Iconic Trails To Run This Heritage Month

by | Sep 21, 2023 | Where To Run, Featured, Run

We’re blessed with a wealth of easily accessible trails for trail running within day trip range from most major centres. But when you go a little further, the possibilities open up even more.


Trail Running Trails On The Otter Trail
Otter Trail, Tsitsikamma National Park

One could argue that South Africa boasts one of its most renowned trails, known for its demanding 41-kilometre course along the picturesque Garden Route. This trail will lead you through coastal woodlands, across river crossings, and up to breathtaking cliff-edge vantage points. Its exclusivity adds to the allure – it’s runnable only during the challenging ‘Grail of Trail’ race or, if you jump on the waiting list and book your slot on the five-day hike. Those who have had the privilege of running it, can attest to its exceptional nature. However, there is an opportunity for anyone to experience a segment of this trail, approximately 8 kilometres long, extending from Storms River to the waterfall and back, which remains open year-round.


The 13 Peaks Challenge was conceived by Cape Town’s favourite trail-running son, Ryan Sandes. After years of running the mountains of his backyard for training and pleasure, ‘Hedgie’ wanted to loop together the finest peaks in Cape Town into a single trail. Make no mistake, this is an adventure (not to be taken lightly). It is not a race but rather an opportunity to explore the stunning wilderness mountain areas of the Cape Peninsula. Whether you choose to hike or run it, takes two days or even months to complete, the most important aspect is to enjoy the experience. Watch Matt Healy’s attempt at a personal best, below:


Trail Running
Emma Eikenaar / Pexels

The Drakensberg Grand Traverse is the pinnacle of hiking experiences in the Drakensberg Mountains. This arduous journey spans roughly 220 kilometres from the Sentinel car park in the north to the Bushman’s Nek Border Post in the south. Completing this trek typically takes a strong hiker between six to ten days. In 2014, Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel established the Fastest Known Time (FKT) record for this route at 41 hours and 49 minutes. While you may not be planning to tackle the entire route, you can still explore shorter day trails starting from the Royal Natal National Park in the northern Drakensberg region. These trails are well-mapped and marked, ranging from shorter excursions to destinations like McKinley’s Pool or the Cascades to more strenuous adventures leading to the Mahai Falls or Thukela Gorge. One such option is a 14-kilometre round trip that guides you through mountain forests and protea grasslands, commencing at Tendele Camp, meandering along the Thukela River, and culminating beneath the awe-inspiring Amphitheatre.


Situated approximately 100 kilometres from Gauteng, within the hills overlooking the town of Rustenburg, lies the Kgaswane Nature Reserve, an area offering splendid opportunities for trail running. Kgaswane Nature Reserve is known for its stunning natural beauty, featuring rolling hills, rocky outcrops, lush vegetation and diverse wildlife. The reserve offers a serene and picturesque backdrop for trail running, making it a favourite spot for Gauteng city residents looking to connect with nature while enjoying their run. The reserve provides a network of well-maintained trails suitable for various fitness levels and preferences. These trails vary in length and difficulty, allowing both beginners and experienced trail runners to find routes that match their abilities.


Trail Runners Under The Wolfberg Arch, Cederberg
Trail runners under the Wolfberg Arch, Cederberg

A mere three-hour drive from Cape Town, you’ll encounter a vast mountain range known as Cederberg. To some, it appears as an endless expanse of trails for running, an unexpected revelation. The Cederberg Mountains provide an incredibly diverse range of terrain for trail runners. You can expect everything from rocky trails to sandy paths, river crossings, and steep ascents. The rugged terrain adds an extra challenge and excitement to your runs. Learn more about the area here.

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