Friday , 26 February 2021



We’re fortunate to have such a variety of mountain bike trails in South Africa. From inner-city mountain bike parks to remote wilderness trails, from free-to-ride trails on public land to privately owned mountain biking gems. Since we launched TREAD in 2009, our crew has ridden most of South Africa’s mountain bike trails. Here’s a look at Number 3, a mountain favourite in KwaZulu-Natal, in our TREAD Top Trails of 2020.

Photo: Stirling Ross

Drakensberg Trails

Location: Northern Drakensburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

Best suited for: Intermediate and Experienced riders.

What we love about it: Mountains! South Africa’s most majestic mountain range is the Drakensberg, but nowhere can you really appreciate this mountain range on a mountain bike as well as you can 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 that’s 138km in distance and mostly singletrack.

At the lowest point of the Drakensberg Trails is the Tugela River, not far from its source at Mont-Aux-Sources, while towering above, is the Amphitheatre, one of the largest and most impressive cliff-faces in the world. All around you is unspoiled wilderness land, 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 those that live and work there, as well as tourists, actually need to be there and this is also likely why it’s not highly commercialised like the Central Drakensberg. We have been riding there for almost a decade and nothing has really changed in terms of commercial development, which is both refreshing and comforting.

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…

Photo: Stirling Ross

Signage: The signage is generally very good. Other than other trail users and some animals, nobody else really has access to the trails.

Grading: 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. Curiously, none of the trails have been uploaded to Trailforks, yet.


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

Photo: Stirling Ross

Off the bike: 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.

Summary: 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.

Photo: Stirling Ross

Cost: Single day pass is R130; full-stay pass R330 R80 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.

Security rating: 4.5/5


Note: The TREAD TOP TRAILS 2020 feature is subjective. If you feel we are missing great trails from our top 15, please email Sean Badenhorst on  with your suggestions.


Here’s our TREAD Top 15 Trails countdown so far:

Number 15 Big Red Barn, Midrand, Gauteng

Number 14 The Spruit, Randburg/Sandton, Gauteng

Number 13: Tokai, Cape Town, Western Cape

Number 12: Cradle Moon, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Number 11: Buffelsdrift, Pretoria, Gauteng

Number 10: Northern Farm, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Number 9: Holla Trails, Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal

Number 8: Giba Gorge MTB Park, Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal

Number 7: Paul Cluver & Oak Valley, Western Cape

Number 6: Stellenbosch, Western Cape

Number 5: Banhoek Conservancy, Western Cape

Number 4: Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club, Western Cape

TREAD TOP TRAILS 2020 – NUMBER 3 Reviewed by on . We’re fortunate to have such a variety of mountain bike trails in South Africa. From inner-city mountain bike parks to remote wilderness trails, from free-to-ri We’re fortunate to have such a variety of mountain bike trails in South Africa. From inner-city mountain bike parks to remote wilderness trails, from free-to-ri Rating: 0

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