Have permit will ride

By buying a 2023 Wine Lands Regional Permit, ERNST GOUWS ensures that for the rest of the year he can explore the 1 300km of first-rate mountain bike trails around Stellenbosch whenever he wants to.

The Jonkershoek trail in the Hottentots Holland mountain range offers over 48 km of single track and 74 km of jeep track trails.

SINCE THE WORLD reopened for travelling after the Covid lockdowns, large numbers of cyclists, both local and international, have visited Stellenbosch. Their feedback has been unanimous: Stellenbosch and the broader Cape Winelands offer a world-class range of mountain bike trails.

Although Stellenbosch has always boasted fantastic mountain bike trails, the number of opportunities for exploring has soared over the past 10 years. This is mainly thanks to private farm owners, who have seen fit to spend significant sums of money on building new trails on their land and on maintaining them. Areas such as Banhoek, Bottelary Hills and the stretch of farms running south from Mont Marie towards Somerset West have been transformed. MTO, the forestry company in charge of the mountain bike trails in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, has also invested heavily in the expansion of its range of routes. Add to this the incredible new trails recently built around Simonsberg, on Plaisir Wine Estate and further afield towards Paarl and Wellington, and it seems that the Cape Winelands can now boast the most extensive mountain bike offering in the world.

But how do you provide easy access to such a large network of trails? A single permit and a single port of call to find information about all the trails would work, and this is exactly what has been created. Under the leadership of the Wine Lands Cycling Club, the various trail operators got together and launched the first annual Wine Lands Regional Permit in 2022.

Following a successful debut year, the 2023 Wine Lands permit boasts even more trails and services. Areas such as Bottelary Hills, Robertson and Elgin can now also be accessed with this single permit and the combined Wine Lands Trails network has a new central website as well as a WhatsApp bot through which permit holders can get trail-related information.

At a cost of just R1 800 a year, this single permit now gives you access to 17 mountain bike trail networks and a total of 1 300km of trails! All that the Wine Lands offering needs to do now is entice many more ‘social’ riders to buy an annual permit. Although keen and experienced rid- ers are buying the regional permits enthusiastically, many casual riders are sticking to the trails closer to home and limiting their riding to the Bergpad’ and other trails on municipal land, all of which are all freely open to the public. Little do they know that they’re missing out on so much more …

Stellenbosch trails

A common misconception is that the trails further afield are too tough and technical to be enjoyable for social riders. Climbing steep and twisty singletracks or navigating rocky and technical downhills may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but there are several more user-friendly routes for those who are keen to explore some of the trails further away from Stellenbosch (while also supporting a local establishment for a great coffee along the trail):

Mont Marie

Start your ride anywhere near Coetzenburg (such as the Ou Landbousaal), G-Spot (from the Dalsig parking area) or Paradyskloof. Stay on the Jeep tracks and follow the signs to G-Spot, then Eden and then Mont Marie. At Mont Marie you can either head directly to the restaurant or first do the more technical ‘Gutted Baboon’ and ‘Element’ sections before treating yourself to a coffee or brunch. On your way back to town, simply follow the signs to Coetzen- burg and Stellenbosch. Total distance about 20km.


Follow the trail to Mont Marie, and at the restaurant look out for the signs to Dornier. After crossing the bridge onto Dornier, turn left and follow the signs along the trail. When you reach the end, head over to Stellenzicht farm and its wonderful coffee and wine pod for refreshments (the wood-fired pizzas are fantastic!). Afterwards, head back to Mont Marie and from there back to town. Total distance about 30km.

Single track in Jonkershoek just outside of Stellenbosch.


This nature reserve offers world-renowned downhill lines (such as ‘Armageddon’, ‘Red Phoenix’, ‘Status Quo’ and ‘Plumber’) as well as some of the most enjoyable mellow rides in the Cape Winelands. Enter the reserve at the end of Jonkershoek Road and follow the signs along any of the Jeep-track contours to explore the northern or the southern side of the valley – or both. You can either cycle from Stellenbosch to Jonkershoek, adding another 15km to the total distance, or drive and park your car at the reserve’s entrance. Half- way between town and Jonkershoek, the Ride In Café offers a pleasant brunch (or another great wood-fired pizza!). Total distance 15–30km.

Idas Valley

A forgotten jewel close to town, Idas Valley Nature Area offers stunning views of the two Idas Valley dams as well as the Simonsberg and Stellenbosch mountains. There are three entrances: opposite Rustenberg Wine Estate along Rustenberg Road; from within Idas Valley at the bottom of the old Helshoogte Pass; or off the new Helshoogte Pass opposite Delaire Graff Wine Estate. Once inside the nature area, follow any of the three well-marked trails: Lower Dam, Upper Dam or View Point. Total distance 10–20km.

The Banhoek Conservancy just outside of Stellenbosch.

Banhoek and Old Bethlehem Farm

The trails in Banhoek are glorious, but many riders miss out because they are unwilling to get there by tackling the challenging Botmaskop trail and then dropping down to Banhoek along one of the singletracks on the other side of the mountain. There is an alternative way in, however: via the Helshoogte Pass by either bike or car. Cycle or drive to the secure parking area off Rooi Street in Kylemore, which is also the entrance to Old Bethlehem Farm. From there you can navigate well-marked and beautifully maintained routes, some of which even link up with Boschendal’s trails. And as you leave Kylemore on your way home, don’t forget to stop at the Banhoek Chilli Oil Company for a coffee or something to eat. Total distance 10–20km.

So get your Wine Lands Regional Permit now and start exploring! Simply visit the Wine Lands Trails website, where you can buy your permit online and then collect it at the Specialized Stellenbosch bike shop at 33 Canterbury Lane, Stellenbosch. A portion of your permit fee goes to the Stellenbosch Trail Fund, the not-for-profit organisation responsible for the maintenance of all the free mountain bike trails on municipal land in and around Stellenbosch, including G-Spot, Eden, Coetzenburg and Botmaskop. The annual Wine Lands permit system ensures that all the trail-building teams working on the 17 trailnetworks are better funded and that locals and visitors to Stellenbosch continue to enjoy a world-class mountain bike experience. V