You don’t really need mountains to have good mountain biking trails, but you do need decent gradient. Tranquilitas Adventure Farm is perched on the edge of the Mpumalanga escarpment that separates the Highveld from the Lowveld, so is rich in gradient and has an established, varied trails network that should undoubtedly be on the to-ride list of every committed mountain biker.

By Sean Badenhorst

Of course discerning mountain bikers know that where gradient is celebrated for what it offers on the descents, it needs to be climbed for that privilege. Climbing isn’t a bad thing if you don’t have to do it fast. Or too often. You need to not be in a rush, which is why Tranquilitas is somewhere you need to stay for a few days to really appreciate and experience what it offers mountain bikers. You can’t just ride one of the trails because that’s like eating one row of a slab of your favourite chocolate.

The forest trails are exceptionally well maintained.

It’s a three-hour drive from Johannesburg and a little less from Pretoria. If you’re a mountain biker that appreciates descending trails with flow it’s worth every minute of that drive. If you’re a mountain biker that’s eager to escape the ‘same old’ and enjoy the vastness of the wilderness, a trip to Tranquilitas Adventure Farm is a must.

There are six loop-style trails ranging in distance from 4.5km to 36km. The distances may not seem like much but the gradient makes each trail challenging. The 36km Mountain Traverse trail has 986 metres of ascent! Although it’s possible, nobody has ever been able to complete two laps…

At 2000m above sea level, the vastness of the area is mind-blowing!

With the range of trails, almost all levels of rider are catered for. We wouldn’t recommend any for beginners though. The wilderness nature of the trails, as well as the gradient, mean you need to be self-sufficient and reasonably well conditioned to ride there with confidence.

For gravity-riding lovers, there are three trails that are built to thrill! Each is around 6-7 minutes in duration with no risky stuff to consider. So you really can just commit fully to the flow, with hardly a pedal stroke required from top to bottom! Gumdrop, Fireball and Gobstopper all start at the same area and finish at the same place. But each has its own exciting character. It’s a long climb back up so it’s best to book a shuttle in advance to make the most of the experience.

The singletrack seems to never end at times!

We visited Tranquilitas in March – early autumn.  Although it can get hot there in summer, the highest point is 2000 metres above sea level and has the thin air and chill to match (for reference, Joburg is around 1600m above sea level). The vastness of the area really made an impact on us. We set off for what we expected to be a short arrival-afternoon ride and ended up riding for a highly rewarding three hours.

The difference in the vegetation we experienced on that one ride was incredible. From dense, indigenous bush lower down to grasslands to cultivated forests on the adjacent Sappi forestry land. The trail surface also changes with jagged rocky, bed rock, shale, sketchy gravel and forest loam – it’s all there! The trailbuilder is Glenn Harrison, a quiet man that lets his trails do the talking. Glenn is known for building flowy trails with no surprises, so you can expect fun and predictable riding.

The three flow trails are ridiculously fun and therefore very popular!

The trail signage is good, but not great so it’s best to use the Trailforks app to avoid  getting lost. You also need to be attentive so that you don’t ride past a trail entrance from a forest road. The views over the edge of the escarpment are truly majestic and difficult to fully capture with photographs.

One of the fascinating features of the area are the ancient stone circles and terraces that still exist. Their origins are unknown but they’re estimated to be at least 70 000 years old and they confirm that a highly organised civilisation existed in the area long before recorded history began. It’s something that’s really captured our imagination and interest and we look forward to returning to see more of the ruins in the area.

The ancient ruins of a past civilisation are a fascinating feature.

Here’s a breakdown of all the Tranquilitas trails (as at April 2022):

Trails Secret Forest: 7km (Novice/Intermediate)

Rooibaard: 12.5km (Intermediate/Technical)

Black Magic: 4.5km (Intermediate/Advanced)

Trail X: 2,5km one way – 5 km return (Strenuous/Advanced)

The Gink 18km: 349m elevation (Novice/Intermediate – most popular route)

Mountain Traverse: 36 km 986m elevation (Intermediate/Advanced – technical/strenuous)

Shuttle trails: 3,8km to 4,5km, 300m descent: 3 flow trails of similar length and gradient (Fireball, Gobstopper & Gumdrop) – can be ridden at any time but can also be shuttled by prior arrangement (vehicle uplift).

Ask at the reception for the shuttle run options.

All riders must have permits. Day permit R60 | 2-Day permit R90 | Week-permit R160. Riding permits are available from Tranquilitas Farm Coffee shop.

Owner, Mike Behr, is tough, skilled and understands what makes a great mountain biking experience.

Tranquilitas is owned by Mike and Ruth Behr. They’re both accomplished mountain bikers and passionate about sharing their superb ‘play area’ with everyone! They have built a range of accommodation options  at the trailhead to cater for various budgets.

The accommodation is built about 100 metres from the edge of one of the most famous rock-climbing cliff faces in the world (rock climbing is a major attraction here!). There’s also an activity hall and swimming pool with a small scale climbing wall. It’s made for outdoor lovers!


So much stimulating singletrack!

Our only visit there – so far – saw us stay for two nights to do an enduro event. But we got to do rides on three days, which were a little bit limited by time and the event. Our final morning was spent shuttling the three long flow trails which must go down as one of the best experiences we have had on a mountain bike. We also snuck in a final ride down Morphine, a non-manicured, but well-built 5km singletrack descent that takes a bit of effort to reach, but is so worth it!

Back to that slab of chocolate analogy – our time was a bit limited so we didn’t get to finish the slab. We can’t wait to return though to enjoy the Tranquilitas trails one by one – with no pressure.

For more information or to book, head to the Tranquilitas Adventure Farm website here.


If descending flowy trails is something you enjoy, you absolutely must book a shuttle session!
The view from the top of the Morphine trail is spectacular! 
The gradient, vegetation and trail surface variations keep the riding stimulating. 
Whether you like to pin it or just cruise, the trails variety is superb. 
All three flow trails end at the same spot where waiting for the shuttle creates a fun, social vibe… 
Morphine is an unforgettable 5km singletrack descent that seems to go on forever!