should head off on the 32km Ekhutuleni Elevation (Dark and Light Green Arrows; Difficulty 8/10), the most exciting and technical of all the trails with a little bit of climbing thrown in.
The trail starts exactly along the same route as the Rainbow/Khotso Clamber but when you hit the tar road at +-10kms, you keep to the left of the road and head up the hill towards some forest trails (recently cut down) that lead on to some really exciting rocky cliff sections. This ride will truly test your skills and how you handle heights because you will be riding right on the cliff edge. The elevated views are amazing and quite exhilarating – reminiscent of the Knysna Harkerville Trails (without the sea of course!) Some amazing fast switchbacks through a young pine forest take you back down onto the fast-flowing river trails that wend their way, via the Intshitshi Spoor, Mzimkulu Run and Rainbow/Khotso Clamber, back to the warm showers at the Olde Duck.
Off the bike
The region teems with outdoor options, from hiking in the Drakensberg, abseiling, driving the Sani Pass, canoeing or horse riding. The villages of Underberg and Himeville boast lovely artisanal craft shops, accommodation and eateries and the Himeville Arms is perfect for a nostalgic drink or to meet some colourful locals.
How to Get There:
From the N3, take Exit 99 (Underberg/Southern Drakensberg) just north of Pietermaritzburg. Drive 100km on the R617 to Underberg. Continue through Underberg towards Kokstad for 5km and then take a right turn onto the Drakensberg Gardens Road. Sani Spoors is less than 1km along this road. The Sani Spoors entrance is on the left-hand side, very well signposted.
Best Time of Year:
Year-round but check ahead as some routes may be closed due to adverse weather conditions, particularly during the fire season, or during certain farming operations.
Contatc: Sani Spoors
Telephone: : +27 (0)82 299 5234
GPS: 29° 45’ 57.12” South / 29° 27’ 42.41” East