Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness is currently closed to the public until the end of 2017, due to a fire.

*The reserve is currently closed until further notice. 

The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness is known for its rugged, wild landscape, with exceptional rock formations carved by the elements. This mountainous area lies about 120km north of Cape Town, near Porterville.

The greater Groot Winterhoek conservation area is particularly important for protecting mountain fynbos and wildlife. It is also one of Cape Town’s sources of fresh, clean water, and is a World Heritage Site.

This area is rich in history, with ancient rock paintings by the San and Khoi people, and the oldest farm established in 1875. Early settlers in the area used animals to transport produce and supplies between Porterville and Saron. Their tracks are still visible above Driebosch and Weltevrede.

As Groot Winterhoek’s name suggests, winters are cold and wet. Winter nights are very cold, with temperatures below freezing. Summers are moderate, but hikers should always be prepared for sudden cold and mist.

There’s plenty to do in Groot Winterhoek, including various day and overnight hikes, crystal-clear mountain pools and mountain biking.

To find out more, download the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness brochure.

How to get there

Travel about an hour-and-a-half up the N7 from Cape Town towards Piketberg. Opposite Piketberg, take the R44 towards Porterville, but instead of going into Porterville at the T-junction, turn left for Cardouw on to what becomes a dirt road and head for the Dasklip Pass. Follow the signs to the office, which is on top of the mountain and about 33 km from Porterville.

GPS: 33.073519 S 19.163143 E

General information

Office hours: 07:30–16:00 Monday to Friday

Tel: +27 (0)22 931 2860
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190

Accommodation

Self-catering

  • Ribbok

    With four bedrooms (three with two single beds in each and a fourth with one single bed), Ribbok accommodates seven guests. The kitchen has a table and chairs as well as a sink, but there is no hot water. Please note that no fires are allowed.

    Electricity: No
    Bathroom: Shower (no hot water), flush toilet, basin
    Kitchen: Sink (no hot water)
    Bedding, linen and towels: No

  • Suikerbekkie

    *Please note that Suikerbekkie is currently closed until further notice. 

    Suikerbekkie, sleeping eight guests, has three bunk beds with mattresses and an extra room with a bunk bed and a table that serves as a cooking area. Please note that no fires are allowed.

    Electricity: No
    Bathroom: Freestanding sun-dome toilet
    Bedding, linen and towels: No

  • Klipspringer

    Klipspringer’s two bedrooms sleep up to eight people on bunk beds with mattresses. A table is provided in an extra room for cooking purposes. Please note that no fires are allowed.

    Electricity: No
    Bathroom: Freestanding sun-dome toilet
    Bedding, linen and towels: No

  • Disa

    Disa accommodates eight people in two rooms with two bunk beds and mattresses. An extra room provides space for cooking. A table is provided. Please note that no fires are allowed.

    Electricity: No
    Bathroom: Freestanding sun-dome toilet
    Bedding, linen and towels: No

  • De Tronk basic hiker huts

    These huts are difficult to reach for regular cleaning, so visitors need to clean these huts themselves before leaving. Rainwater is captured from the roof of the huts and stored in tanks. The availability of this water is not guaranteed. Water is available on the trail to the huts. Only bunk beds and mattresses are provided.

Activities

  • Kloofing

    Kloofing is an adrenalin-pumping way to explore Groot Winterhoek and its clear mountain pools. Die Hel to De Hoek is a demanding kloofing route, with no footpath. It involves a combination of hiking, leaping off cliffs into deep pools and swimming through mountain streams. Kloofing is not for the faint-hearted. This is best done with an experienced kloofer who has done the route before.

    Die Hel to De Hoek kloofing

    Trail distance: 9.5km
    This demanding route is for true adventurers. The trail, which has no footpath, follows the river, with sections of the route involving high jumps into pools and swimming (remember your costume). Hikers may also walk along the edge of the ravine. Visitors must obtain permission from the landowner at De Hoek before entering the private property. The route can only be tackled by starting at Die Hel. Leave a vehicle at De Hoek.

  • Rock art

    Step back in time and visit some of Groot Winterhoek’s remarkable examples of San and Khoi rock art. These paintings, found in rocky overhangs and caves, vary between 300 and 6 000 years old. They are an integral part of the wilderness area’s value and we encourage you to discover them on your own. Rock art is protected by the National Monuments Act (1969) and vandals who deface rock paintings face fines of up to R10 000 and/or two years imprisonment.

     

  • Hiking and Walking

    Hiking/Walking

    There are numerous options for hiking in the wilderness. Hikes have varying lengths and many provide welcome swimming opportunities. Parts of the greater conservation area, like Sneeugatrivier and the mountain peaks, are true wilderness – showing no traces of human intervention. It is advisable to book in advance as capacity is limited.

    Hiking trails

    As Groot Winterhoek is a wilderness area, hikers do not have to stick to trails. You can explore the area’s rock formations and caves, and overnight in the veld. Hikers must leave their vehicles at the parking area at the office complex.

    To lessen the environmental impact of numerous visitors, the area is divided into two user-zones: Kliphuis and Perdevlei in the east, and De Tronk and Die Hel in the south. The trails do not have route markers, but small cairns show directions where trails lead over plate rock.

    Huts

    There is a primitive shelter at Perdevlei that cannot be booked. The huts at De Tronk need to be booked in advance. Open fires are not allowed.

    Help us protect nature

    No pets/no firearms/no fires/no picking of flowers or collecting of seeds/no rubbish bins – all refuse must be carried out of the wilderness area/no toilets – all waste and toilet paper must be buried with a spade or trowel/do not use soap or shampoo in the rivers and streams.

    Permits

    Buy your permits through CapeNature Central Reservations. Permits must be carried at all times. Book early to avoid disappointment!

    Please note that the jeep track to De Tronk is closed for vehicles until further notice.

    Trail preparation

    •  Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
    • Do not hike alone.
    • Carry enough food and water with you.
    • Make sure you know what the weather conditions are before you depart.
    • Take a warm jacket/raincoat in winter.
    • Make sure you have a relevant map of the area.
    • Take a field medical kit with you for emergencies.
    • Obey all signage.
    • Stay in a group and on the trails.

    Parking area to De Tronk via jeep track

    Trail distance: 14km
    Estimated time: 3.5 hours

    This route is fairly easy, but water is not available for the first 11km, until Weltevrede. Enjoy the beautiful vegetation on this hike, including tolbos, erica and exceptionally large waboom trees. Hikers should not use this route if making their way back to the parking area.

    Parking area to De Tronk via river

    Trail distance: 13km
    Estimated time: 3 hours

    This route follows the Kliphuis River to the low-water bridge. From there it follows the jeep track to De Tronk. Plenty of water is available and there are lots of swimming pools to cool off in along the way, so bring a swimming costume with you. This trail is surrounded by beautiful patches of ericas.

    The Groot Kliphuis River is difficult and dangerous to cross in winter.

    Parking area to Protea Pool

    Trail distance: 1.5km
    Estimated time: 40 minutes

    This route is easy, taking you through a flat trail before stopping at the small, refreshing Protea Pool. Remember to bring a swimming costume with you. From there you can explore the Groot Kliphuis River.

    Keep an eye open for the disas that flower between December and February.

    Parking area to Groot Kliphuis via river

    Trail distance: 16km
    Estimated time: 4 hours

    This easy route follows the Kliphuis River for a short distance before shifting east. The trail winds through exceptional rock formations and passes a wonderful swimming pool as it enters the koppies. Remember your swimming costume. Many ericas and disas grow along this route. Water is plentiful, but in winter the streams can be difficult to cross.

    De Tronk to Die Hel

    Trail distance: 5km
    Estimated time: 1.5 hours

    From De Tronk, the path leads south under oak trees and over a small footbridge towards Die Hel. The route is easy until you reach the gorge. The descent to the swimming pool is very steep and difficult. Look out for the rock art on an overhang on the left of the footpath as it begins to drop steeply. The pool is very deep and one of the largest in the Western Cape. Remember to bring a swimming costume with you.

    Groot Kliphuis to Perdevlei via jeep track

    Trail distance: 7km
    Estimated time: 2 hours

    This route is fairly demanding but offers magnificent views. Enjoy the stunning fynbos along the trail, particularly the protea, which grows in abundance in this area.

    Groot Kliphuis to Perdevlei via river

    Trail distance: 6km
    Estimated time: 1.5 hours

    This route leads south, from Kliphuis to the Klein Kliphuis River. From there, hikers turn east (left) to reach Perdevlei. The river usually has water.

    Perdevlei to De Tronk

    Trail distance: 12km
    Estimated time: 2.5 hours

    This beautiful route follows the Klein Kliphuis River, joining the jeep track leading to De Tronk. Remember to bring a swimming costume with you so that you can plunge into the many swimming pools along the way.

Location

Conservation

Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Conservation

The greater Groot Winterhoek conservation area comprises 30 608 hectares, of which 19 200 hectares was declared a wilderness area in 1985.

The conservation area protects mountain fynbos, including various rare, threatened and endemic species like the Tulbagh powderpuff. A large variety of red disas flower along the streams near the reserve office in January and February.

Visitors to Groot Winterhoek are likely to see klipspringers, grey rhebok and grysbok, but shy predators like leopard, caracal, wild cat, mongoose and genet are seldom seen. About 100 bird species, including the endemic Cape rockjumper, the black eagle, goshawk and jackal buzzard, are found here. A few rare lizard species live in the area, most notably the southern rock lizard.

2 Reviews

Educo Africa commits to LEAVE NO TRACE - GreenHome, Apr 26, 2017 - Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

[…] The ‘outdoors’ is the classroom. A partnership with Cape Nature enables the use of the Groot Winterhoek Reserve near […]

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Winterhoek reserve rocks

Francois Reteif, May 10, 2015 - Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

I love the Winterhoek reserve - it has a little and a lot of everything. As I am a kloofer and work in the mountains for a living this is one of my favourite place on earth. You can explore on and off trail, you can climb, you can swim and you can kloof. The reserve is stunning in it is ruggedness - do not change that!!

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