Wilderness Trail | Gravity Trail
Karkloof Mountain Bike Trail – rated number one in SA.
Beginner, Intermediate and Experienced riders.
The flow. We have encountered passionate mountain bikers throughout South Africa (mainly in the Western Cape, to be honest) who think their local trails are the ultimate flow. While this is great in terms of local support, it’s not true. Only those who have ridden these trails will understand trail flow’s real meaning – and feeling. And unless you have travelled to Karkloof and ridden those trails properly, you cannot make any claims like this without expecting to be corrected by anyone whose biking life the Karkloof trails have enhanced. Truly, Karkloof is SA’s best mountain biking trail.
Karkloof is confirmation that you don’t need mountains for excellent mountain biking; you just need hills. And a trail-builder that knows how to stitch the ascents and descents together in a way that makes you feel like you’re eating your favourite ice cream and can’t wait to go back for more.
Hylton Turvey, a mountain biker that grew up in Karkloof, is the reason for the legendary flow on these trails. He understands the area better than anyone. While expanding his trail-building services to build courses in other parts of the country, his finest work remains at Karkloof, where he still lives.
Until recently, the Karkloof and Howick trails were run separately but next to each other. It’s all under one management now, which is good because Howick’s tracks also have character. There’s flow, but not Karkloof flow. There are more challenging sections, where rocks and roots force you to make quick decisions and offer more skilled riders stimulation.
The Karkloof trails comprise of two sections; the southern section, the most extensive section on Sappi-owned land, and a smaller northern area on Mondi-owned ground. Overall though, the Karkloof trails fall under Sappi as the responsible landowner. And this is great because Sappi is a big supporter of mountain biking in general and mountain biking on its land in particular.
There are no apparent fences between the Sappi and Mondi land at Karkloof. The trails on the Sappi land begin in glorious earnest almost from the trailhead itself at Karkloof Country Club. In contrast, the best of the courses on Mondi land requires a good bit of time and energy. Climbing to the highest ground towards the west before basically surfing your way back down some of the most fantastic singletracks you will ever experience – known as the Outback Trails because they head out and come back. Much of the land is for forestry, so many routes weave through forest singletrack or on forest roads. There are some open sections of grassland and some farmland too.
A new section of trails called the Milk Trails is on a local dairy farm in Denleigh. These trails are only open when the forest fire hazard is high, and the regular trails are closed.
Although you can ride all day and not cover all the trails, there are seven marked routes at Karkloof Country Club catering for the majority of mountain bikers as follows:
3km – Beginner with 19m of ascent
15km – Intermediate with a high percentage of singletrack and 332m of ascent
20km – Beginner/Intermediate with a high percentage of forest roads and jeep track and 336m of ascent
23km – Intermediate with a high percentage of singletrack and 449m of ascent
37km – Intermediate/Experience with a high percentage of singletrack and 690m of ascent
55km – Experienced with a high percentage of singletrack and over 1000m of ascent.
The only events/races held at Karkloof each year are some KZN MTB Enduro Series rounds and the Sappi Karkloof Festival, which incorporates a variety of mountain biking disciplines over three days. It acts as a fundraiser for the Karkloof trails network.
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The signage is generally very good, as long as you’re vigilant. Out-of-towners can ride quite confidently without fear of getting lost, but make sure before you start your ride exactly which route you’re tackling. During normal opening hours, there’s a big screen at the trailhead with all the routes and maps for you to examine.
The Karkloof Country Club trails use the IMBA Grading System with appropriate trail signage. The trails and marked routes are also all uploaded to Trailforks, where the trails are mostly Blue, with some Green and a few Black. You can access the Karkloof trails here:https://www.trailforks.com/region/karkloof-country-club/routes/ According to Trailforks, there are a total of 416 recognised mountain bike trail segments covering a total distance of 507km.
You’re in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, which is packed with touristy things to do. However, once you’ve spent a morning or an afternoon riding the Karkloof trails, it’s unlikely you’ll want to leave. If you do need a break from riding through, you can find a lot of cool off-the-bike stuff here: https://midlandsmeander.co.za
Riding the Karkloof Trails changes you as a mountain biker. Every other trail you ride thereafter gets compared to Karkloof, either subconsciously or loudly and enthusiastically, over a cold beer with your mates. No matter how many times you go and ride the Karkloof trails, when you leave, a small part of you stays behind, but it’s a fair trade because when you leave, you take part of Karkloof trails away with you. In your soul.
A day pass is R80 for adults or R30 for pensioners (over 65) and youngsters (6-18 years). Kids under 6 ride free.
Only those that have ridden these trails will understand the real meaning – and feeling – of trail flow. Unless you have travelled to Karkloof and ridden those trails properly, you cannot make any claims about great flow anywhere else without expecting to be corrected by anyone whose mountain biking life has been enhanced by the Karkloof trails.
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