Wilderness Trail | Gravity Trail
MTO Jonkershoek, located in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, is one of the best mountain bike trails to experience in SA.
Beginner, Intermediate and Experienced riders.
Its reputation. Everyone that has ridden Jonkershoek will tell you that it’s one of the best places they’ve ever ridden, including riders worldwide. However, anyone that hasn’t ridden Jonkershoek has heard of it.
In a region of mountain biking riches, Jonkershoek shines brightest for several reasons. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is a World Heritage Site; in other words, it’s protected from development and benefits from active initiatives from various bodies to preserve its natural state. In short, the reserve comprises a valley between two mountains that meet in a corner (‘hoek’) without thoroughfare. The vegetation is primarily mountain fynbos with some pine-tree plantations; as a result, the bike trails vary from exposed and sunny to forested and shady.
There is 10km of gravel road that heads in and out of the valley; however, the network of singletrack trails on the mountain slopes brings mountain bikers here. Again and again and again…
There are no apparent routes at Jonkershoek, which is part of the appeal and confirmation of the ‘free’ nature of the ride there. So, it’s best to ride with a local or upload and follow one or more of the routes on Trailforks, ranging in the distance from 12-34km. Above all, Jonkershoek riding is more about vertical climbing and descending than distance covered. So, if it’s the distance you’re after, you need to ride somewhere else.
The southern side of the valley has less forest and more open riding. The northern side has more forest riding in the MTO plantations. You mainly use the contour roads to climb and then descend on some of the most incredible descending singletrack trails to the valley floor. Or to head to a different section and back up again. Irish Climb is a newish singletrack ascent that takes you steadily, over almost 5km, up to the level for the start of Armageddon 6. It’s a more stimulating way to get up than via the regular contoured fire roads and offers some incredible opportunities for scenic photographs.
Don’t expect much in the smooth, manicured trails at Jonkershoek; however, well built by a team led by Bennet Nel and consistently maintained, the routes include rocks and roots and some ruts. Best enjoyed on mid-travel full-suspension bikes and long-travel bikes for the more gnarly sections.
Armageddon is the main descent on the northern slope. It’s broken into eight parts, starting with Armageddon 1 at the bottom and counting to Armageddon 8. The two top sections, 7 and 8, are more suited to experienced, skilled riders, with 6 down to 1 ideal for most with a decent skill level.
The Fire Hut trail offers your primary singletrack fix on the opposite slope. Upper Fire Hut has a climb and a descent, joining Fire Hut 1 and Fire Hut 2 to take you back down to the valley floor.
The Plumber, Status Quo and Downhill are Double Black Diamond descending trails recommended for experienced riders only. Iron Monkey is Black Diamond, except for the top bit. Most of the tracks are Blue rated with some Green lower down. For more details and to upload routes to your GPS device, head to Trailforks here. There are also some detailed trail descriptions here.
The Absa Cape Epic events use Jonkershoek as part of their race routes every year. And the Savanna Origin of Trails when in the area.
Have you experienced MTO Jonkershoek?
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The signage is really good. Kudos to whoever is responsible for this. And much gratitude to the local businesses that get involved with both funding and man/woman power when needed. Specialized, which has its South African HQ in Stellenbosch, is one of the largest supporters of the MTB Jonkershoek trails.
The Jonkershoek MTO Trails follow the IMBA grading system with Green, Blue, Red, Black and Black Diamond/Double Black Diamond symbolising Easy through to Extreme respectively.
Since Jonkershoek is just 7km from Stellenbosch and not too far from Franschhoek, fine restaurants and good quality wine are worth lingering for. We highly recommend stopping off at Ride Inn, a cycling-themed restaurant on the Jonkershoek road where you can get something small or big to eat and great coffee.
It’s not just the incredible riding at Jonkershoek that stands out. It’s that it’s challenging going up and challenging going down – each of which can consume a lot of your energy and – after a while – a little bit of your soul. There’s almost too much to actually ride in one day – unless you’re on an eBike. Almost. Which is why you can’t wait go back for more.
A day pass is R60 or R50 for kids and pensioners.
There are no obvious routes at Jonkershoek, which is part of the appeal and confirmation of the ‘free’ nature of the riding there. Because of this, it’s best to ride with a local or upload and follow one or more of the routes on Trailforks, ranging in distance from 12-34km. But know this, Jonkershoek riding is more about the vertical climbing and descending than distance covered. If it’s distance you’re after, you need to ride somewhere else.
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