Cycling the Helshoogte Pass
Did you know?
Translated into English, Helshoogte means 'hell's heights'.
The Helshoogte Pass cycling route, which was originally built in 1854 and most recently upgraded in 2010, offers a safe and scenic way to explore the area round Stellenbosch, South Africa’s second-oldest town.
This cyling route links Stellenbosch to the R45 road between Franschhoek and Paarl.
The scenery along this route includes the Cape Winelands, Simonsberg, Jonkershoek, Drakenstein and Stellenbosch Berg Mountains that tower majestically above the green valley below.
The scenic little town of Pniel is one of the route highlights, home to historic wine farms, such as Boschendal Winery.
The farms in this region were established by French Huguenots from 1688 and are characterised by classic Cape Dutch architecture.
While the climb up Helshoogte Pass is fairly steep in some sections, the view from the top is very rewarding and the descent is a breeze.
Near the top of Helshoogte Pass is the Thelema Mountain Vineyards, a fruit and wine farm that is situated approximately 640m above sea level. This estate can be visited between 9am and 5pm during the week, as well as between 10am and 3pm on Saturdays.
Other estates riders might like to visit include the Hillcrest Berry Orchards, a popular breakfast venue, as well as Tokara, which is well known for its wine-tasting room.
You can hire mountain bikes from Bonga’s Mountain Bike Hire in Stellenbosch, which is located at the Stumble Inn Backpackers.
Bicycles can also be hired in Cape Town from operators such as Bike and Saddle, Downhill Adventures and Cape Town Cycle Hire.
Helshoogte Pass features in several top South African cycling competitions, such as the annual Die Burger Cycling Tour, which usually takes place in May.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)21 487 8600
Bonga’s Mountain Bike Hire at the Stumble Inn Backpapckers
Tel: +27 (0)21 887-4049
How to get here
You can start the route from the base of Helshoogte Pass, just outside Stellenbosch, which is approximately 52km from Cape Town, mainly along the N1. Alternatively, join Helshoogte Pass from the R45 between Franschhoek and Paarl.
Best time to visit
If you prefer cycling in cooler weather, use this route between April and Ocotber.
What will it cost
It is free to cycle Helshoogte Pass. You can hire a mountain bike from Bonga’s Mountain Bike Hire for R150 per day, or R30 per hour.
Where to stay
If you are looking for luxury accommodation, you may wish to consider Majeka House – www.majekahouse.co.za. If you are on a budget, Stumble Inn Backpackers in Stellenbosch offer beds from R100 per person per night.