Mountain Biking at Thabaphaswa
If you are not Sotho, “Thabaphaswa” may be something of a tongue twister: Thaba means mountain, Phaswa refers to Nguni cattle.
Put them together and visit the place and you will see why the shadows and highlights on the rocks of the mountains are reminiscent of markings on the farm’s rare Nguni cattle. Thabaphaswa Mountain is an important landmark to all the peoples of this area, and for centuries travellers and traders have used it to get their bearings.
Thanks to the geology, Thabaphaswa has very scenic and some rather challenging mountain bike trails on dirt tracks, cattle paths and single-track. The riding is basically along a core circuit route with optional diversions off the beaten track. Enjoy exciting single and jeep track up challenging kloofs and through gaps between the granite outcrops that cover the farm. The main route is about 7km in length and perfect for enjoying a mellow, late afternoon ride with the family. Although it is not a technical ride, there is enough sand, gravel and rocks to make it the ideal route to introduce casual cyclists to off-road riding.
Since the farm is fully fenced you cannot get completely lost and the map provided gives ample directions and indicators of where to go and where to turn back home. In addition, all 95km of hiking and biking trails are beautifully signposted. None of the wild game that you may encounter here was introduced. In line with the commitment to a genuine ecotourism experience, what you see is what has always been here.
• Explore 3000ha with jeep tracks, single track and cattle and game paths
• Service road along the railway to the North - 100km or more
• Plenty of district dirt roads
• Almost no thorns and punctures are rare.
• GRADING: Easy to difficult, depending on the route and distance chosen
• KIDS: Yes, but choose your trails accordingly
• CONFIGURATION: Various options, 7 to 95km
• TRAIL HEAD: Thabaphaswa homestead
• FACILITIES: Self-catering accommodation, ablutions; no cell phone reception
• WHEN: Winters are mild. You can sit around the fire in the evenings and nice and warm during the day. Summers are mild - 5 degrees less than Mokopane and the same as Polokwane.
• SECURITY: No main roads, urban areas and townships. It is completely safe.
Thabaphaswa Mountain Bike Networks
The first network offers routes on Thabaphaswa and an adjoining farm consisting of trail networks over a distance of 20km. The area is surrounded by mountains and high ridges with great views over the Pietersburg plains and the valleys to the south and east.
• Rating: Riding enjoyment. Unique combination of nature, scenery and good exercise.
• Grading: Jeeptracks, single tracks and regional dirt roads.
• Distance: 7km to 20km.
• Duration: 1 to 4 hours.
• Access: N1 and provincial roads, ± 5 km gravel road.
• Configuration: Network of 4 trails on nearby farms and in a large surrounding area.
• Terrain: Granite mountains with some reasonably steep climbs.
• Marking: Sign posts and markings on rocks.
• Security: Farm area not near main roads and urban areas.
• Maps are available for trails on the nearby farm as well for those in the surrounding areas.
• Starting point: 29° 02´ 34" E and 24°03´ 22" S
The second network area falls outside the farm and consists of rural dirt roads forming a circular route to the Ga-Mashashane rural town and the Percy Fyfe Game Reserve. The area is exceptional in terms of lovely mountain formations, bushveld trees, game farms and scenery.
Many alternative routes can be chosen and more than 200km can be ridden. The jeeptrack or service road along the railway line can even be followed up to Musina - more than 250 km away.
Check out our most recent mountain bike trails created by Tim Fair. We think they are the best mountain bike routes, not only in Mokopane, but North of Bela Bela:
The Thabaphaswa trail network consists of 4 loops creating the backbone to the greater riding area. The 4 loops range in distance (7km -15km) and difficulty (Easy – Advanced) and can be merged together to form a 20km route.
The Thabaphaswa trail network is comprised of the following trails:
Thabaphaswa Loop (click to view)
Distance 7km | Ascent 154m
Starting at the heart of the Thabaphaswa Mountain Sanctuary, the Thabaphaswa loop is the backbone to the main trail network. At only 7km it is ideal for all levels of fitness and skill and can be enjoyed by the whole family. The route is characterised by gentle contour roads and beautiful dams named after the children of the family.
Sign posted with red arrows and with a T for Thabaphaswa Loop.
Witvinger Loop (click to view)
Distance 13km | Ascent 410m
The Witvinger loop takes riders deep into the Witvinger Reserve, though a beautiful valley below the Thabaphaswa Mountain. A gentle stream flows through the valley and the route crosses this stream several times. During the rainy season, this section of the route becomes even more exciting.
Aloe Loop (click to view)
Distance 11km | Ascent 280m
The Aloe loop is for the more advanced rider. The route follows the easy contours of the Thabaphaswa Loop for a few kilometres before kicking upwards to the the North East. The climb takes you halfway to the lookout point before turning right and sneaking back down through a lush valley. The final descent back onto the Thabaphaswa Trail is characterised by a rough and technical section to test your skills to their limit.
Sign posted with red arrows and with an A for Aloe Loop.
Lookout Loop (click to view)
Distance 15.6km | Ascent 560m
For the tough...the Lookout Loop is the same as the Aloe Loop, but instead of turning off halfway up the climb, you continue all the way to the Lookout Point.
The views from the top make the climb all worth while and you will be rewarded with a vista of the whole Sanctuary as well as a view all the way up the Witvinger Valley. From this vantage point you will also look out onto the Thabaphaswa Mountain on the opposite side of the valley, it is only from here that you truly appreciate its size and magnificence.
The descent back down is another reward for all your hard work to get to the top. You can really let the brakes go as you fly down the fast, flowing jeep tracks.
Sign posted with red arrows and with an L for Lookout Loop.
As mentioned above, these 4 loops form a backbone from which to base your longer rides.
For a more challenging 40km return ride, use the railway servitude road from Thabaphaswa to the Percy Fyfe entrance gate. Add another 20km if you include the Thabaphaswa trails. In addition a further distance can be added on surrounding district roads through beautiful hilly country.
Download the trail map below.