5 Trails You Have To Run In 2023

by | Dec 28, 2022 | Where To Run, Run

We’re fortunate to be blessed with a wealth of spectacular trails within close range of many of our major centres. Here is a list of some of the slightly lesser-known trails we can’t wait to run in 2023.

Karkloof

5 Trails You Have To Run In 2023
Karkloof trail running (c) Ant Grote / WW X TRI 2022

The Karkloof is a special place. Situated just over 100kms from Durban it is the ideal place for a day-trip running mission. Thanks to Sappi’s wide-spread plantations, various privately-owned farms and local enthusiasts, there is now an extensive tail network that offers epic running (and mountain biking) for all skill and fitness levels. The running ranges from technical rock gardens, dry and loose in the blue gum forests to hard-pack and downright muddy in damp forest sections. Hit this link for more info on trails and distances.

George Mountain Trails

Best Trails To Run In South Africa In 2023.
Ryan Sandes training on the George Mountains (c) Zane Schmahl.

The mountains here in George are big,” he said. “It really reminds me of the European style mountains where you have these long, runnable climbs. The trails are also really well groomed, maintained and marked thanks people like Zane Schmahl from Mount Co.” Zane is also the chieft organiser of The George Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) which has been included in the esteemed UTMB series for 2023.

Ryan will run the inaugural MUT Miler in 2023. In the past, Ryan has used the George Trails to train for UTMB.

According to Ryan, his home trails in Table Mountain National Park tend to be more technical and rocky. “Those kinds of trails are not great preparation for UTMB. So, to train for all the elevation gain in UTMB I find that the George trails are a lot closer to European running, with long sustained climbs, some over 1000m in one climb. There are also lots of switchbacks and the trails are smooth, very much like UTMB.”

During that training stint Ryan spent a lot of time on the MUT route. The event which is held annually, offers something for all trail runners with six distances, (160km,100km, 60km, 42km, 25km and 9km). The 60km ultra boasts everything from big climbs, rocky trails, technical downhills and views of the spectacular Outeniqua range.

“That being said, the trails here are not only for serious runners,” Ryan adds. “There is a combination of tough, high trails for more experienced runners and then there are some that are really accessible right down in the town for those looking for less of a challenge or who are just getting into it.”

So accessible indeed, that George currently has the distinction of being the only place in South Africa where a trail runner can run a VK (vertical kilometre) right from a coffee shop, as one would do in Europe or the Rocky Mountains in the USA.

Drakensberg

A visit to South Africa’s biggest and most iconic mountain range is a pilgrimage every trail runner should make. Many discerning runners go year after year, and for good reason. From short 1hr loops to multi-day expedition routes, there is a magnitude of trails available to suit all fitness and skill levels on the route. If it is your first time, we suggest basing yourself out of Royal Natal National Park in the northern ‘Berg. Most trails are well mapped and clearly marked, and range from short trots to McKinley’s Pool or the Cascades, to more strenuous efforts to the Mahai Falls or Thukela Gorge. The full loop is a 14km round trip through mountain forest and protea grassland that will take you from Tendele Camp along the Thukela River and into the iconic Amphitheater. For some real inspiration, check out the Drakensberg Grand Traverse.

Rustenberg

About 100km from Gauteng (well within day-trip range), in the hills above the town of Rustenburg, lies the Kgaswane Nature Reserve. It offers some spectacular trail running on various loops. The trails don’t see a lot of foot traffic and are well-marked and maintained. There are various options, from the 5km Peglarae Trail to the 19km Baviaans or the 25km Summit Trail. The running features some technical climbs and descents with a big percentage of singletrack. The reward for all the huffing and puffing is some amazing views of the Magaliesberg Mountain Range.

Mpumalanga

Best Trails To Run In South Africa
The scenery around Sabie, Graskop and Pilgrims Rest (c) Mac Mac Ultra

Home to the Mac Mac Ultra, the historic area between Sabie, Graskop and Pilgrims Rest offers trail runners near endless options. The area has a range of trails that cover a variety of terrain from smooth forestry roads to steep, rocky climbs (and descents) lots of mud and beautiful forest single tracks. Gold was discovered in the area in 1872 which triggered the first gold rush in South Africa. Many of the trails in the area pass by relics from these early days of mining. The Fanie Botha Trail is perhaps the most well-known and takes in all of the iconic sites in the region, including Lone Creek and Mac Mac Falls – both national monuments. This multi-day trail also features some epic Drakensberg escarpment views. Stay tuned for a guide on ‘how to pack for a multi-day adventure’ soon.

For more epic trails to run in 2023, checkout this list of some of our favourite National Park trails.