Our 5 Favourite Overnight Hiking Trails in the Western Cape
CapeNature manages large areas in the Western Cape mountains that are just perfect for hiking with friends and family. We’ve already named our five must-try day hiking trails you simply have to experience if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. In this blog, we select our favourite overnight hiking trails in the Western Cape.
1) The Whale Trail
This iconic trail is a world-renowned slackpacking trail and a must-do for all nature lovers. This five day, 56km slack-packing trail though the De Hoop Nature Reserve combines showcases some of the most beautiful scenes along the Western Cape coastline with beautiful cottages providing comfortable overnight stays.
Day 1 is a moderate to strenous stretch of 14.7km (duration +/- 8 hours) to the top of Potberg where breathtaking views of Swellendam to the north, Cape Infanta to the east and Cape Agulhas to the west can be enjoyed. Hikers then descend towards Cupidoskraal, where a swim in the dam rounds off the first part of the trail.
Day 2 is a moderate hike of 15km (duration +/- 8 hours) through mountain fynbos and spectacular views of the Indian Ocean and Breede River before the descent into the enchanting bay of Noetsie on the coast.
Day 3 is a easy lope along the coast, with plenty of tidal pools to enjoy (7.8 km, +/- 6 hours) with lots of stops along the way to swim and relax).
Day 4 is a long beach walk with splendid views and turquoise rock pools.
Day 5 is the final day and there isn’t much walking time (only around 2 hours) but plenty of stops to enjoy the scenery and watch the dolphins and whales frolicking along the coastline.
The Whale Trial is exceptionally popular with locals and overseas visitors alike and the trail is usually booked for months in advance so if you’re planning to do it soon, be sure to book early!
2) The Swellendam Hiking Trail
The challenging Swellendam Hiking Trail is often named as one of South Africa’s top ten hikes. Hikers can choose various routes between two and six days in length. Along the trails there are rustic huts, with mattresses, basic toilets and drinking water. No cooking utensils are provided. Fires are only allowed at the Glen Stream and Wolfkloof huts due to the high risk of wildfires and scarcity of firewood. A trail map and brochure are available on request. The Bushbuck Cottage in Marloth Nature Reserve is the perfect springboard for the Swellendam Hiking Trail.
This trail is fairly demanding and should only be attempted by fit hikers. Trips should be planned in advance as hikers are not permitted to leave the trail due to it being surrounded by private property, especially at Wolfkloof and Gooedgeloof, as well of the possibility of getting lost. Five rustic huts* equipped only with beds, water and primitive toilets provide limited overnight shelter. Hikers should bring their own cooking utensils, bedding, warm clothes, hat, sunscreen and drinking water. It is a beautiful area, with spectacular waterfalls and rock pools to look forward to along the way.
* The Swellendam Hiking Trail is currently closed until 01 April 2019 due to maintenance work at the overnight huts along the way.
3) The Cederberg Wilderness Area
The Cederberg Wilderness Area is one of the most undisturbed parts of South Africa. The hiking trails of the Cederberg Heritage Route have made this beautiful area more accessible to hikers, from beginners to experienced enthusiasts. The heritage route, one of the Cape’s top 12 hiking trails, offers four overnight guided walking trails.
Recent fires have damaged large parts of the Cederberg, and some of the trails have only recently re-opened but the area is regenerating and there is plenty to see and experience in this rugged wilderness area.
The Cederberg Heritage Trail is a 100km-long route which runs over five days and four nights, and stretches over the vineyards and citrus groves of the Olifants River valley, where you will be greeted with sights of the majestic and richly-coloured Cederberg Mountains. Accommodation on the Cederberg Heritage Route Trails is either in comfortable B&Bs or in community-based ‘homestays’.
4) The Boland Hiking Trail
This trail, which winds through the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, has two overnight sites, one with two huts and another with one hut. Hikers can choose various routes, varying between one and three days. Ensure that your route choice starts and ends at the Nuweberg offices.
Multi-day hiking routes are most popularly done in the following combinations:
Sphinx – Landroskop Jeep-track (Moderate level two day hike):
Day 1: Starts at the Reserve Visitors Parking area at Nuweberg. Hike up the Sphinx Route, and stay overnight at either Landroskop or Shamrock Lodge hiking huts (these need to be booked in advance).
Day 2: Walk down Landroskop jeep-track (hikers have the option to divert off Landroskop jeep-track for a section on the Palmiet Trail), back to Nuweberg.
Orchard Trail (Moderate level two day hike):
Day 1: Starts at the Reserve Visitors Parking area at Nuweberg. Hike along the Orchard Route to the overnight huts Boesmanskloof or Aloe Ridge, as per your booking.
Day 2: From the overnight huts, hike down the Orchard Route back to the Visitors Parking.
5) Boosmansbos Wilderness Area
Boosmansbos Wilderness Area lies in the Langeberg mountains, 22 km northwest of Heidelberg, in the south-western Cape. It is 14 200ha in extent and is incorporated into Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve.
As this is a Wilderness Area, the paths are unmarked and huts provide only basic shelter. There are no toilet facilities. Hikers should be well-equipped for difficult terrain and adverse weather conditions, and must carry an accurate map of the area. A maximum of 12 people per day are allowed.
There are 64km of paths and hikers may choose their own routes. The circular two-day route of 27km is a popular option. This trail, most of which is an old jeep track, leads up Loerklip and back down Saagkuilkloof. If heavy rains are experienced during the hike it is advisable to return via the Loerklip path as the Duiwenhoks River may be in flood. Hikers should note that all refuse must be carried out and that fires are not permitted. Advance reservations are essential.
Due to severe weather and flooded rivers, some hiking routes are closed from July to the end of August. Hikers should be fit, experienced and well-equipped for extreme weather at all times.
Before setting out on your hike, you should make sure you have educated yourself about the route, terrain, difficulty, and expected time required to complete the trail. Never hike alone, and always make sure someone else knows where you are going, your route, and when you are expected back.
To download CapeNature’s Hiker Safety Guide, click the image below.
Hikers Network has a great initiative, a free hiker tracking tool, that monitors and tracks hiking groups. For more information, just click through to http://hikersnetwork.co.za/safetymountain to sign up.
Happy exploring on your overnight hiking trails – and don’t forget to tell us about your personal favourites!