Swellendam Mountain Bike and eBike Rides

We’ve often driven past Swellendam, nestled between the N2 highway and the glorious Langeberg Mountains. It’s always looked quite pleasant and we’ve stopped off for coffee once or twice, but simply had no idea what an amazing little town it was until we recently spent a few days there. It turns out to be quite a spot for some wonderful mountain biking, both on the mountains slopes behind the town and in the nearby Bontebok National Park.

Swellendam is the third oldest town in South Africa, after Cape Town and Stellenbosch, and has a population of around 17 500 people. It’s about 220km east of Cape Town and has a mild Mediterranean climate - long, dry summer days and cool to cold, wet winter months, snow sometimes occurring on the peaks of the Langeberg. Bontebok National Park (established to protect the once endangered bontebok antelope) is just across the N2 and Marloth Nature Reserve is just to the north of the town on the mountain slopes. There are many beautiful, historic homes in the leafy suburbs and more restaurants than you could shake a stick at. All in all, a delightful little place.

A Riverbed Guesthouse - that water was chilly but very welcome after a hot ride.

A Riverbed Guesthouse - that water was chilly but very welcome after a hot ride.

The rooms at A Riverbed Guesthouse - all very comfortable and spacious.

The rooms at A Riverbed Guesthouse - all very comfortable and spacious.

Day 1

We arrived at our lovely accommodation with friends Bruce and Sharon, and Roger and Lesley (newcomers to ebiking and sporting brand new Specialized Turbo Levo Comp bikes) in the early afternoon, all raring to get out on the trails and do some riding. A Riverbed Guesthouse is in a quiet cul de sac and offers awesome accommodation, the four rooms leading out onto a wooden deck and swimming pool. At the bottom of the large garden is a beautifully equipped braai area and it’s here that we spent all but 1 of the 4 evenings of our stay. The rooms are large and comfortable, and have adequate self catering facilities. Hostess, Melani Jordaan is a star!

We had decided on a short ride to Marloth Nature Reserve just to clear out the cobwebs as it were. Now, understand that Swellendam is built on the side of a mountain so wherever you go, there’s an uphill involved - some of them quite steep. Thank heavens for ebikes! We rode through the suburbs, heading for the Cape Nature office at Marloth Nature Reserve and decided on a short out and back ride. There is a R50.00 per person permit fee and off we went, the scenery awe inspiring and the going easy - well, easy if you discount the hill climbing. The forestry road was superb and we reveled in the awesome mountain biking, looking forward to 4 days of this sort of riding.


Such incredible views of the Langeberg Mountains - what a beautiful place to ride.

Such incredible views of the Langeberg Mountains - what a beautiful place to ride.

The forestry road takes you through grasslands and fynbos to commercial forestry plantations.

The forestry road takes you through grasslands and fynbos to commercial forestry plantations.

There are many little side roads, tracks and trails to explore.

There are many little side roads, tracks and trails to explore.

We arrived back at A Riverbed just as it was getting dark - a great little ride under our belts. You can either retrace the route back through town or do a little exploring on your own. There are plenty of roads, tracks and trails to explore and it’s quite difficult to get lost - downhill eventually takes you back into town.

Heads up:

If you’re keen to do a bit of exploring on your own, there are a number of free municipal trails all beautifully marked and signposted. Note! See more info on these trails on the Day 2 ride.

Route Distance: About 16km depending on your route back to town.

Route conditions: Tar roads in town, smooth gravel roads in the forests to the dam. If you head into the nature reserve, you will need a permit from the Cape Nature Offices at Marloth Nature Reserve.

A Riverbed Guesthouse

GPS: S -34° 00.784’ E 20° 27.313'


Google Maps: https://g.page/ariverbedguesthouse?share

Marloth Nature Reserve

GPS: S -34° 00.361' E 20° 26.404’

Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/wotzmmzMMWr2N6Dn9

Download the GPS track from A Riverbed Guesthouse.

Download the GPS track from the Marloth Nature Reserve Gate.

Screenshot-2022-04-14-at-17 24 42

Day 2

The morning dawned grey, misty and cool, condensation dripping from the trees and shrubs in the garden and there were no thoughts at all about taking a swim in the gorgeous pool just metres away from our room. There was not much thought about riding either but, in any case we needed to head to the supermarket for provisions - the idea was to braai next to the river that evening, taking advantage of the wonderful facilities at the guesthouse.

On our walk into town we noticed 2 relevant things. The first was the location of Swellendam Cycleworx, a really helpful bunch of guys that provided lots of cycling information. The second thing was the information boards about the “free” mountain bike trails around town. There are four main trails - red, green, blue and yellow, and then a number of others, from a short kiddies ride to those that are a little longer and more challenging. Download the red, green, blue and yellow tracks here and you can download the others and read more info here. We chose to ride the blue route - on the map it seemed quite rideable and, at 21km, was about the right length.

Well, not so much. Generally, we’ve come to accept that green routes are for beginners - easy riding, with not much in the way of technical skills required. Blue - a little longer, a little more technical - a little more skill required while a red route would be for the experienced rider and black, well, enter at your own risk. The Swellendam colour coding seems to be more a measure of endurance and length rather than the usual measure of the technical attributes of the ride, and so the blue route that we choose was a little too technical for some of us in our group. We may, of course, have this all wrong but do be aware that these trails may require more technical single track riding skills that may be initially apparent.

Good mates, mountain bikes, a wonderful place to ride... Oh, and sundowners! Just bliss! (Photo by Lesley Kohne)

Good mates, mountain bikes, a wonderful place to ride... Oh, and sundowners! Just bliss! (Photo by Lesley Kohne)

Our bikes taking a breather while we enjoy sundowners. (Photo by Lesley Kohne)

Our bikes taking a breather while we enjoy sundowners. (Photo by Lesley Kohne)

Anyway, that afternoon we set off on the blue route and immediately ran into problems - a series of switchbacks (some of us called them something else but, seeing that this website is for general use, we won’t mention what here) which, while not something you’d be stressed out at on the Cape Epic, were a bit more technical than originally thought. Pushing was required. And again soon afterwards. Eventually, for the sake of domestic and group bliss, we abandoned the blue route and made our own way up into the mountains, ending up at a glorious dam were we we enjoyed sundowners and snacks.

We thoroughly enjoyed the ride in spite of the unhappiness at the start. The track below excludes the initial part of the ride with all the %^#^backs and, once you get into the forestry areas - follow your nose - there are a whole pile of tracks and trails to explore.

Last light falling on the glorious Langeberg Mountains. (Photo by Lesley Kohne)

Last light falling on the glorious Langeberg Mountains. (Photo by Lesley Kohne)

Route Distance: About 9km for the section we did, but you can easily add to this - just explore one of the many tracks up there.

Route conditions: Tar roads in town, smooth gravel forestry roads in the forests. There is quite a bit of climbing (some quite steep) and we did about 390m of climbing. You will need a permit from the Cape Nature Offices at Marloth Nature Reserve.

Download our day 2 ride GPS track here.

A Riverbed Guesthouse

GPS: S -34° 00.784’ E 20° 27.313'


Google Maps: https://g.page/ariverbedguesthouse?share

Marloth Nature Reserve

GPS: S -34° 00.361' E 20° 26.404’

Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/wotzmmzMMWr2N6Dn9


Day 2 Map

Day 3

Another cloudy start to the day and it was actually quite chilly as we loaded the bikes onto the racks for the drive to Bontebok National Parka few kilometres away. I must say that we were very impressed with the staff at Bontebok - all friendly and professional and most welcoming. Nice! A bonus was that we discovered a copy of one of our very early coffee table books (The Big Cats of MalaMala) in reception and Faniso, the guy on duty at the time, had us autograph it!

Bontebok National Park, just to the south of Swellendam, was established in 1931 to protect the then very endangered bontebok antelope. At just under 2 800ha it’s the smallest of South Africa’s national parks. It can only sustain 200 animals, all derived from the original population of 61 animals transferred there in 1961. Interestingly enough the existing population of 2 500 - 3 000 bontebok found elsewhere also stem from these original individuals.

The Breede River at the Bontebok National Park - so still and calm.

The Breede River at the Bontebok National Park - so still and calm.

The 4X4 route was just a bit bumpy - nothing to worry about.

The 4X4 route was just a bit bumpy - nothing to worry about.

We were soon on our bikes, heading out on the Sungazer Mountain Bike Trail. At just 12 km it seemed a little short so we added an additional loop around the eastern part of the park that included the 4X4 trail and we ended up riding about 32km.

For the most part, you’re on the park’s gravel road system although there is a short bit of tar. There is a shortish section of two-track on the Sungazer Trail but, in spite of the stony surface in places it’s still very rideable. Less experienced riders may need to get off and push occasionally but, I guess, that’s just part of the ride.

On the climb up to the view site where we had tea - the gorgeous Langeberg in the background.

On the climb up to the view site where we had tea - the gorgeous Langeberg in the background.

Once endangered, bontebok are now quite plentiful and we saw quite a few while riding the Sungazer Trail.

Once endangered, bontebok are now quite plentiful and we saw quite a few while riding the Sungazer Trail.

We had some very good sightings of bontebok, red hartebeest, Cape mountain zebra and a couple of black harriers. Views along the Breede River and from various points in the park are beautiful. This is one of the “must do” rides if you find yourself in Swellendam.

Route Distance: The Sungazer Trail is about 12 km and the ride we did about 32km.

Route conditions: Tar roads for a very short section, otherwise good gravel and stony, rocky sections on the 4X4 route. There are a couple of climbs but nothing to worry about.

Bontebok National Park Reception

GPS: S -34° 03.556' E 20° 25.850’

Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/LdvDezk9Zfkhq6VB7

A Riverbed Guesthouse

GPS: S -34° 00.784’ E 20° 27.313'


Google Maps: https://g.page/ariverbedguesthouse?share

Download the GPS track of Sungazer Trail.

Download the GPS track of the 32km ride we did.


Day 3 Map

Day 4

We poured over maps, searched the internet for routes and looked again at the Swellendam Blue Route on the notice boards around town. It occurred to us that if we combined some of them, excluding the technical bits and including the more rideable sections (for all in our group) we’d end up with quite a nice route.

And that's surely why we ride...

And that's surely why we ride...

Off we went, once again cranking up the hill towards Marloth Nature Reserve, following the track on my GPS. We skirted the Nature Reserve, circled the golf course and then headed north out of town on the Hermitage Road. After a few kilometres we followed the GPS track to the right, climbing what looked like a steep firebreak road that ended in a stile. Over we went - some riding it, the more cautious of us (some would say more sensible) electing to push over it. Now on Marloth property we wound our way on some rough tracks - a little overgrown but still rideable - before popping out at the entrance gate to Marloth. A lovely ride, which can easily be extended by adding the shorter part of of the Day 1 ride.

The stile is trickier than it looks - pushing may be a better option if you are unsure.

The stile is trickier than it looks - pushing may be a better option if you are unsure.

GPS to the rescue as we try to find a route through the trees. (Photo by Lesley Kohne)

GPS to the rescue as we try to find a route through the trees. (Photo by Lesley Kohne)

Route Distance: About 18 km.

Route conditions: Tar roads in town and then mostly good unpaved roads and tracks in the forestry areas. There are a few overgrown sections and a stile that needs to be negotiated. You will need a permit from the Cape Nature Offices at Marloth Nature Reserve.

A Riverbed Guesthouse

GPS: S -34° 00.784’ E 20° 27.313'


Google Maps: https://g.page/ariverbedguesthouse?share

Marloth Nature Reserve

GPS: S -34° 00.361' E 20° 26.404’

Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/wotzmmzMMWr2N6Dn9

Download the GPS track of Sungazer Trail.

Day 4 Map