Trail Destination: Jonkershoek Valley

April 24, 2019

Welcome to the first installment in our whenever-we-feel-like-it blog! The Journal is a place for us to share our thoughts, news and everything in between. Get involved, get in touch and engage with us. We love hearing your thoughts.

I thought it would be apt to start this off where the true origin of our company lies: the Jonkershoek valley. Being able to go to university in Stellenbosch is a special thing; having a space like Jonkershoek where you can escape for a quick afternoon or enjoy a full day adventure and feel completely in the wilderness, is absolutely incredible. It is only when you don't have access to something like this do you realize how awesome this place is and what an integral part of your life it becomes. Having a place where you can go to reset, replenish and focus on only the next rock in the trail is super special. Naturally, I spent a lot of my time over four years in Stellenbosch in this valley, often with my brother, Luke. It was a source of a lot of the ideas that formed into the brand that is Westpeak today. 

This is the first feature in a mini series we're calling Trail Destinations. The plan is to feature and try highlight some of the best (and sometimes relatively unknown) places around South Africa where you can go to get your dose of trail stoke. Without further adieu...



Trail Destination: Jonkershoek Valley
Stellenbosch South Africa
33°58'08.2"S 18°56'05.5"E

The Jonkershoek mountains form part of the larger Boland mountain range. High in the upper parts of the valley, the Lourens, Eerste, Riviersonderend and Berg rivers all have their sources, though only the Eerste river flows through the valley itself. 

In March 2015, the valley was devastated by a large wild fire which burnt the majority of the valley and the timber on it. Since then, the timber has been largely felled and a renewed drive to make Jonkershoek a world-class trail destination has been established. Alongside the forestry partner, MTO as well as Specialized South Africa, a tariff has been introduced and professional trail builders, Hylton Turvey and Bennet Nel have combined to revamp Jonkershoek to its former, pre-fire glory.

The vision for Jonkershoek is to have multiple 'trail-heads' which have various different routes stemming from them. Currently, there are three main trail heads. On the Northern side of the valley there is the Saaltjie trail head and the Point trail head. On the Southern side, the Quarry trail head. 

Saaltjie Trail Head
One of the infamous climbs to the top parts of the valley, Saaltjie was traditionally the route up on the northern contour path jeep tracks to get to just below the saddle. Stemming from this trail head is the new descent: Armageddon (Difficult level). You can take Armageddon all the way down to the jeep track above Lower Canary, or you can go off onto one of the linking trails, Iron Monkey (Expert level), or Zululand (Difficult level) which is lower down. With a short jeep track linking section, all of these can lead onto Lower Canary (Easy level) which takes you back to the gate. Below is the upper section of Armageddon and the new Zululand Trail. (Source: MTO Trails Facebook Page)

  



The Point Trail Head
Also on the Northern side of the valley is the Point trail head. It is near the top waterfall on that side of the valley - a great spot to refill water bottles! Three trails lead from here, each to match a rider's ability. One of the first 'new' trails built after the fires was the Red Phoenix Trail (Difficult level). The descent takes you across three contour paths right down to the bottom circular jeep track where you can choose to head back towards the gate or towards the end of the valley. The trail includes some exciting drops, berms and jumps on the lower sections that will get the blood pumping and the stoke flying - its a damn good time. Next is The Plumber (Expert level). To set the tone for the trail, you have to be able to clear a decent drop with a gap right off the bat. If you don't feel you can make that - don't try ride the rest, it won't be fun! Finally, one of the oldest and most popular trails in the valley: Neverending Story (Moderate level). It takes you to the Eastern-most part of the valley that is accessible on a bike. The descent is gradual in most parts with a few tricky switchbacks and rocky sections on the lower sections to keep you on your toes.
Below is the Red Phoenix and The Plumber trails - enjoy! (Source: MTO Trails Facebook Page)


 

The Quarry Trail Head
The Southern side of the valley has slightly less ride-able terrain and only one trail head: The Quarry! Coming from the gate, you take the right fork and head up on a jeep track climb that passes you just under the Fire Hut. From there, you can either climb up further onto a single track contour which takes you along the valley towards the quarry (back towards the gate) or carry on along the jeep track. The contour single track is marked as difficult and has a steep drop off to your right hand side in some sections. I have also personally come across three puffies on this particular trail - keep your eyes peeled! If you choose this route, you get a slightly longer descent with an extra section above the contour road - beware the steep switchback! Fire Hut 2 and 3 follow after the first contour road, both marked as Difficult. The trail takes you right back down to the jeep track you climbed up on. 

If you are looking for more riding on this side, or something a bit more manageable, you can stay on the lower contour roads and head towards the end of the valley. To the left you will find a Moderate trail: Bos Luis which takes you down onto the circular jeep track.
Below, Fire Hut (section 2). (Source: MTO Trails Facebook Page)

 

 Aside from mountain biking, there are a number of hiking trails which access parts of the reserve you can't get to on your mountain bike. Some of these include:

  • Swartboskloof to Sosyskloof (5.3km to 6.9km - route depending)
  • Swartboskloof Trail (18km)
  • Panorama Circuit (17km)
  • Tweede Waterval (6.4km)

 

The work that goes into clearing, building and maintaining trails like this is enormous. The section of trail that you fly past in a few seconds probably took hours to clear and build. Support the hard work, commitment and passion that's gone into making Jonkershoek the destination it is today - don't rogue ride. Trail pass for the day is R50 (payable via Zapper, Snapscan, Credit Card or on the myMTO app - NO cash) or for the year is R500. 

 



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Size Guide

 

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Ride Shorts Sizing

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