South Africa’s Western Cape Province is a haven for hikers, campers, and all the other outdoor lovers. The governmental organization South African National Parks has done a flawless job to preserve the nature reserves in the province while keeping them open to the public. That’s why; there are several iconic hikes of varying lengths and difficulties all around Western Cape. Let’s take a look at them.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
The Jonkershoek Nature Reserve lies above the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch. The 17 km-long trail has a panoramic path that circles the valley. It is a bit strenuous due to the inclination and occasional slippery rocks, but the view of the valley from the summit of Guardian Peak (1227 km) is extraterrestrial. On a fully sunny day, you can even see Table Mountain and the city of Cape Town. Due to the four rivers intersecting in the area, there are many rock pools and hidden waterfalls, so make sure to bring a swimsuit.
Being just over an hour of drive away from Cape Town, Leopard’s Kloof is easily accessible from Cape Town. Located in the quaint coastal town of Betty’s Bay, this trail is part of the Harold National Botanical Gardens. It is only 1.5 km long one way and much more flat than many of the hikes listed here. Still, it has so much to offer, such as Leopard’s Kloof Waterfall, yellowwood trees, and stunning coastal views of the Atlantic Ocean. People with any fitness level can complete this hike and enjoy its hidden treasures.
Cederberg Nature Reserve one of the largest nature reserves in the province and the country. The nature reserve is only 200 km away from Cape Town, and ideal for weekend getaways. The wilderness covers a large portion of the Western Cape and comprises many hiking trails leading you to waterfalls, rock pools, colorful sandstones, and peaks overlooking the Cederberg Mountain Range. One particular hike called Wolfberg Arch will take you to a giant rock in the shape of an arch. The trail was shut down for almost two years due to a destructive fire but has recently reopened. The moderate-level hike takes four hours one way, so we recommend that you start early to get back before the dark. Also, don’t forget to look out for prehistoric Bushmen paintings inside small caves along the way.
Whale Coast Hiking Trail
Opened to the public in 2002, Whale Trail has been one of the most popular coastal long hikes in South Africa. It stretches 55 km between the towns of Potberg to Koppie Allen and takes five days to complete. There are luxurious cottages for overnight stays, and your luggage will be transported from one to the next so that you won’t have to carry them all the way. It’s a perfect combination of coastal and mountain hiking, usually at a moderate level except for the slightly inclined 15 km in the beginning. The highlight, as the name suggests, is the Southern Right Whale found in high numbers near the coast. During the peak season (September and October), you can spot dozens of them at the same time.
Kogelberg Nature Reserve
Kogelberg has a hiking trail that is exceptionally popular amongst Capetonians. Crystal Pools is a set of nine natural rock pools connected via short hiking trails. All you have to do is book your spot in advance. The admin of the nature reserve allows only twenty-five people per day, and the permits get sold out weeks in advance. Once you book your spot, you are in for a hike full of rewarding and refreshing rock pools. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, food, and refreshments for a quiet picnic by one of the rockpools.
The hiking trail starts near the scenic Bainskloof Pass, one of the first passes built in South Africa. There is a small fee that you have to pay at the entrance of Bainskloof River Lodge. Then, the 6 km long trail is all yours. The trail goes parallel to the Witte River, where you sometimes even have to cross the river to continue. We would strongly encourage you to leave your electronics at the entrance, or take a waterproof zip-lock with you, as the river crossings can be challenging. Also, you need to watch your steps around slippery rocks. Just like Kogelberg Nature Reserve, Bainskloof will reward your physical effort with a refreshing swim in the river.
Heidelberg Nature Reserve
Overlooking False Bay in Somerset West, Heidelberg Nature Reserve is far enough from the buzzing crowd of Cape Town but also close enough that you won’t have to drive for hours. The nature reserve consists of several hiking trails around the Heidelberg Mountain. Some of them are only 2-3 km, while others can take up to seven hours. Regardless of the path you choose, you are likely to embark on a small scale safari tour, with lots of indigenous plants, amphibians, birds, and mammals to check out.
Swellendam Hiking Trail
Swellendam is one of the oldest and most picturesque towns in South Africa. The town itself is an open-air museum with over 50 historical sites to visit. That’s not all; the vicinity of Swellendam is a protected area with overnight hiking options. These hikes are more challenging than the other ones on the list, but there are many overnight huts to spend the night. Although the area suffers from drought in summer and can get extremely hot, there are many waterfalls and rock pools to keep you cool.