barberton geotrail

Barberton Geotrail

Geotrail panel at the Lebombo Overview stop of the Geotrail, the R40 between Barberton and Bulembu. The panel is one of a series explaining the natural rock formations and types in the area.

Take a Tour of the Picturesque GeoTrail. Trail starts in Barberton and ends just before the Swaziland Bulembu Border, 37km long.  >> Map of the Geotrail

11 stops along the route describe the local rock formations/Types and surrounding terrain in this Mountainous region. Each Stop has a place to sit and relax and enjoy the views.

When visiting Barbeton stay at the Gold Nugget B&B ( Cell: 0716899114 )

GeoTrail & Video

Nature and history on display
The spectacular 37km mountain pass between Barberton and the Josefsdal border post with Swaziland has been developed as the Barberton Makhonjwa Geotrail. It is a self-drive trail through the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains World Heritage Site, displaying information about the area’s remarkable geology and it’s links to the plant diversity and history. The twelve landscaped lay-bys with interpretative panels and picnic stops have been combined with rock specimens, geological features, and view points to tell the story of how the early Earth evolved some 3.6 billion years ago. The tarred road cuts through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Combined with a well-illustrated guidebook available from the tour guide, the trail can take anything from two hours to a day, depending on the size of your picnic basket and level of interest.

The route is further linked to the Barberton Gateways in town that draw their design inspiration from the local outsider artist Nukain Mabuza’s colorful painted rock garden at Revolver Creek. It also forms part of what has been coined the Genesis Route, another scenic self-drive that snakes like a figure 8 through the mountains connecting Barberton, Badplaas and Low’s Creek. 

The Geotrail displays and interprets the oldest and best preserved sequence of volcanic and sedimentary rocks on earth. This unique record of the early formation of the planet and its exceptionally rich diversity of plant species, are set in the spectacular scenery along the route. It is these attributes that have led to the inscription of the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2018. 

This geological formation that is home to some of the best preserved Archaean rocks in the world contains significant geological heritage sites that enable scientists to understand the early Earth processes. The Geotrail’s education component and popularisation serves as mechanisms that make it possible for the general public to recognise the value of geoheritage.

The Geotrail displays the three major rock units of the Barberton Greenstone belt: the Onverwacht Group, followed by Fig Tree and Moodies Groups. The Onverwacht Group is at about 3,570 to 3,300 million years old. It consists mostly of dark green and black former lava flows stacked on top of each other many kilometers thick; some of the hottest lava ever to have flowed on the face of the planet. Some of them show “spinifex texture”, named after the needle-like Australian grass and caused by needle-like crystals of olivine and pyroxene which formed when the lava was quenched in contact with water. Yet between the lava flows exist seams and beds of black former deep-sea sediment which contains microscopic remnants of life that must have floated in the oceans even back then.

The trail between Barberton and the Josefsdal/ Bulembu border post into Swaziland has a number of laybys at significant geological and view sites. There is a dry toilet at the 25.3km Lebombo Viewsite.

Although not far, you should allow at least 6 hours for the trail if you intend to read the interpretation panels at most of the sites and enjoy the views. If you have a real interest in the geology of the trail, a whole day with a picnic lunch would be a good allocation.

37 kilometres. Please drive slowly! The road is narrow, winding and sometimes carries significant traffic including timber-hauling trucks. There are also frequent falls of small rocks into the road. These are caused by rainfall and by baboons scrambling about looking for food.

Geosites & Views:
The trail has a series of vividly illustrated panels at the geosites that explore and interpret for the layman, and in a little more detail for those of a geological bent, some of the key elements of the Barberton Greenstone Belt. They attempt to visualise how scientists think that long-ago Earth may have looked; to bring the Archaean eon to life and to explain how the landscape became what it is today; to reveal the significance of place. There are also several view panels that identify and interpret some of the key features of the landscape.

Look and Learn:
The geotrail is not just about geology. It has a rich and fascinating history reaching from more than 40 000 years in the past and an array of interesting plants and animals, many of which are found only in the Barberton Greenstone Belt. The geotrail offers educators, from primary to tertiary level, a great opportunity to enrich their teaching of geography, biological sciences, history and social studies and provides a treasure chest of ideas for projects and theses.

A comprehensive, illustrated guidebook describing the key elements of the geotrail can be purchased at very reasonable cost from the Tour Guide This book, written by experts on the geology of the trail, gives a sound foundation to the trail and is a valuable teaching resource that provides a wealth of information to enable educators to develop a themed visit and self-discovery media that learners can use along the trail. There is also a free leaflet giving an overview of the trail.

There is a dry toilet at the 25.3km Lebombo Viewsite so please make use of facilities in Barberton before embarking on your trip. The key sites have lay-bys where you can park safely off the road. Several of these have basic picnic facilities. Please ensure that any waste material is deposited in the bins provided, or better still, into a garbage bag that you take away with you.

What to bring:
Bring writing instruments and paper/pads. The weather can be unpredictable, and in the mountains, it may sometimes quickly turn cold, wet and windy — be prepared by bringing at least a waterproof and windproof jacket. The sun can be harsh at altitude so we would recommend a hat and sunscreen.

Take great care along the road. There are many tight bends and the road can be busy at times with traffic that includes large, timber-hauling trucks. Please ensure that your group is aware of the potential danger. When driving, or standing near rock faces and outcrops, be aware that rocks may be unstable and rock falls frequent; expect rocks in the road. Do not allow anyone to wander away from the designated stopping points and resist the temptation to explore side roads; these traverse private property.

1. Greenstone View & BGB Boundary 2.4KM
2. De Kaap Valley View 6.3KM
3. Tidal Sandstone 7KM
4. Eureka View & Alluvial Conglomerate 7.3KM
5. Dycedale Syncline & Biomats 8.2KM
6. Painted Quarry & Baryte 23.6KM
7. Makhonjwa / Lebombo View 25.3KM
8. Tsunami Conglomerates 27.7KM
9. Banded Ironstone 29.2KM
10. Volcanic Lapilli & Black Chert
11. Pillow Lavas & Msauli / Bulembu View

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