If you're a runner living in this beautiful country there is no doubt that the call to run trail burns deep inside you. We can all agree that we are spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a route that will blow our minds (and test our legs). To make your life a little easier, we asked a few Altra runners to list us trail routes that are special to their hearts.
Quarry Short Loop - Petrus de Klerk
When answering the loaded question of what my favourite trail route is, I immediately think of only one route – the “Quarry Short Loop” as like to call it. This particular section of trail starts (and ends – hence the “Loop”) at the end of Chelmsford Road in Vredehoek and was where I was originally introduced to trail running about four years ago.
The route itself consists of about 6km of mostly jeep track with about 350m of elevation gain, starting with a short, sharp climb of about 400m (aptly nicknamed “Sting” on Strava) after which it continues upwards towards Table Mountain Rd to around the 2.5km mark. At this point (the start of the second part of the “loop”) you make a right and start a short, technical section down a dry riverbed where you can very easily twist an ankle on a bad day but just as easily fly down on a good day. At the botto
m of the river bed you make a right and will start heading back towards the start of the route via a super chilled section of winding jeep track followed by a quick climb through a small pine plantation.
Once out of the pine plantation you will find yourself back on the original “out” section and by now it is mainly downhill all the way back, including the dreaded “Sting” in reverse to test just how confident you are in your ability to “low-fly” home.
While not the most challenging or spectacular trail in Cape Town, it is where the trail bug originally bit me and will therefore always have a special place in my heart. It is also a relatively safe route where you will normally see other trail users (bikers, walker, runners and dogs) out. I have used this section to introduce a couple of people to trail running and will hopefully use it to introduce at least a couple more in the future.
Traversing the Mulanje Mountain Porters Race loop - Martin Kleynhans
I have been lucky to work on a project in Malawi over the last two years close to an amazing mountain called Mulanje. Mulanje is very special, having several peaks close to or over 3000 m in altitude and a fantastic trail and hut network. Last July I had a free Saturday and headed out to the mountain and went on a wonderful solo run across this unique place. I was hoping to bag Sapitwa, the highest peak but the cloud came in and the route is apparently hard to find over difficult terrain so I left that for a future mission. But what I did do was a version of the Mulanje Mountain Porter’s Race route (with some extra trails thrown in), which is an annual race held for Malawians and especially the local people and porters who work on the mountain. The trail is 23 km long with 1600 m of elevation gain and long sections are very technical and with spectacular views, especially the massive descent off Lichenya Plateau to the finish line. The local runners do it in as little as two hours, many of them barefoot! I think many of them could put our elites to shame and are truly inspirational. One day I hope to be able to participate in this event which is held annually in July.
(A detailed route description of this and many other amazing trails on the mountain are included in the recently published Hiking Guide to Mount Mulanje which can be downloaded for free from the Mountain Club of Malawi home page: http://www.mcm.org.mw/).
Mont Rochelle - Julian Atkinson
I think everyone has those routes that no matter how many times you run them they never become boring. For me, it must be the Perdekop – Du Toit Kop loop in Mont Rochelle nature reserve, Franschhoek. It is about 16kms long with over 1000m of climbing. Mont Rochelle is a beautiful reserve with an array of plant and animal life, streams and some impressive views – it is never a dull run! The trail consists of some steep sections and some more runnable sections. Running this trail I get a chance to do everything: build climbing strength, work on my downhill skills and get in some good technical running… more importantly it’s just an awesome trail to spend a few hours on, whether you’re training for something or not!
Cape Point - Karoline Hanks
I have so many favourites, but perhaps one of my best trail outings starts just beyond the entrance gate at Cape Point. I park the car at the Smitswinkel view point car park and take the single track that forms part of the Hoerikwaggo Trail. It’s wonderfully technical and (to coin a horribly over-used term), suitably GNARLY. The views down to Smitswinkel Bay are always breathtaking. You wheeze and pant up some challenging hills, starting with Judas Peak then Paulsberg. A small breather at the ancient canon atop Kanonkop and then a lovely gentle jaunt down towards the Buffelsfontein Visitor’s Centre. I then continue along the HT with Buffels Bay to my left, through some magical fynbos, up the final hill (Vasco Da Gama Peak) and then down to mingle with the herds of tourists and buses in the car park. I sometimes fill up with a quick coke or coffee and then hit the road back towards the gate on the t*r. At the Gifkommetjie turn off, I swing a left and then hit the jaunty little jeep track that takes one through some beautiful flat restio fields and marshy land, often coming across ostrich, bontebok, tortoises and baboons. At the Olifantsbos Link Road, I cross over onto the Rooihoogte range – enjoying a final foray in some beautiful pristine fynbos, which pops me back onto the main road and to my car.
A good solid 24 kays or more….
Devils Peak - William Leslie
Since moving to the high slopes of Vredehoek, my “usual” running route has changed dramatically. I can now easily run some of the best trails of Table Mountain from my doorstep – this helps substantially considering the Cape Town traffic. My go to run at the moment is Devils Peak via Mowbray Ridge. This short run of about 14km includes a vertical kilometre of climbing as well as a rewarding 360 degree view from the city bowl all the way around to False Bay. During a tough week of work, this is a perfect escape from reality and a true micro adventure. It includes a quality scramble, some flat fast running along the contour path as well as some tricky descents from the top of Devil Peak back down towards Tafelberg Road. (Disclaimer: This probably wouldn’t be the greatest route for runners who are anxious of heights).
Lions Head - Shaun "GeeZa" Gregory
For one of my favourite routes I’m going back to where I first fell in love with trail, Lions Head.
Not interested in the crowded sunsets I’ll always head there for a before work sunrise, pushing myself on the climb up, a good gauge of where my climbing legs are at.
Then watch a new day break as the sun peers over devils peak, ahhhhh this never gets old or boring.
Then it’s fun time on the descent faster and faster and if time allows I’ll fit in some technical trails on signal hill and faster running around the base of lions head with amazing views around every corner!