There is no shortage of trails in Gauteng and many of them have a real wilderness feel, despite being close to the city.
Just south of Johannesburg is Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, which reader Marion Hüfner pointed out could have featured in my December 2011 column, ‘Wild hikes with wildlife.’ The 680-hectare reserve is very well stocked – it boasts 150 species of birds and around 650 indigenous plants and trees – and has a fascinating history. Entrance is free and there is a network of trails and guided walks through the open veld and koppies.
There are several other notable trails in the Gauteng area, and in the spirit of plugging into local knowledge, I asked Sue Desmond, hikes organiser for Johannesburg Hiking Club to share her selection of other great trails around Johannesburg.
Keep in mind most hikes in Gauteng are on private property, so there is generally an entrance fee. If you don’t mind shelling out R25 to R35 there’s a whole new world beyond the walls.
2. Uitkyk trail
This fairly strenuous, nine-kilometre day trail involves a steep ascent to the top of the Magaliesberg reserve, but the indigenous bush, waterfall and beautiful view of the Hartbeespoort Dam will reward your efforts. There are no amenities other than toilets at the parking area, so this is a good wilderness option for fit hikers. Jacana.
Tel 0861 522 262, www.jacanacollection.co.za
3. Hennops trails
Its proximity to Joburg (about 39 kilometres) and Pretoria (35 kilometres) as well as the picturesque setting and abundant game make this one of the most popular hiking destinations in Gauteng. The 11,3-kilometre trail has a lot to offer, with highlights including a suspension bridge, an old mine, ruins and a cableway to get you across the river. And when the hiking’s done, there’s a swimming pool, braai facilities and the option of hiring tubes to float down the river and rid yourself of the trail dust, all of which adds up to a perfect family outing.
Tel 082 825 9205, www.hennops.co.za
4. Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve
This scenic reserve near Heidelberg, south of Joburg offers a 66-kilometre network of easy day trails as well as a two- or three-day backpacking option. Keep your eyes peeled for plains game as you ramble though the rolling hills and bring braai stuff to end the trail in style.
Tel 011 439 6300, www.footprint.co.za/suikerbosrand.htm
5. Bergheim Holiday Resort
There are several trail options that take advantage of the magnificent Magaliesberg setting. The longest (eight kilometres) and most strenuous hike, which makes a great day outing, initially climbs steeply then contours around to a gorge where you can swim in rock pools. The farm also has braai and camping facilities and a large swimming pool in which you can cool off after a hike.
Tel 014 537 2363, www.placesforafrica.com/bergheim