Pretty streams, amazing rocks and killer views are waiting to be explored in the heart of Mpumalanga’s Panorama region.
The Fairyland Trails, also known as the Jock of the Bushveld Trails, has been beautifully rehabilitated by the Graskop Gorge Lift Co in partnership with the town’s conservancy, a community-based voluntary organisation committed to promoting the area’s amazing biodiversity.
A 9.72km walking and running trail, 9.93km mountain bike route and 5km parkrun held every Saturday enable people to explore this beautiful section of the Drakensberg escarpment.
Graskop Gorge Lift Co has built bridges over the streams and cleared the paths, making Fairyland an appealing option for people looking to make the most of the Lowveld’s natural beauty.
Secure parking is offered at Graskop Gorge Lift Co, which also has clean restrooms and a restaurant and bar, called the Life Café, where snacks can be purchased and a meal or cold beer enjoyed.
“We have designed and printed useful maps which contain interesting information about the trails and clearly show the routes available,” says Graskop Gorge Lift Co director Campbell Scott.
“The maps are sold for R30 each and this money goes directly to the Graskop Conservancy to help fund the good work that they do. The rehabilitated trails and maps are our contribution to promoting and protecting the spectacular gorge and its surrounds,” he says.
The circular Fairyland Trails take you through montane grasslands and forest patches. Grasslands are the second largest but one of the most endangered biomes in South Africa because most have been destroyed by agriculture, forestry and mining.
“Those that remain must be looked after,” says Campbell. “Grasslands are home to over 3 800 plant species and several reptile, mammal and bird species.”
Unique sandstone formations, dating back some 2.6 million years, can be found on the Fairyland Trails, including the Sentinels, a group of striking quarteite ‘figures’. Beyond the Sentinels is the Fairyland forest – make sure to look for forest birds.
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and his dog, Jock of the Bushveld, spent much time in this wilderness area in the 1880s and Fitzpatrick’s overnight camp, Paradise Camp, is thought to have been located at the site of the cemetery, near the start of the trail
The hiking trail is mostly easy, while the mountain bike trail – which has a total ascent of 338 metres – is early to moderate. Pack a picnic and refreshments for a lovely day out. Take photos – the Sentinels are really impressive – and have a swim in the reservoir or dam along the way.
Please remember to stick to the trails and not damage or collect any plants. Take your litter away with you and keep noise to a minimum so you and other users can listen to the streams bubbling over rocks and the calls of the many birds.
The Jock Trail Parkrun is a weekly, timed 5km run that takes place every Saturday at 7am in summer and 8am in winter, starting and finishing at the Graskop stables. While entry is free, you do need to pre-register at https://www.parkrun.co.za/jocktrail/
For more information about Graskop Gorge Lift Co and its viewing lift, forest walk, Big Swing and ziplines, go to the website gglc.co.za.