Closest Town: Ceres
Grading: Intrmediate to difficult | Duration: 1-6 hours
Location (Area/Province): Peninsula and Winelands and Western Cape
Configuration: Circular/return options
Start Point: Eselfontein Farm
Access: Day MTB permit from Erika's Café, Ceres
Beware of: Extreme heat in summer, steep downhills, adrenaline overdose
Facilities: Accommodation in guest house or eco huts
Cell Reception: Intermittent
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Don’t miss out on this two-wheel paradise awaiting you just beyond the village of Ceres only because you’ve been there before! The trails at Eselfontein are still awesome. Like good red wine, they have only improved with the passing years, and now boast that perfect balance between gravity and momentum. Trail options range from intermediate to difficult with return and circular routes from 16km to 65km.
On your bike
The trail head is at the old farmhouse, but you can link onto the route pretty much anywhere on the farm. The initial section starts off flat through the orchards, but don’t let this lull you into believing that Eselfontein will be a chilled ride. Ascend along a jeep-track past the guesthouse and then onto the legendary Green Route single-track section after your first stream crossing (3km).
The climbing is gradual enough to let you sit back and take in the view, but a few short and sharp rocky loops will keep you focussed to the summit (7km). Anyone with intermediate MTB skills will love this ride, especially the looping ess-bends berming you all the way back down via a few skid-out switchbacks.
A second rocky river crossing takes you into the Blair Witch Forest (11km), one of my fave parts of the route. Slip-sliding single-track, perfectly sculpted, blasts through this poplar forest and beyond, following the river’s edge (14km). Climb via the fruit orchards till your reach the main gravel entrance road (16km), and swing left for half a kay.
Here a sign will direct you towards the looming koppies, with a looping climb heading into the Renosterveld ridges. All still rideable, big-smile-on-your-chops riding, to a sign where the route splits into three options (18km). Left takes you onto the Black Route (with some extreme climbing); straight takes you up the Black Loop in reverse – not a good idea), so keep to your far right to continue the ride of a life time.
After a couple of kays of sweet contouring along tamped berms and looping curves, you drop back down and climb up along some agricultural fields (24km). Keep up the cadence and look for a sign to your right; right about now it would be a good idea to pin back your ears, as you have 4km of the kieffest high-speed velociraptoring possible waiting.
Bomb the original red Bull DH Section from the long-ago MTB Fest here, now beautifully scaped for a zigzag ride into another dippy poplar forest section (28km). Check your teeth for bugs (if you weren’t smiling, you had better make sure you have a pulse) as you pop into the adjacent fruit orchards.
A stiff climb to the left super-tubes you onto a lovely little mental drop-and-glide section – feel free to Whoop loudly! Here you have the option of swinging right to the farm house (36km), or otherwise give in to a sudden urge to ride Blair Witch Forest again. And again, just to make sure you stoke up those endorphins even more.
There’s not enough space to fully take you through the 65km Black Route, but beware you will have to up-size your attitude markedly. This challenging route takes you high into the outlying ranges, with killer climbs, gritty drops and butt-clenching downhills – go do it, but maybe have a few beers and a chat to Deon first.
Swaarmoed, ‘Dead Man Walking’ … this is ‘necessary evil’ of the worst and best kind, but those who suck up the suffering will be richly rewarded as they top out along one of the finest single-track stretches on our tiny blue planet. The views are breathtaking, so take a break to absorb the visual splendour extending across the Koue Bokkeveld
Then get stuck in holler until your lungs hurt along this beautifully groomed single-track for the next few kilometres. Just to be sure … there’s a total of more than a 100kms of XC and Enduro track on Eselfontein now, so be sure to make your visit a long weekend at the very least.
Off your bike
Horse riding on the neighbouring farm, cherry picking on Klondyke, hiking and fishing are just some of your other options. The annual Eselfontein MTB Festival is not to be missed.
Best Time of Year:
Winter if you want to play in the snow, Spring and Autumn for cooler temperatures and cherry picking. Summer heat will be gruelling, so start very early in the day.
How to Get There:
Leave Ceres on the R46. After only 500 meters, turn right onto the Eselfontein Road at the Du Toit Pack House. Continue for 12km along this road to Eselfontein Farm.
Telephone: +27 (0)82 502 8810