CLOSEST TOWN > Harrismith TRAIL DESTINATION > Platberg Nature Reserve DISTANCE > Self-guided 45km circuit GRADING > Difficult to Extreme
The Platberg, the Free State’s own “Table Mountain”, overlooks the town of Harrismith. Literally meaning the flat-mountain, the 2 377-metre high inselberg is an eastern Free State landmark and forms an imposing backdrop to the town.
This route forms part of the Dirty Harry MTB Classic held every year in October and follows dirt roads, concrete strips and jeep tracks.
On your bike
Platberg Mountain has always announced to travelers that they are either well on the way down to the coast or nearing Gauteng. It is a timeless landmark brooding over the provincial border between the free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. The busy N3 toll road down to Durban and the small town of Harrismith are clustered at its feet.
This monolithic, flat-topped mountain, which soars to 2,394m above sea level, has a unique ecosystem at the top. This acts as a giant sponge, absorbing rainfall which seeps down and finally flows off sheer cliffs and kloofs as mountain streams and waterfalls. From the gentler lower slopes, it is a gradual climb to the foot of Donkey’s Pass.
Consisting of two concrete strips, this radical 3 km ascent will force race snakes into granny gear, while mere mortals will push their bikes. When you look back from the top, this pass beautifully frames the glittering Sterkfontein Dam and Drakensberg Mountains. It is possible to ride left along the top surrounded by incredible views but this jeep track is difficult to find from the pass and you may choose some dead ends initially. To the right of Donkey’s Pass there is the small Gibson Dam and the sheer cliffs facing Van Reenen.
The good news is that the descent off Platberg is easy to find, as it is near a prominent, illuminated crucifix. The bad news is that you’ll have to carry your bike down the eroded, rocky zigzag footpath down. An easier ride would be to go straight past Donkey’s Pass, cycling parallel to the cliffs. This contour road is still high enough to have excellent views.
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