South Africa is one of the most diverse countries in the world, especially when it comes to nature. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise! From captivating landscapes to breathtaking views, hiking in South Africa can offer it all. We’ve compiled a list of the trails that should be on your bucket list if you love lacing up new adventures.
The Leopard Trail, Eastern Cape
Set in the beautiful Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site Wilderness Reserve, this is a four-day and three-night hike that is moderately difficult. The longest day is 22 kilometres. Only twelve hikers are allowed on the trail at a time with the minimum being six.
This is true wilderness hiking in South Africa’s third-largest wilderness area. A single-track path meanders through the otherwise inaccessible mountains. If you want to hike on a trail designed ‘by hikers for hikers’ then this is the ideal challenge for you.
The Otter Trail, Western Cape
This is an unspoiled trail located in Garden Route National Park. The Tsitsikamma Forest meets the Indian Ocean here, and there is much variety of fauna and flora to admire on this five-day hike. The trail is 42km-long and follows the shoreline along the cliff tops, except returning to sea level for river crossings.
The trail starts from the Garden Route National Park’s Storms River Rest Camp at a steady pace, allowing hikers to admire a large cave with a marvellous waterfall that follows.
Tugela Falls via chain ladder, KwaZulu Natal
This is one of the easier routes to get to the top of the Drakensberg’s mesmerising amphitheatre, but hikers should come prepared for the unpredictable mountain weather. Hiking in South Africa, especially in the mountains of the ‘berg, can bring fast and wild weather changes. You should be sure to pack a warm jacket and rain-proof clothing even if it is just a day hike. If you choose to stay overnight, you might experience one of the best sunrises you’ll ever see.
Located in the Royal Natal National Park, it is also home to the Tugela Falls which is the world’s second-highest waterfall, hikers can expect to take in fantastic views of the falls from higher up after climbing the chain ladder.
Tugela Gorge, KwaZulu Natal
Also in the Royal Natal National Park, the Tugela Gorge hike is one of the longer hikes to do. It is considered one of the best one-day hikes in South Africa. Here, hikers can get a different view of the Tugela Falls from lower down.
The hike is along a path that runs alongside the mountain right next to the river and up to the gorge. The hike is 17 kilometres and although the distance is quite long, the path is relatively flat and not too challenging. You can expect to take in the beautiful sights of blue rock pools near the end of the trail.
Amatola Trail, Eastern Cape
Located near the stunning town of Hogsback, this is an epic adventure that requires a high level of fitness as the trail is quite strenuous. Hikers need to be prepared to hike for up to ten hours a day. It is, in fact, highly regarded as one of the toughest yet most rewarding experiences of hiking in South Africa.
The hike is over six days for five nights and starts at Maden Dam by King Williams Town. Hikers can expect to traverse the Amatola Mountains to Hogsback. The hike is known for its amazing views, waterfalls, and incredible indigenous forests. All hikers need a permit that you can only get through Amatola Trails as the trail is owned by The Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment.
Gansbaai Fynbos Trail, Western Cape
This trail is just two hours away from Cape Town and close to Hermanus. The hike meanders through a stunning stretch of mountain and coastal fynbos in the Overberg and has a two or three-night option. There are remote forests to explore and interesting social and environmental projects to observe along the way.
The trail is located in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom and can be done as a self-guided or fully guided catered trail.
Lion’s Head, Western Cape
This popular trail is located in the heart of Cape Town and it’s the ideal hike for you to take in gorgeous aerial views of the Mother City. People come to see the mountain both as an attraction and to enjoy the relatively easy hike. The hike starts and ends at the same place. Plus, it’s for all levels and only takes a few hours to complete!
It can be done in most weather except in extreme conditions, and it’s free. It is a great spot for those who love to watch the sunset!
Outeniqua Trail, Western Cape
This is a spectacular trail that takes hikers through the historic forests of the Garden Route. It is a five-day trial with four overnight huts, located between George.
Hikers will take in the magical mountain views and observe the artefacts of the gold rush nearby Millwood. You can expect to see views of the coastal plateau and admire plenty of the birds and animals along the way. If you wish to do the hike you must come prepared for rain and mist as the environment depends on wet conditions.
The trail is done in one direction from West to East and is 66 kilometres long in total. The terrain ranges from easy to difficult and hikers do require a permit.
Waterfall Bluff, Eastern Cape
This trail is situated in the Goso Forest 20 kilometres outside of Lusikisiki in the Transkei. There is the option of a one-day adventure to the iconic Waterfall Bluff where you will be guided by professionals. This is perfect for a big or small group that does not have much time but wants to see both of the incredible falls and have an awesome day of hiking in South Africa.
Moderate fitness is required with a lust for adventure.
Boesmanskloof, Western Cape
This beautiful hike links the two villages of Greyton and McGregor. The trail meanders through the Riviersonderend Mountains passing the 750-metre high point of Uitsigpunt, which leads you to the final destination. Hikers will pass by many waterfalls and pools which are a great spot to take a dip and cool off. You might even be lucky enough to spot a klipspringer or a caracal along the way.
The hike is 14 kilometres and can be done in a day. It is strenuous but there is an option to stay the night in one of the towns and walk back the next day, or book a hut in the mountains.
Author: Joelle Davidson