The Drakensberg Trail, located in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the best mountain bike trails to experience in South Africa.
Intermediate and Experienced riders.
Mountains! South Africa’s most majestic mountain range is the Drakensberg. However, nowhere can you fully appreciate this mountain range on a mountain bike as well as on the Drakensberg Trails in the Northern Drakensberg.
Chris Mecklenborg has been building the trails with passion for the past 30 years. He and his team now have a purpose-built network 138km long and mostly singletrack. At the lowest point of the Drakensberg Trails is the Tugela River, not far from its source at Mont-Aux-Sources. Towering above is the Amphitheatre, one of the world’s largest and most impressive cliff-faces. As a result, there is unspoiled wilderness land around you, mostly grassland with some sections of indigenous shrub and forest close to the river and streams. Once you turn into the Northern Drakensburg’ valley’, there’s no thoroughfare to anywhere by road, which is probably why this area is so pristine. Only individuals who live and work there and tourists need to be there, which is perhaps why it’s not as commercialised as the Central Drakensberg. We have been riding there for almost a decade, and nothing has really changed in commercial development, which is refreshing and comforting.
Although there is some tar road riding with spectacular scenery, it’s not a riding venue for mountain bike beginners. However, it’s an absolute gem for Intermediate and Experienced mountain bikers. Besides offering great riding in the mountains, riding the Drakensberg Trails makes you feel genuinely far from everything and everyone. You feel tiny but empowered, and every ride feels like an adventure…
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The signage is generally very good. Other than other trail users and some animals, nobody else really has access to the trails.
There is a general following of the IMBA grading system in terms of trail difficulty. They use Green = Easier; Blue = More Difficult and Black = Most Difficult.
Although you don’t need mountains to enjoy mountain biking, riding on the slopes of the some of the biggest mountains in the country takes you into a different realm. The trails have been thoughtfully built to allow you to explore as much of the Northern Drakensberg by bike as possible with challenging, but not impossible climbs and incredibly satisfying descents. It’s a 3-hour drive from Johannesburg and Durban and there’s ample accommodation in the area to cater for all budgets.
Gypsies Bend: 15km with 206m of ascent
Montusi Gorge: 25km with 465m of ascent
Grotto Trail: 22km with 480m of ascent
Nook Road: 36km with 950m of ascent
Berghouse Trail: 40km with 950m of ascent
If you have enough energy, you can tackle some hiking. The famous. Amphitheatre and Tugela Falls hikes are in close proximity. Chris, the trailbuilder, and his wife Loretta, also own All Out Adventures, which is a multi-discipline adventure centre. This is where you start and finish your rides and buy your trails pass. It also offers quad biking, paintball and a range of other activities, such as zipline and trampoline-based fun. There’s also horse-riding at Montusi nearby.
Single day pass is R140; full-stay pass R340 R90 for kids under 12 (valid for up to seven days). Trail passes are compulsory and can be purchased at All Out Adventures, Alpine Heath Resort, Berghouse Cottages, The Cavern and Montusi Mountain Lodge.
It’s not really a riding venue for mountain bike beginners, although there is some tar road riding with spectacular scenery. It’s an absolute gem though for Intermediate and Experienced mountain bikers. Besides offering great riding in the mountains, riding the Drakensberg Trails makes you feel like you’re truly far from everything and everyone. You feel both very small and very empowered and every ride feels like an adventure…
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