The South African hiking bucketlist

Posted by Kati Auld on 18 December 2017

Most of us at Getaway love hiking. And over the years we’ve accumulated a fair number of useful tips about hikes: from exactly what to pack on the Fish River Canyon, to how many steps it takes to tackle the Tankwa Camino.

So here’s a list of many of the South African hikes we have written about, as well as the ones we’re dreaming of doing soon. We figure it’s a pretty good indication of what every hiker should aim to do in South Africa. Got anything to add? Tell us in the comments!

Also read: Don’t die while hiking: survival tips from a pro

 

Multi-day hikes

1. The mighty Drakensberg

The berg is a place of awe and mystery. Secret streams and ancient places. Photo by Teagan Cunniffe.

This mountain range should be on every hiker’s must-do list. Our five experts have spent significant time up there and recommend these great routes for you.

Read the story: 8 of the best Drakensberg hikes recommended by experts

 

2. The Tankwa Camino

Me. Looking more cheerful than I sometimes felt.

Our gear editor, Melanie, looking more cheerful than she sometimes felt.

The Tankwa Camino is not easy. The route takes you from Calvinia to Ceres, through the heart of the Karoo, and walking those 256.6 kms was the hardest thing our journalist Melanie van Zyl had ever done. (And she’s a tough cookie.) Read her story – and why it was ultimately worth it – below.

Read the story: walking the Tankwa Camino

 

3. The Otter Trail

A friend checks out the stormy seas. Photo taken from the Oakhurst hut boma. Photo by Chris Davies.

A friend checks out the stormy seas. Photo taken from the Oakhurst hut boma. Photo by Chris Davies.

The Otter Trail needs no introduction: one of South Africa’s most famous hikes, it takes you through coastal forest, river crossings, and viewpoints like this. Bookings open a year in advance – and sell out quickly, especially on dates which are optimal for river crossings. Next year, South Africa’s oldest and most popular hiking trail turns 50. We sent a first-timer, and then got her to interview some folk who have all done the Otter Trail differently.

Read the story: How to do SA’s most famous hike: the Otter Trail

 

4. The Leopard Trail

My favourite camping site was on night three, and specifically because of this incredible scene just 15 minutes walk down the road. Photo by Teagan Cunniffe.

My favourite camping site was on night three, and specifically because of this incredible scene just 15 minutes walk down the road. Photo by Teagan Cunniffe.

Taking you through the wide-open spaces of the Baviaanskloof, The Leopard Trail is one of the newer options on this list. We covered this 55km slackpacking route in our April issue this year – click below to see more breathtaking photos from the assignment.

See the photos: behind-the-scenes on the Leopard Trail

 

5. Fish River Canyon

The Palm (Sulphur) Springs on day 2. Photo by Chris Davies.

The Palm (Sulphur) Springs on day 2. Photo by Chris Davies.

If you’re looking to do the Fish River Canyon hike, you’re in luck. This infamous 90km trail is definitely not for slack packers – and in order to truly enjoy the beauty of the area, you’ll need to be prepared. Luckily, we’ve got a day-by-day breakdown with survival tips, photos, and suggestions, so you don’t make the same mistakes we did.

Also read: how to survive hiking the Fish River Canyon

6. Table Mountain

Despite being so close to the city, for the majority of the hike we saw very few other people. There were stretches where we felt like we had the mountain all to ourselves. Photo by Matthew Sterne.

If you don’t have the time or the funds for a guided multi-day trail, here’s an alternative: a 85 kilometre trail over Table Mountain that you can do in three days, no camping required.

Read the story: Do it yourself: a multi-day hike on Table Mountain

 

7. Tsitsikamma Trail

The hike begins with a stroll on the beach; then it meanders through beautiful coastal forest.

The hike begins with a stroll on the beach; then it meanders through beautiful coastal forest. Photo by Morgan Trimble.

If you can’t get a booking on the uber-popular Otter Trail, this coastal route is a beautiful alternative. In the words of journalist Morgan Trimble, “the trail crosses many of the same rivers as the Otter, climbs numerous ridges and covers 64 kilometres over six days before reaching Storms River Bridge, near where the Otter Trail starts. Despite its 35-year existence, the Tsitsikamma remains relatively unknown and, thankfully, bookings are easy to come by.”

Read the story: The best hike you’ve never heard of

 

8. Walking trails in Kruger

Left: our homes for three nights. Each A-frame sleeps two and there are four in total. If you don’t completely book out the walk with eight people, you could bunk with people you don’t know. Right: on all walks you are accompanied by two experienced rangers equipped with rifles. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Left: our homes for three nights. Each A-frame sleeps two and there are four in total. If you don’t completely book out the walk with eight people, you could bunk with people you don’t know. Right: on all walks you are accompanied by two experienced rangers equipped with rifles.

Yes, there are more than one! From multi-day wilderness trails to day hikes, seeing Kruger at eye level is a completely different experience of the park, according to Melanie van Zyl.

Read the story: the best walking trails in Kruger

 

9. Green Mountain Trail

DayOne_GreenMountainTrail_056

The Green Mountain Trail is a new luxury slack-packing option in the Overberg, and combines two of our favourite things: rolling mountains and wine tasting. It was Welcome Lishivha’s first experience of a multi-day hike, and we figure that he’s spoiled for life.

Read the story: Slackpacking luxury on the Green Mountain Trail

 

10. Limpopo / Mpumalanga hiking route

Hikers gaze out at the granite peak of Thabaphaswa from The Lookout. Photo by Shaen Adey

Hikers gaze out at the granite peak of Thabaphaswa from The Lookout. Photo by Shaen Adey.

Unlike the other hikes on this list, this is a self-drive route, and it’ll take a week or more. But it links up five best hiking in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery in South Africa.

Read the story: five breathtaking hikes near Joburg 

 

11. Rim of Africa

The Rim of Africa is one of the longest hikes on the continent, but can be tackled in nine week-long sections. Photo from Rim of Africa.

The Rim of Africa is one of the longest hikes on the continent, but can be tackled in nine week-long sections. Photo from Rim of Africa.

We haven’t been on the Rim of Africa hiking trail yet, but we had to mention it: it’s absolute bucketlist material. Linking up the Cederberg and Outeniqua mountains, the entire thru-hike is almost 650km long and takes about three months to complete. Most people tackle it in sections though, which range from 60 to 100 kms each.

 

12. Addo National Park

There are no guided trails in Addo Main Game Area because the bush is too dense. With the Big Five potentially lurking behind any thicket, it’s not safe. But there are other sections in Addo to safely walk in the wild. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

There are just two places you can hike in Addo: either the jaw-dropping day trails on the slopes of the fynbos-covered mountains in the Zuurberg Section or, if you’re fit and strong, a two-day trail along the coast in the Woody Cape Section.

Read the story: Walk wild in Addo Elephant National Park

 

13. Genadendal Trail

The Genadendal Trail is a fairly tough two-day hike with little shade, but the flower-speckled mountainsides, interchanging views and refreshing swimming holes make it memorable.

Read the story: Follow ancient paths on this overnight Genadendal Trail

 

Day hikes

14. Table Mountain’s three peaks

Think you’re tough enough? This nine-hour hike takes you from Devil’s Peak, along the saddle up to Maclear’s Beacon, then down the terrifying face of Kloof Corner to Lion’s Peak. As Chris Davies says, “it’s not a hike for the faint-hearted, but if you’re reasonably fit, aren’t scared of heights, and (importantly) can find someone who’s been through the tricky sections before, then it’s hard to imagine a more exciting and rewarding way to hike on Table Mountain.”

Read the story: hiking Table Mountain’s three peaks in one day

 

15. Hiking the Hennops Trail

The suspension bridge crosses over the Hennops River. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

The wobbly suspension bridge crosses over the Hennops River. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Just 40 minutes from Joburg, you’ll find streams, hills, and beautiful views. There are two main hikes, plus a shorter trail suitable for kids. There’s plenty of scenery to soak up and a swimming pool to splash in post-hike. Get your playmates together, set a date and strap on your tekkies.

Read the story: hiking the Hennops trail

 

16. Hiking Lion’s Head

Overlooking Camps Bay for sunset

Overlooking Camps Bay for sunset. Photo by Teagan Cunniffe.

According to our Photo Editor, Teagan Cunniffe, there’s no better place to watch the sun set in Cape Town than Lion’s Head. Looking at her photos, we’re inclined to agree.

See the photos: hiking Lion’s Head at sunset

 

17. Hiking in Clarens

‘Mushroom Hike’ is a beautiful short walk past mielie fields, along a willow-filled river, then up gravel pathways and a ladder to the shapely eponymous rock pictured here.

You can easily see why the route coming past this rock is known as ‘Mushroom Hike.’ Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

There are four trails on the grounds of St Fort Country House, in Clarens. The tracks, which clamber up the sandstone hills surrounding the picturesque country house, differ in physical difficulty and there is something for everyone. ‘Mushroom Hike’ is a beautiful short walk past mielie fields, along a willow-filled river, then up gravel pathways and a ladder to the shapely eponymous rock pictured above.

Read the story: hiking at St Fort Country House in Clarens

Also read: Get a free trails map to Golden Gate National Park
Of course, we still haven’t managed to do everything. We’d love to hear from you: what are the hikes you think every South African should experience? Let us know in the comments!