South Africa Trekking

Trekking in South Africa

Hiking is one of the better-developed adventure activities in the region with many well laid trails, escorted hikes and designated wilderness areas in South Africa. Wilderness areas in South Africa are not true wilderness areas, as a rule, but they are virtually pristine areas and you must plan and navigate your own route. The most difficult aspect of hiking in southern Africa, especially South Africa, is figuring out who administers any particular hike. Not only are there hundreds of different authorities, they change jurisdiction and names frequently so it may take a few phone calls to get through to the right office to book a hike.


Hiking is an extremely popular past-time. Even the smallest farms in the most remote regions have laid out trails, the paths have distance markers and maps are provided upon booking and payment. Most overnight hikes are situated on private land or state reserves with accommodation in rustic huts (wood, mattresses and cold water washing facilities are usually provided). Favourite trails such as the Garden Route trail can be booked more than a year in advance. Most outdoor equipment stores stock a host of trail guides, are available to give advice on day and longer hikes, and they also sell guides books, maps and trail provision.

Options for People with Disabilities

There are disabled Adventures Clubs, based at the sports science Department of University of Cape Town, and Eco access are continually assessing new routes. Table Mountain and the Peninsula ranges offer hiking that is both beautiful and physically challenging, taking in a great variety of landscape for so small an area: mountain grassland, cliff, forest, vineyards, coast both rocks and sandy, all with views out over the city, the ocean and further mountain ranges that rise 60km inland. You can hike for anything from an hour to three days, and almost all the trails begin within half an hour's drive of the city centre (there are companies that lay on transport if you don't have your own). There are a few trails, which can be walked to from the city.

De Hoop Nature Reserve

Down the coast has trails through fynbos, mountain and wild beach. The trails last for 2-4 days length, with overnight huts equipped with pots, crockery and mattresses.

Drakensberg Mountains

There are too many day trails in the Natal Drakensberg to list each one. Not only does each national park, nature reserve and wilderness area have several, but so does every hotel, guest house, camp ground and hostel. The following is a selective list.

Sani Lodge
Sani Lodge, at the foot of Sani Pass of the Southern Berg has some of the best. Russell, the owner, will issue directions for day hike to permanent natural swimming pools and bunk, water, a toilet and fireworks.

Marloth Nature Reserve
Also the Marloth Nature Reserve has a very hard 6 days trail over some of the steepest ground in the cape. You don't have to do the whole lot and any combination from 2-6 days can be walked and there are equipped huts every 20km.

Groot Vaderbosch Nature Reserve
The Groot Vaderbosch Nature Reserve, further east along the R322 towards Heiderlberg has another 2 day trail through a more remote section of Landerberg. Again if you are very quiet, it is possible, through rare to see leopards.

Karoo at Gamka Nature Reserve
Little Karoo at Gamka Nature Reserve has a six day trail laid out along its rocky uplands kloofs. Also it is having a day trail laid out on the slopes surrounding the reserves central dam.

Trails for the Disabled

Western Cape Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in the shadow of Table Mountain in Cape Town has a number of access features. There is a Braille trail and fragrance garden, which is accessible to wheelchair users. It is always crowded with sighted ambulatory people who seem to be irresistibly drawn to the fragrance garden.

River club walk along the Jukskei River has a wheelchair friendly pathway, contact the Sandton Municipality for further information.


The Blyderivirspoort Nature reserve has as well as a long hiking trail which not really accessible, a number of areas which have been specially adapted they have three chalets which are wheelchair accessible and a number of the view points are accessible with a bit of help. The 180 m Linchen Trail is fully accessible with wide pathways, a tapping rail, cassettes for blind people and pamphlets for the deaf. For bookings and enquiries contact Mpamangula Parks Board.

Coastal Trail - Kosi Bay

This is a four guided, self catered trail around the pristine lake system of Kosi bay. Its major attractions are the scenery, ranging from white beaches to dune and coastal forest, the wonderful snorkelling in the mouth, and the possibility of sighting turtles.

A major attraction of this hike is the opportunity to see the locals fishing with traditional traps, something, which hasn't changed in hundreds of years. The trail must be booked well in advance through central reservations, Kwazulu-Natal Department of Nature Conservation.

Mziki Trail

This is a series of walks from a base camp at Mount Tabor. The scenery is breathtaking, including long beaches, coastal forest, the highest coastal dunes in south Africa, swamps, forest, some grassland and lake St Lucia, on which you may see crocodiles and hippos. Snorkelling in the tidal pools is excellent and you are likely to see a wide range of colourful tropical fish. Booking is essential, contact central reservations, Natal Park Board.

Wild Coast
Wild Coast This spectacular coast line has long been a favourite hiking destination. The facilities dereriorated badly at one time but are at the process of being upgraded. Bookings here are done through Eastern Cape Tourism Board. This full wild coast Trail, which is marked by white painted footprints, takes up to 25 days and transverses the entire length of the sea board from the Mtamvuna estuary close to Port Edward to the great Kei river mouth in the southwest. Hikers however have a number of less demanding options as the routes are divided into five shorter (three to six day) sections. Secondary tracks link the main coastal road with the trailheads. Among the myriad are the Mkambati, Dwesa and Chebe nature reserves, the famed holes in the wall, enchanting little resort centres and timeless Xhosa villages.

Strandloper Trail
This four or five day trail can be done with or without a guide. The emphasis is on the different beach environments, the tidal pool ecology and the history of settlement of the area, ranging from the tidal pool ecology and the history of settlement of the area, ranging from the strandlopers (coastal san) to the present day and including such unwilling settlers as shipwrecked survivors. It is by no means a wilderness experience as the coast is quite developed. Strandloper Hiking Trail runs between the river Kei mouth and East London. No permit is required as long as you stick to beach. The Wildlife society in East London's Lock st. Jail has a useful booklet. You will need a tide tables, as there are esturies to cross and it's dangerous to do so when the tide is flowing out. Bookings are done through Eastern Cape Nature Conservation

Otter Trail
This five day Trail is one of the most popular in the region. It is named after the Cape clawless otter, which you may well see on the trail. It starts at the Storms River Mouth and ends in the small resort village of Nature's Valley. Booking is essential and as this trail is very popular, it is often booked up well in advance. You can try for cancellation, though. Booking is through the National Parks Board.

Cape Mountain Trail

These are in the winter rainfall areas and the mountains are mostly sandstone and shale. The dominant vegetation is mountain fynbos with some montane forest in the kloof. There is very little grass. It may snow in winter, summer is hot and dry and spring is exceptionally beautiful with a profusion of wild flowers. Right on Cape Town's doorstep is the Table mountain Peninsula Mountain chain, where there are numerous day walks.

Hottentots Holland
The three days Boland Hiking Trail is probably the best known. It is laid out trail with overnight accommodation. Also in the Hottentots Holland reserve is the Palmiet Trail for visually impared. Bookings for these trails are through Cape Nature Conservation.

Swartberg Trail
This trail transverses the rugged Swartberg mountains.The fascinating geological formation with huge folds and overfolds are easly visible because the environment is somewhat more arid and the vegetation relativley sparse. There are a number of options and you can choose to do the trail over anything from two to five days. Some sections are quite steep but the views are spectacular. Bookings are through the Oudtshoorn office of Cape Nature Reserve.

Wolberg Network of Trail
This high, rather mysterious, mist covered mountain region is where the transversal Drakensberg meets the Strydpoort Mountains. It is covered in grassland, sourveld and cycads with pocket of indigenous forest in the kloofs. There are a number of walks but no laid out trail. You can go out for days and just camp where you like. This is not for inexperienced hikers. Booking is through Nature Conservation and Environment, Haenertsburg.

Magoebaskloof Trail

The three-day Dakolewa and the two day Debengeni Falls trails are near Tzaneen in the Northern Province of South Africa. They are both set in extensive indigenous forests, making this one of the most beautiful trailing areas in southern Africa. The trail occasionally crosses pine and gum plantations. You can do them separately or combine them into a four-day trail. Booking is through Safcol.

Amatola Trail

This is an epic six day trail covering 106km through indigenous forest and plantation in the Amatola Mountains near King Williams Town in the Eastern Cape. It is a linear trail but you can do one of a number of shorter circular options. These forests are a transitional zone between the forests of the southern Cape, eg kynsna, and the subtropical forests of Kwazulu-Natal. The trail is quite steep but it is worth it as the views are wonderful. Booking is through Keiskamma Network.

Hogsback Trail

Not far from the Amatola Trail is the Hogsback Trail and small, charming town of the same name. This is real Hobbit country. That is said of lots of places but in this case it is true. The Trail is circular, done over two days, and goes through tangled natural forests and some pine plantations. There is an overnight hut, which at time of writing was being upgraded. Bookings are essential and are through the Humansdorp office of Safcol.

This is a long trail 107-km over seven days near the Garden Route town of Kynsna, but you can shorten the options. It meanders through indigenous Knysna forest, Mountain Fynbos and pine plantations. It also passes by the Ghost town of Millwood, the scene of the Knysna gold rush of the last century. If you feel daring you can venture into a disused gold mine. Keen birders can look out for Knysna loerie and narina trogon. Sections of this trail have been done by paraplegics but with considerable assistance. Do not for one moment think this means it is an easy hike, on the contrary, it is quite strenuous. This is the year round rainfall area so you should bring waterproof clothing at all times and at the river crossings you may see elephant. Booking is through the Department of Water Affairs and forest.

Mpamalanga gold rush trail

Here the whole area is hiker paradise and many other trails, such as the Blyde River and the Fanie Botha trail are close by.

Prosperous Trail

This is a combination of two trails, which can be combined to make a trail of between two and five days. It centres on the museum town of Pilgrim's Rest, which was a major gold mining centre earlier this century. The scenery is beautful, typical of Mpamalanga. Booking is through the Sabie office of Safcol.


Three to two days trail can be done separatley or can be combined into a five-day trail. The accommodation is particulary interesting, one night is in a train coach and another in the village. You pass through places with connections to the gold mining era; names like Starvation Creek conjure up fascinating images of the hardships the early fortune hunters endured. Booking is through the Sabie office of Safcol.

Desert and semidesert trail

The desert scenery is amongst the most spectacular in the world. It is almost as if you can see the very bones of the earth in the exposed geographical strata. The hardy plants and animals that have adapted to this harsh environment are fascinating. The desert also has a way of testing your mind and soul than softer environments do.

Klispringer trail

Covering three days, this trail is quite difficult because of the rough terrain, the dryness and the high temperatures. The trail is closed from mid October to the end of March because of the heat. The attraction of this trail are the Orange River, along sinuous Augrabies Gorge, the largest granite gorge in the world and the interesting plants, the most notable of which is Kokerboom or quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma). Booking is through National Parks Board.

Graaff Reinet Trail

This trail has been discovered by many farmers in the region over the last few years as an alternative potential of their unfarmable land and they are laying out hiking trails, biking trails, and horse trails. There are a number of trails in the Graaff Reinet area. Two of the more interesting are the Excelsiour and Nardouw trail. They are with hutted accommodation. There is also a wilderness trail on Nardouw, there are markers but no established paths so you have to blaze your own trail. There are no overnight facilities on this trail but you may camp. Not too far is the Tandjiesberg and Toorberg hiking trail. Booking for all the above is through Jacana Country Homes and Trails.

Richterveld National park

The laid out trail is 45 km long but you can do variations. You may do this trail on your own but unless you are a very experienced hiker, it is safer to do it with a guide as there is no water in some areas and the terrain is very difficult. In order to get to the start of the trail, you have to travel 350 km in a four-wheel drive vehicle. The park is admitted by National Parks Board which is also handles booking. Richterveld Challenge offers guided trips.

Rooikat Trail

This splendid 11 km five hour circular trail through montane forest near Tzaneen can be completed in a morning. This makes it ideal for tourists who would like to experience at first hand the hushed green magic of these sylvan corridors, without spending days slogging along with heavy backpacks. The Rooikat trail starts and ends at the New Agatha Forest station, some 18km passes through pine plantations and the rest through patches of dense indigenous forests similar in character to the fabled forests of the Magnified forest of Tzaneen.

Southpansberg Hiking Trail

This is a place of dramatic contrasts, it's possible to pass from hot, thorny savannah to cool, dense indigenous forest in just a matter of hours. The area has varied ography, its splendid scenery and its great botanical diversity attracts many hikers and other nature lovers, most of whom opt to follow the challenging Southpansberg Hiking Trail.

Fanie Botha Hiking Trail

This is among the best known hiking of all south Africa's nature trails, and deservedly so, because it allows walkers the opportunity to experience at close quarters the Highveld Drakensburg in all of its dep green spelendour. The longest section of the trail passes through rugged mountain teritory, over expanses of open grassland, through pine plantation and enclaves of ancient indigenous forest, passing many of the region's most spectacular natural beauty spots along the way including the well known Mac Mac falls, Mac Mac Pools, the Pinnacle, lone Creek Falls and God's window.

The longest section of Fanie Botha hiking trail was first opened 1973 and represented the first section of National Hiking way system, which today comprise some 300 trails across the country. Since then many thousand of hikers have tacked this five day, 77 km trek, which begins at ceylon forest station, six kilometers west sabie.

The Trail passes through Tweefontein state forest and over the flanks of Mauchberg Peak then through Mac Mac state forest and Graskop, finally ending at God's Window, northeast of Graskop, where sweeping views over the broken battlement of escarpment and the distance blue grey lowveld provide a brethtaking finale to the walk.

This rambling one day hiking trail over 24km, through some of the lovier parts of the wider stellenbosch area, provides an energrtic alternative to the drive yourself wine route. The route leads you Oude Libertas Centre through forest plantations, swatches of emerald green vineyards and the olive groves and orchards of the fertile and splendindly scenic Bottelary farmlands to Kuils River in the west.

There are highlights aplenty along the hike, among them the views from papegaainberg, protea heights and Bottelarykop, the flora of the fragile Renosterveld vegetation, and the charming winefarms of Koopmanskloof and Rozendal. All in all, this makes fine days outing in an especially inviting part of the region.

Hiking within Durban City

The Kenneth Steinbank Nature reserve on Coedmore road in yelow Par, the Pigeon Valley Nature reserve on King George avenue in Bulwer suburbs and the Silvergler Nature Reserve at Cleanwater Dam in the southern suburb of Silverglen all have beautiful hiking trails through pockets of indigenous woodland. These reserves make good day trips from centre of town and can be reached by bus. Contact Durban Unlimited. In the Hills inland from the south coast are several wilder reserve all with good day hikes the Vernon Crooks Nature Reserve inland from Port Edward, the Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve inland, Utamvuna Nature Reserve inland and further inland along the same road between Harding and Kokstad is the beautiful Weza Forest, accessible from the road side.

Hiking in Main Kruger

The Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve on the western side of Kruger National park has three lodges which morning and evening game trails are conducted. Sabi Sabi, Mala Mala, Djuma. Mala Mala also run Trekkers trail, 1-5 packages of which you spend almost the whole time walking in the bush. Also on the western side of the Kruger near Opern Gate, two private lodges Motswari and M'bali, conducts morning and evening game walks, with more or less guaranteed sightings of the big five. Timbavati Private Game Reserve, home of famous Timbavati white lions, organise morning and evening trails led fom Kambuku Camp.

At Kruger National park there is also seven guided bush trail (1-5 days length) giving one of the best experiences of the bush available everwhere in Africa.

The Waterburg
There are few public nature reserve around the edge of Waterburg which offers undemanding, self guided day trails through bush country with a good chance of spotting plains game and exotic bird life.

The Southpansberg and Venda

Just below southpansberg, Ben Lavin Nature Reserve leads to large area accessible wild country with three day trails leading off from central camp site. The De Hork Forest Station Has a good day trail leading into skirts of high forest with options of hiking on to lnger trails. Also Medika has trails leading to Bushman (san) rock painting through the remote Sand River Gorge. Also there are other s such as Buzzard Mountain Retreat Trail, Hangklip Trail, Entabeni Trail, Southpansberg Trail and Mabadashango Trail.

The Eastern Highlands Trails

The Golden Gate National Park, at the end of Eastern Highlands hadsthree good day trail leading out of central campsite, all of them fairly strenuous with climbs up to high viewpoints. Here there are Brandwater Trail which covers 5 days of high upland walking across private hill farms most of which supports some game, Bokpoort Farm near Clarens trail of 1-4 days' duration through the hills bordening the Golden Gate National Reserve,Rustler's Valley has two day trail which follows a wide circle around valle with a cave to stay overnight in, Lilieshoek Resort near lady brand, has trals of 2-3 days with overnight huts equiped with pots, mattresses, bunks and water and At Tuissen Die Rivieren Game Reserve in southwestern corner of orange Free State Highlands.


South Africa has an excellent system of Hiking trail usually with accommodation. They are popular and must be booked well in advance. Satour brochure on hiking is useful and if you plan to do a lot of hiking pick up a copy of Jaynee Levy's complete Guide to walks and Trails in Southern africa.There are also many hiking clubs contact Hiking Federation of South Africa 011 886 6507 420 Nedbank Centre, Bordeaux, Johannesburg, Several of the adventure travel outfits offer organised hikes. Most trails are administered by National Parks Board controls.

Otter Trail

The first, and still among the most popular, of South Africas organized hiking trails leads you through the magnificent coastal and forest terrain of the Tsitsikamma national park from Storms River Mouth wersterds to the Groot River estuary and Natures Valley. The five day, 42-km trail has been charted, and is run by the National parks Board. The route is broken up into fairly easy stages the longest days walk covers just 14km but the going is tough in some of the stretches, and others demand a good head for heights.

More Attractions
For most of the way hikers follow th shoreline, scrambling up to the coastal plateau 200 m or so above the sea, along the more rugged, cliff obstructed parts. The terrain variously includes steep slopes, dense forest canopy (handsome yellowwoods, alders, cape beeches, white milkwood, stinkwoods), swift-running streams, a few golden beaches and lovely tidal pools. Moreover, the pace is low enough to allow you to study the plant and bird life at leisure (over 280 species of the latter have been identified), enjoy the breathtaking scenery and spend time snorkelling in the pools.

Wildlife Resident wildlife includes leopards, bush pig, bushbuck, duiker, baboons, vervet monkeys and, in the marine section, seal and dolphins. Whales come close inshore to breed and calve during winter. Special features along the route include Strandloper (early Khoisan) middens, the spacious Guano Cave, and some entrancing waterfalls. Hikers overnight in rudimentary cabins maintained by the National parks Board. The trail is a perennial favourite with the ernity, so book well in advance.

Outeniqua Hiking Trail

The Outeniqua is among the toughest of the countrys better-known trails, a seven-day odyssey trough some of the most beautiful scenery of the Southern Cape. The itinerary is demanding. It starts from Beervlei in the Bergplaas State Forest, north of Swartvlei lake, and makes its 90-km way over lovely, well-watered mountain fynbos and woodland terrain, eastwards to the harkerville Forest Station.

The area enjoys rainfall throughout the year, snow and frost sometimes cover the wintertime uplands, and the countryside is often mantled in seductive mists. Trailists overnight in fairly basic but spacious hits there are eight altogether equipped with bunks, mattresses fireplaces and firewood. For those who dont have the time (or energy) for the full route, there are several shorter variegations, including a number of day walks and the two day trail that follows a scenic pat from the Goudveld Forest Station to Millwood and back. Theres’ also the celebrated Elephant walk through the Diepwalle Forest.

Garden Route
En route you are treated to stunning views across the tree covered hills and valleys of the Garden Route, and the blue waters of the Indian Ocean beyond. The plant life ericas, protea, flame red aloes, lilies, wild orchids, pincushions and much else is at its colourful best from early to midsummer (October to January). The latter part of the trail runs through splendid forest country, where many of the more striking trees are labeled with their national tree list numbers. At the middle of the hike, near Millwood, you’ll come across relics of the early gold diggings.