The quint little town of Clarens, tucked away between some sand stone mountains, has everything to offer when it comes to weekend breakaways. Gravel roads, large trees, fresh air, cold mornings and the odd African snow experience creates every opportunity to enjoy nature’s elements at day and light the fireplace at night.
There’s coffee to die for, take your pick. Pizzas are not just perfect by name, they talk by their taste. You can also have your own little beer festival or go pub crawling all year round. My favorite though, the old-fashioned breakfasts at the Artist’s Cafe on the corner, especially the farm style “krummelpap” they serve. Add sugar, warm milk and grated cheese to create perfection.
Now you might not understand why I’m plodding on about the delicious food when you’re not on Gordan Ramsay’s show, but the fact of the matter is when you want to properly enjoy the trails you’ll need some fuel in your system, and when you’re done, well, there’s no better reward than a moral reward. Go for it, have that cheesecake, slobber that milk tart, down that milkshake or sip on those espressos, whatever floats your boat. It is essential (in my non-scientific opinion) to boost the moral and have some fun out there.
Enough with the food, pack your essentials, fill up your bottles and let’s get down to the trails.
I’ve visited Clarens on various occasions in the past, mostly for organised cycling events, so I knew they had stunning scenery and lovely routes, but I needed to see what the town had to offer on a “normal” weekend when no race organisers were involved. I was pleasantly surprised.
I stumbled upon well-marked routes that were properly maintained, fun, scenic, tough and rewarding. I was welcomed by plenty of cows, hikers and the odd foreign trail runner, but not at one stage did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable. It was lovely running around Clarens. I’ve also used this opportunity to test some ultra-running gear and nutrition and found the trails to be fit for purpose as there were no water stops along the way.
Large stretches of sandstone is what you’ll find on the plateaus around Clarens, linked with soft single track contour trails to give your legs a bit of a break. As beautiful as these sandstone formations are, you don’t want to be running on them too often as they don’t offer any respite. The trails between them are used by mountain bikers which means they are quite flowing. The cows (animals, not the aunties) also use these trails for general fitness purposes so expect to have a bit of a fright when you run at pace along the twists and turns and suddenly encounter a four legged beast around a blind corner. It’s like the internal traffic police.
The list below highlights the various trail options available;
Short and Sweet Starters (Easy)
- Maluti View (0.8 kilometers)
- Kloof Dam Walk (1.2 kilometers)
- Leucosidea Trail (2.2 kilometers)
- Scilla Walk (2.5 kilometers)
- Spruit Walk (2.5 kilometers)
Tea Time Trails (Easy-ish)
- Mallen Walk (1.3 kilometers)
- Titanic Walk (2 kilometers)
- Porcupine Trail (3.5 kilometers)
Main Course (Moderate)
- Sky Contour Path (3.4km)
- Caracal Contour (5.4km)
From reading this you’ll soon realize that the trails are rather short, and although the altitude of 2000 meters above sea level you will have to combine a number of these to activate a proper workout. A weekend provides just about the perfect time frame to explore these trails but for anything longer you’ll have to add Golden Gate into the mix where you’ll find challenging routes with lots of climbing.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the trails were maintained even though I visited them on a random weekend. The sense of nature loving individuals came to mind, people caring for the environment.
My weekend in numbers
23 kilometers with 529 meters of elevation gained peaking at an altitude of just over 2100 meters above sea level.
10.9 anti-clockwise kilometers with 288 meters of elevation gained peaking at an altitude of around 2000 meters above sea level.
That’s a wrap
Clarens is one of those perfect little weekend getaway spots that certainly won’t disappoint even when running is one of the last things on your mind. Whether you lite the fireplace when it’s cold, grab a book or just relax you’ll strengthen the moral in one way or another.
These well maintained trails at altitude certainly offer some beautiful scenery and packs a bit of a punch when combined with others. Staying longer than just a weekend? No problem, there’s Golden Gate about 20 kilometers away where you won’t necessarily find the oxygen you’re looking for but the challenging routes will humble your boredom.
One last clue for if all else fails; Golden Gate’s scenic route is what I refer to as cycling heaven.