‘Ultimate’ is one of those adjectives that are oft over-used, but in the case of the ‘Ultimate Southern Pass Trail’, I really believe it applies. This MTB route traverses private properties near Stanford Valley, and everything from views to riding rate as downright superlative.
The trail – and the great outdoors – await just beyond these quiet streets, with the winding water course of the Klein River undulating along the foothills of the rugged Akkedisberg ranges. Fynbos ridges, forested kloofs, sedge-lined wetlands and verdant grasslands edge the valley as you travel inland into the Overstrand ‘breadbasket” around Bredasdorp and Napier.
About 10km from the village, you will reach the scenic spread of the Stanford Valley Guest Farm, part of a diverse conservancy protected by a group of committed landowners. This 440ha property lies at the heart of the new ‘Ultimate Southern Pass Trail’, and mountain bikers will be able to ride amidst rare plant species such as the Erica Shannonea.
The trail network connects via mountainous singletrack to the exquisite Beloftebos, and on one of our trail outings, I saw no less than five sunbird species upon the pristine fynbos slopes. Rhebuck, eland, grysbok, caracal and even scarce Cape leopard roam here, and we were lucky enough to see it’s spoor.
Stanford Valley brims with opportunities to star gaze, indulge in nature photography, take part in meditation and yoga retreats, sample world-class cheese, wine and craft beer, or just relax to your heart’s content. One thing is for sure, the USP Trail is calling and it will be difficult to ignore: for more information, please go check out www.stanfordvalley.co.za, www.overbergmtbevents.co.za or www.beloftebos.co.za.
One of the great things about a route like the Ultimate Southern Pass Trail is that you have a variety of trail heads to start from. The most popular of these regional destinations will definitely be Stanford Valley Guest Farm or Beloftebos, and both these destinations boast great accommodation options.
There are a number of route options if you start from the Stanford Valley side, with the Tower loop featuring the most recent of these additions, known as ‘Valley Vista. First drop into a magical little forest section before you crank into a winding ascent taking you past the local telecom tower on a rambunctious 4km singletrack loop. The riding is tricky in places, but gorgeous views of Akkedisberg Pass add ample gain to the pain.
You also have the option to head from SVGF past the gorgeous swimming dam, where the route splits to offer two options: keep right onto ‘Skin & Bones’, a gritty climb up to a view point bench, before you bang all the way back down to join the main route (after 2.3km) at the start of one of the other STRAVA segments.
This one sticks to the valley to the left of the dam and is known as ‘Slipstream’. Imagine a lazy Cape cobra slithering into the fynbos ridges towards Beloftebos; stream crossing and tight ess-bends boom you into fynbos fields for 1.8km before you eventually connect onto the jeep-track descending from the tower.
Keep right here and continue climbing into the high watershed sky-lining above Stanford Valley Guest Farm, keeping an eye out for wildlife and leopard spoor. Apparently, there’s a massive stag – with an impressive antler rack – ranging free amidst the craggy outcrops, too. The total distance from the guest farm to the apex along the ‘Beloftebos Stairway’ is just on 8km with around 850m of altitude gain, and from here you can pin your ears back as you bomb into the downhill.
Also known as Paardenberg Farm, this stunning family-friendly destination nestles in the lee of the fynbos ridges. The descent makes for fast and flowing riding which will suit riders with a bit more experience, but beginners will be able to hold it together. The first descent section is ‘Hole in the Wall’, with no less than eleven switchbacks, before you gear into granny for the steep ‘Horribult’ climb.
Keep it tidy as you charge into ‘Sunrise’, ‘Hings-se-Bult’ and ‘Running Start’, all the while feeding your singletrack stoke. The trail passes a couple of hide-away cottages, including Melk-en-Heuning (Milk & Honey), where there are currently a few new segments of trail being constructed by Andries de Villiers’ top-class team.
Give it gas through the poplar forests near Lighthouse Cottage and then cross the main dirt road to Salmonsdam. The riding here is exquisite and keeps on getting better as you blast over a wooden suspension bridge and into the ‘Lord of the Rings’ scenery of the ancient Beloftebos oak tree forest.
Before you know it, the oaks morphs into a stand of giant eucalyptus blue-gums. Keep following the river course until you connect to the ‘Oom Salie’ singletrack, powering along a gradual climb on to Sterkfontein. All the new additions will allow you to vary your route, and push the total trail distance to well over 35km, or you can add in some of the gravel roads to bump your ride up to a 60km circuit.
Riders who have entered the annual ‘Stanford MTB Classic’ might well recognise some of these world-class singletrack builds, while trail runners and other weekend warriors have long since discovered the breathtaking scenery of the seductive Stanford Valley landscape.
In addition, Salmonsdam Nature Reserve is situated adjacent to Beloftebos, at the foot of the Paardenberg Mountains. Although there is currently no designated MTB Route in the reserve, plenty of riding opportunities exist on a jeep-track network within Salmonsdam, with breathtaking views of Walker Bay, Caledon and Bredasdorp – www.capenature.co.za.
The Ultimate Southern Pass Trail crosses Stanford Valley Guest Farm and the Paardenberg (Beloftebos) Farms, and offers unrivalled riding amidst pristine fynbos.
Getting there: Follow the N2 from Cape Town, then take Caledon-Bredasdorp turnoff R316 and continue for 29km. Turn right on the R326 towards Stanford 13Km to the SVGF turn-off to the left.
Best Time: Stanford boasts a moderate Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and colder, wet winters. You can play outdoors for most of the year, though.
Stay Here: World-class accommodation is available at both Stanford Valley Guest Farm and Beloftebos. Booking is essential.
FAST FACTS BLOCK: Stanford Valley Circuit
|GRADING:||Easy / Intermediate|
|CONFIGURATION:||Various Circular Options|
|START POINT:||Stanford Valley / Beloftebos|
|GPS COORDS:||Latitude: -34.413885 | Longitude: 19.56296|
|TERRAIN:||Predominantly purpose-built single track|
|POST-RIDE BEER:||Stanford Valley Guest Farm (Manor Restaurant)|
|MUST-DO EVENT:||Stanford MTB Challenge – www.overbergmtbevents.co.za|
|CELL RECEPTION:||Good signal on most of the trail|
|LOCAL CONTACT:||Anneke Jacobs: +27 (84) 228 0414|