Just four hours from Johannesburg and three from Durban, our Drakensberg Mountain Biker weekender is a lodge-to-lodge facilitated MTB tour, combining sublime single-track with majestic mountain views. Advanced riders looking for a challenge can expect some testing climbs and technical descents. We tailor tour options to cater for all levels of cyclist including family getaways.
ADVANCED RIDER – DETAILED ITINERARY
Just three to four hours’ drive from the major cities, the Northern Drakensberg Valley is accessible as a weekend break. Reschedule your Friday afternoon appointments and head to the hills to spend your arrival night in a comfy mountain cottage with dinner provided.
Ride Day 1: Approximately 40kms / five hours ride
After a hearty breakfast, you will get your fix of single-track right away as you make your way to the Tugela River, following the meandering trail of Putteril’s Canal. The fun starts at the Putteril’s Stream crossing. If you get the right line it is usually rideable, but if there have been heavy rains you may sometimes require a portage. This brings you to the first climb of the day; up Secret Pass. This old cattle pass cuts into the side of the hill and takes you up onto a mountain plateau with a stunning view across the valley. The trail then meanders down a fast piece of single-track into Wanhoop Valley, across the river and on to Otter Trail. This brilliant piece of trail contours around the hill and offers great opportunity to hone your technical skills with some drops, corners, loose gravel and narrow bridges. Look out for the Otters and King Fishers as you cross the streams.
Hopefully you’ll be warmed up by this time, as the next section of trail takes you up a 2km Category Two climb with no less than 10 switchbacks. At the top you will join with the Berg House drive way before making your way to the cottages for a well-deserved cold drink.
With 12kms and a proper climb under your belt you set off on the next section – Leopard’s Loop, which offers truly spectacular views of the Drakensberg’s most famous landmark – the Amphitheatre. You may be one of the fortunate few to catch a glimpse of the elusive cat after which this trail is named. Be sure to keep a look out for zebra and eland that frequently graze and enjoy the view up here too!
The 5km contour around the top of the hill takes you to the first technical descent of the day. The fast downhill on single-track back into the Wanhoop Valley offers some rocky sections and off-camber turns that will keep you on your toes. Catch your breath along a short stretch of trail along the Wanhoop Stream before you start climbing again and understand why the Valley got its name of ‘Wanhoop’!
There is another opportunity for a refreshment break at Montusi Lodge before tackling the last 10km to Drifters Lodge along the gnarly Nook Road that features most of the climbing. In the 1940s the Nook Road was an old servitude route that was used as an alternate way into the Valley when the flooded rivers made access via the district roads impossible. The Nook Road starts with 3kms of steep climbing, but breathtaking views from the top are ample reward. It then follows a more civilised contour along the base of the sandstone cliffs through stunning scenery, but do save some energy for the last climb up to Ingwe Cabin. After Ingwe, it is 4km along the 4×4 track to Drakensberg Inn, where a delicious lunch and cold beers await.
Afternoon: You will probably want to take a nap or chill on the comfy sofas of the glass-fronted lounge. However, for those with an energy surplus, there are other options, including horse riding, a hike to the vulture colony or casting a line in pursuit of a trout from one of the dams on the property.
Accommodation: Drakensberg Inn – Canadian-style log cabins, with each room featuring its own fireplace. No electricity, but gas showers and solar lighting ensure rustic comfort.
Arrival lunch, dinner and breakfast provided.
Ride Day 2: Approximately 40kms /four hours ride
You can justify that extra cup of coffee at breakfast to heighten your senses for the first 7kms of today’s trail: a blissful descent on concrete strips down to Alpine Heath Resort. A short tar section takes you across the bridge where the single-track fun begins. The trail follows the river in a gentle meander towards the mountains for approximately 9kms. You then cross the road onto Ledges Trail, which takes you over a series of bridges on a contour trail towards the Cavern Hotel.
Then the climbing begins – a steep incline from the Cavern’s Stable Dam takes you right up its driveway to the front lawn. As the halfway point of the climb, it’s a great spot to gulp down a coke or two! The climb then continues steeply up for another kilometre to Cow Slip Falls Dam and from here, the fun starts again! The Grotto trail is a spectacular section of riding that takes you along Surprise Ridge, through Protea trees and a series of steep ascents and descents, with countless wooden bridges that span the stream ravines. The views and the riding are both breathtaking. Just when you think it cannot get better, you hit the downhill – 3kms of rugged jeep track, with plenty of opportunity to put your brakes and shocks through their paces.
At the Orion Mont aux Sources Hotel, the route runs parallel to the road along the linked cattle paths and hand-cut single-track that makes up the Trilby Trail and Thabane’s Traverse. A short stint on the tar will bring you back down to the Tugela River, which you follow for a short distance before reaching the tricky Tugela Traction challenge that climbs back up to the road. After a few hundred metres further along the tar you will head onto the Hlalanathi Trail, which climbs over the hill onto single-track down towards All Out Adventures.
Here, there is time for a cappuccino (or a King Swing for the adrenalin junkies) before completing the last 10km through to the Tower of Pizza, in time for lunch. Save some reserves for this final stretch, because it includes some beauties like the Gorge Descent and the Waterfall Challenge.
After a carbo-fuelled lunch of wood-fired pizza and a shower to freshen up, you’ll head home or choose to spend an extra night in this beautiful valley of adventure.
Please note that we also have tour options for less intrepid or fit riders.