South Africa's 15 most beautiful hiking trails

South Africa's 15 most beautiful hiking trails

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Seeing South Africa by foot is one of the best ways to absorb its unique landscapes, flora and fauna.

South Africa is known to be a land of diverse landscapes and breathtaking vistas; an expansive playground capable of satisfying even the most die-hard traveller’s wanderlust. And what better way to explore this raw, unadulterated terrain than by foot? Here are 15 of South Africa’s most beautiful hikes.

1. Golden Gate Highlands Rhebok hiking trail

Location: Free State.

Description: Just a stone’s throw from Clarens is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park’s two-day Rhebok trail have hikers navigating their way through some of South Africa’s most spectacular mountains, rock pools and ravines. The hike is considered moderately difficult and shouldn’t be attempted without an experienced guide. Take note that the region can become rather misty and cold, so pack accordingly.

Difficulty: Moderate to advanced.

Length: 31km.

Cost: R155 per person.

2. Amatola hiking trail

Location: Eastern Cape.

Description: The starting point of the Amatola hiking trail lies just outside of King William’s Town and makes its way through some of the most impressive highland scenery South Africa has to offer. The trail is adorned with a sublime array of waterfalls and rock pools, offering hikers welcomed respite from the summer sun. The path finds its end in the mysterious and magical world of Hogsback, cloaked by centuries-old indigenous Afro-montane forests and the breathtaking Amathole mountains. The hike is typically done over six days, and is considered one of the more challenging trails South Africa has to offer.

Difficulty: Advanced.

Length: 100km.

Cost: Price on request.

3. Fanie Botha hiking trail

Location: Mpumalanga.

Description: Winding its way through Sabie’s acres of lush Komatiland forest, the Fanie Botha trail exposes hikers to a variety of local bird life as well as two declared national monuments, namely the Mac Mac (pictured below) and Lone Creek falls. The whole trail takes five days to complete, but two- and three-day options are also catered for.

Difficulty: Moderate to advanced.

Length: Full route approximately 75km.

Cost: R105 per person per night.

Fanie Botha hiking trail in Mpumalanga,ZA

4. Magoebaskloof hiking trail

Location: Limpopo.

Description: Found on the escarpment skirting the town of Tzaneen, the Magoebaskloof trail takes hikers through craggy ravines and sub-tropical forest as they explore everything that the real Limpopo has to offer. Eucalyptus and blue gum trees form a towering canopy enshrouding one’s path from the outside world, calming frantic city minds. Annual rainfall in the area is high, so pack a raincoat. The full trail is five nights long, but shorter two- and three-day routes are also optional.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Length: Full route approximately 60km.

Cost: R105 per person per night.

5. Leopard’s Kloof hiking trail

Location: Western Cape.

Description: Nestled away in the quaint coastal town of Betty’s Bay is the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens. The Leopard’s Kloof day trail is but one of many pleasant park walks that cater to the entire family. The hike ascends through thick coastal forest and is punctuated by vibrant limestone fynbos and Renosterveld all the way up to the Leopard’s Kloof waterfall.

Difficulty: Easy.

Length: 3km.

Cost: R50 deposit.

6. Dolphin hiking trail

Location: Eastern Cape.

Description: If you’ve always wanted to hike the Tsitsikamma but felt the Otter Trail was too daunting, then the Dolphin trail might be for you. The luxury three-night hike allows travellers to see the Garden Route in style (and minus a heavy backpack) – an alluring proposal for those more fond of slackpacking. The iconic Storms River bridge is but one of many striking landmarks on the route. Other attractions include the wide variety of fauna, flora, and, hopefully, dolphins, which can be seen along the trail.

Difficulty: Easy.

Length: 17km.

Cost: R4990 per person if sharing / R5940 for individuals. Includes all food, accommodation and transport.

7. Hole in the Wall hiking trail

Location: Eastern Cape

Description: The Wild Coast’s unique mix of estuaries, mangrove swamps and seaside cliffs makes the Hole in the Wall hiking trail a distinctly memorable experience. In a similar fashion to the Dolphin Trail, this hike is also considered a luxury trail, so nightly accommodation is provided by local hotels. The hike is done over three days and is a must-do for coastal lovers.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Length: 31km.

Cost: Price on request.

Hole in the Wall hiking trail in Eastern Cape,ZA

8. Skeleton Gorge hiking trail

Location: Western Cape.

Description: Skeleton Gorge is arguably Table Mountain’s most scenic hiking route. While first half of the trail is largely limited to forested ravines, the second half takes in the majority of Table Mountain’s floral zones and offers magnificent panoramic views of Cape Town. The hike takes approximately six to eight hours to complete.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Length: 6.2km.

Cost: R50.

9. Swellendam hiking trail

Location: Western Cape.

Description: In addition to being the third oldest town in South Africa, Swellendam is also home to one of the most scenic hikes in the country. For any avid flower lover, the hike is a must. There are some 30 members of the Erica family to be found in the area, including some that are only found in these mountains. The full hike is done over six days, and should only be attempted by more veteran hikers; shorter trail options are also available for the less experienced.

Difficulty: Moderate to advanced.

Length: 70km.

Cost: At the time of writing, the trail was under maintenance on account of Western Cape fires.

10. Diamond Coast hiking trail

Location: Northern Cape.

Description: Situated within what was once a restricted diamond mining area lies the aptly titled Diamond Coast. It's now jointly run by De Beers Coast of Diamonds and the Namaqua National Park, and the trail offers hikers the chance to explore the path less travelled (and maybe find a precious stone or two while doing so). The hike is done over three days and traverses unspoilt sand dunes, shipwrecks, a variety of rock and mineral deposits, plus a plethora of wildflower and plant species.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate.

Length: 50km.

Cost: At the time of writing, we had just been informed that the Diamond Coast hiking trail was decommissioned; perhaps a road-trip with a few friends is in order?

11. Blyderivierspoort hiking trail

Location:Mpumalanga.

Description: Starting at God’s Window and winding its way through the third largest canyon in the world, the Blyderivierspoort hiking trail allows one to truly appreciate the majesty of the Blyde River Canyon and its surrounds. The full hike is five days, with the last two days being optional. Hidden among the ferns, cycads, wild figs, mobola plums and orchids you’ll find baboon, duiker and klipspringer; other attractions include Bourke’s Luck potholes (pictured below).

Difficulty: Moderate to advanced.

Length: 60km.

Cost: Currently under maintenance (six to eight months).

Blyderivierspoort hiking trail in Mpumalanga,ZA

12. Olifantsbos shipwreck hiking trail

Location: Western Cape.

Description: If it’s raw beauty and rich history you’re after, then the short and sweet Olifantsbos trail will deliver on both counts. Pick up an information pamphlet and map from the Buffelsfontein Visitors Centre and take a relaxing meander through the Cape Point Nature Reserve.

Difficulty: Easy.

Length: 5km.

Cost: R110.

13. Ukhahlamba Amphitheatre hiking trail

Location:KwaZulu-Natal / Free State.

Description: The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park can be found just two hours’ drive from Durban, and is home to the largest collection of bushmen paintings south of the Sahara. Arguably the most iconic feature of the park, however, is the Amphitheatre, an awe-inspiring basalt wall rising 3,000m above sea level. The almost perfectly symmetrical shape of the buttress also serves as a surreal backdrop for the Tugela falls, Africa’s highest waterfall (948m). The three day slackpacking trail is designed to allow people of average fitness to enjoy the wonders of this World Heritage Site and is not to be missed.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Length: 33km.

Cost: Between R3100–R3450 (minimum two people).

14. Sentinel Peak hiking trail

Location:KwaZulu-Natal / Free State.

Description: Falling on the western side of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre and dubbed the 'chain ladders' hike is the Sentinel Peak traverse, a trail not for the faint of heart. If scaling sheer rock face using a ladder is your thing, then this single day hike is for you. If you can muster up the courage, then the view from the top will serve as a handsome reward.

Difficulty: Moderate to advanced.

Length: 6km.

Cost: Price on request.

15. Whale hiking trail

Location: Western Cape.

Description: Stretching from Potberg to Koppie Alleen, the Whale trail gives hikers the chance to explore the unparalleled beauty of De Hoop nature reserve and coastline. The Whale trail has been said to be the 'Sun City of hiking routes' and is renowned to be one of the best whale watching spots on the globe. The route is characterised by rolling limestone sand dunes, salty sea air, and an assortment of wild fynbos – not to mention whales, of course. The trail takes five days to complete and must be done in groups of 6, 8 or 12. The hike is often fully booked months in advance and does not come cheap but the experience is certainly worth the price.

Difficulty: Easy.

Length: 55km.

Cost: R1695 per person + R480 per person (portage).


Reprinted with permission of SAvisas.com.

Photo credit: Ossewa (Mac Mac Falls).

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1 Comment To This Article

  • Garth posted:

    on 2nd December 2015, 20:59:33 - Reply

    The Northern Drakensberg Traverse is a lovely wilderness trail that i have just completed. Its really worthwhile with endless mountain views at high altitude. I used the Trail Guide South Africa app to find other trails in the Drakensberg or anywhere in South Africa, its very helpfull and highly recommended with lots of other details pertaining to the trails.