5 stunning winter hikes near Cape Town

Posted by Anita Froneman on 14 June 2021

Hiking is a year-round sport but in the Western Cape, winter hikes are extra special. Although it rains for a large chunk of the season, winters are often dotted with glorious, sunny days and mild temperatures.

During the summer, you’ll need to start hiking at first light to dodge the sweltering heat but in winter, hikers can get up at a reasonable hour and catch reasonable temperatures. Another fantastic benefit of winter hiking in the Cape is that you’ll often come across cascading waterfalls after heavy rains. Dams, rivers and rock pools are full, and vegetation is lush and green, making for incredible scenery.

Here are some of the most beautiful winter hikes in the Western Cape.

1. Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve

Views upon views! Credit: @FranschhoekLife

This beautiful reserve forms part of the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve and offers magnificent views of the Franschhoek mountains. Whether you’re after a gentle, beginner-friendly saunter or a full day, hardcore hike, you’re good to go because the reserve includes 10 different hiking routes ranging in distance and difficulty. Breakfast Rock Trail will take you on a lovely 3km, 1-hour stroll, while Perdekop will keep you busy for 6-7 hours over 13km. The area is especially green in the winter months.

Difficulty: Ranging

Cost: R50 entry permit

Contact: [email protected] or 083 270 7291

2. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

The garden is home to an impressive host of indigenous plants. Credit: Getaway gallery

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden falls under The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), showcasing and conserving biodiversity in protected gardens across the country. Kirstenbosch is known as one of the most exquisite botanical gardens in the world, covering covers 528 hectares. There are five trails within the garden ranging in difficulty. If you’re more inclined to enjoy relaxed strolls, the Boekenhout Trail is a 30-minute circular trail through various fynbos species. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Silvertree Trail is a 7.7 km route that takes three hours and leads you to the Vaalkat Waterfall. More experienced hikers can also climb to the top of Table Mountain up Nursery Ravine or Skeleton Gorge.

Difficulty: Ranging 

Cost: : R200 entry

Contact: 021 799 8783 or 021 799 8773

3. Krom River, Du Toitskloof

Keen for a dip in the icy water? Credit: Getaway gallery

The Krom River trail leads to an incredible rock pool with a small waterfall, the perfect lunch spot before heading back the same way you came. The route is inside the Limietberg Nature Reserve situated just outside of the Huguenot Tunnel near Worcester (you have to go through the tunnel if you are coming from Cape Town). The route treks through magnificent flora and there are ample swimming and picnic spots along the way. Be aware of muddy footpaths and slippery rocks in rainy weather, and rather don’t attempt this hike right after very heavy rains in the winter.

Difficulty: Moderate, fairly technical

Cost: R50 entry permit

Contact: [email protected] or 087 087 8250

4. Cederberg

Wolfberg Arch is a prime Cederberg destination. Credit: Teagan Cuniffe

The Cederberg is a favourite go-to for winter hikes because in summer, the temperatures can soar to well over 30 Degrees and some routes offer little shelter from the sun. The area contains an incredible amount of San rock art, caves and unique rock formations. Here, you can take your pick between various day hikes, of which some are moderate and beginner-friendly, or combine your hiking with some camping and stay overnight. Read more about Exploring the Cederberg’s Wolfberg Cracks.

Difficulty: Ranging, mostly fairly strenuous

Cost: Ranging. Day visitors permits from R40 and overnight hiking permits from R140 per night + R60 once-off conservation fee.

Contact: [email protected] or 087 087 8250

5. India Venster

Getting a fresh perspective on Lion’s Head. Credit: Anita Froneman

India Venster on Table Mountain is one for the avid Capetonian hiker’s bucket list. The trail takes you to the top of the Mountain while you’re surrounded by panoramic views of the city and ocean. You’ll soon find yourself right underneath the Cable Car, watching it going up and down (wondering why you aren’t in it). Prepare for some subtle rock climbing and see if you can find the elusive window (‘venster’ means ‘window’ in Afrikaans), a peculiar opening in an iconic rock formation with a stellar view.

Difficulty: Strenuous

Cost: Free

Find it: Just to the right of the Cable Car station on Tafelberg Road.

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