If you’re ever in the Knysna area and looking for a solid, but absolutely spectacular trail run, then visit the Millwood Goldfields, explore the many trails & run the Circles In A Forest Trail.
With the Circles In A Forest trail only 9km long, I suggest you park at the Millwood Tea Garden, the only building left in what is now a ghost town in the old Millwood Goldfields. From here, follow the forestry gravel roads back down the way you drove till you reach the start of the Circles In A Forest Trail, at Krisjan Se Nek picnic site. This route was previously known as the Woodcutter’s Trail but was renamed after the famous Afrikaans author, Dalene Matthee, during the unveiling of her memorial.
From here you’re on some of the most breath taking single tracks the Knysna Forest has to offer, but if you thought a forest would be relatively easy and flat, you’re in for a surprise. With the single track covered in moss ridden roots, fallen trees, and steep little ups & downs, it’s really quite taxing on not only the body, but also the mind as you have to concentrate a 100% of the time.
There is also the very real possibility of stumbling upon a few patches of elephant dung en route, and this doesn’t help to calm the nerves either, as that eerie feeling of someone or something watching you from the shadows in the Forest keep playing over and over in your mind. It is actually quite a humbling experience and an honour to share these trails with these last remaining giants still roaming the Knysna Forests, after being hunted to the brink of extinction in the mid 1900’s.
The trail snakes up & down a few times as you cross a few streams and head out the valley on the other side, before eventually popping out on a forestry road near the Jubilee Creek Picnic Area.
Once you hit Jubilee Creek, you turn left just after crossing the bridge onto a single track trail that flanks the river, past some abandoned gold mines/caves, huge ring barked Eucalyptus trees, crossing the river a couple of times before you head up for one last big climb before exiting on the forestry road that leads back down to the Millwood Tea Garden.
The trails are relatively well marked, especially the Circles In A Forest Trail, but this is a massive forest, so I suggest running with a GPS enabled watch, or with friends.
Directions: From Knysna take the N2 towards George, about 8km out, take the Rheenendal turnoff to the right. Follow this road for 12.6km and take the Bibby’s Hoek / Millwood Gold Fields turnoff to the right (becomes gravel just after the turn). You will reach a four way crossing with a boom, sign in and pay here. Sometime out of season this boom is open and unmanned. Follow this road to the Dalene Matthee Memorial at the Krisjan Se Nek picnic site, 4km. The hike starts here.
Coordinates: S33 55.001 E22 57.467
Other: The water in the streams are drinkable, the dark colour is due to the tannins and humic acids from the leaves on the forest floor.
Quick Trail Info
Safe parking : Although in a SAN Parks area, relatively remote, so don’t leave valuables lying around in your car.
Access fee : R17 per person for adults. R9 per person for children under the age of 13. Permits obtainable from the Goudveld entrance gate at Bibby’s Hoek.
Safe trail to run alone : Yes, but it’s always better having company if new to a trail.
Technical/Challenging/Knee-breaker : Technical slippery underfoot conditions, moss covered roots etc.
Steep Uphills/Climbs and Descents : Undulating trail, with a few steep climbs.
Going to get wet : Quite humid in the indigenous forest, which can become wet in torrential downpours.
Beginner friendly : Moderate degree of fitness required.
Great View : Spectacular views in the forest, with some historical sites & possibility of seeing a real forest giant!
Trail distance : From 3.1km/9km (Circles In A Forest) to 20km from Millwood Tea Garden & back. Further distance can be added when exploring other roads & trails.
Suggested coffee shop/retaurant nearby : Millwood Tea Garden