5 trails in South Africa for beginner hikers

Posted on 25 March 2024

Hiking trails can range from easy to impossible (although this is coming from a reluctant hiker, so don’t take it at face value).

As a new hiker, you want something easy to walk, not further than five kilometres, and that has a relatively low elevation. A good view is always a motivational factor, as well as your favourite snack.

READ: 5 tips on how to survive, and even enjoy your first hike

These five hiking trails have been tried and critiqued by yours truly, and I can confirm that they are all manageable for a new hiker.

1. Emeraldvale Brewery farm, Eastern Cape

trails beginner hikers

On the very edge of the wild coast, Emeraldvale Brewery has been plonked in between grassy hills and valleys.

They offer several hiking and biking trails, but I suggest choosing the shortest trail. Everything is explained on a sign at the start of the hike, where you’ll pay your fee via the honesty box (so bring cash). Walk through cow pastures and small forests before finding yourself back at the brewery.

The brewery itself serves big plates of hearty food, perfect for a post-hike lunch, and could trigger an old uncle to exclaim ‘magies vol, ogies toe.’ I’d also suggest you indulge in a beer tasting while you’re there, surrounded by that wild coast beauty.

  • Cost: R20
  • Location: Chintsa, Amatola, Eastern Cape
  • Length: 4.8 km
  • Find out more: trailforks.com

2. Bontebok National Park, Western Cape

trails beginner hikers

Bontebok National Park offers several easy-to-moderate trails. If you’re leaning more toward an easy trail, pick the Aloe Hill Trail, which you will realise lives up to its name when you find yourself between forests of tall bright red aloes. The walk is flat for most of the way and takes you past mountain and river views.

Pack a picnic basket and lie beneath the trees alongside the Breede River after your hike. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the bontebok roaming around the park.

  • Cost: R50 or free with a WildCard
  • Location: Bontebok National Park, Swellendam, Western Cape
  • Length: 1.9 km
  • Find out more: sanparks.org

3. Lotheni Nature Reserve, KwaZulu Natal

trails beginner hikers

The southern Drakensberg is superbly underrated and just as beautiful as the northern side. Jacobs Ladder Falls trail does include several river crossings, but the waterfall at the end of the trail makes it all worth it. Views of the Lotheni River and mighty mountains keep you company as you walk, and the elevation is stable for most of the hike.

Pack a costume and towel if you feel the desire to jump into that fresh berg water, and save some of your snacks to eat in the company of the waterfall.

  • Cost: R50 or free with a WildCard
  • Location: Lotheni Nature Reserve, Lower Lotheni, KwaZulu Natal
  • Length: 5 km
  • Find out more: kznwildlife.com

4. Rosemary Hill Farm, Gauteng

Picture: James Ainsworth

Get out of the city buzz and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds Rosemary Hill Farm. Their trails are laid out to give you a tour of the farm while you get those steps in, and the added man-made obstacles are still manageable for first-time hikers. You can even download their map from their website to mentally prepare yourself for your first hike.

Bring your dogs along, and indulge in a farm-style breakfast and well-crafted cappuccino at their onsite restaurant as a reward for completing your hike.

  • Cost: R45
  • Location: Rosemary Hill, Pretoria, Gauteng
  • Length: 5 km
  • Find out more: rosemaryhill.co.za

5. Battery Creek Falls, Mpumalanga

trails beginner hikers

This hike is for the more daring beginner hikers. It’s not particularly long, but the rocky sections can be a bit challenging when wet and slippery, and there is some scrambling involved. There are also some stream crossings, but it’s all worth it once you reach Battery Creek Falls.

Stand beneath the 30-metre waterfall for that perfect Instagram shot or cold plunge into the natural pool below. It is helpful to walk with someone who is familiar with the trail or download the map beforehand, and it is not well-sign-posted in areas. You can also stop in the Kaapsehoop village, where they sell a map of all their trails.

  • Cost: R30
  • Location: Kaapsehoop, Mpumalanga
  • Length: 5.8 km
  • Find out more: alltrails.com

Pictures: Jordyn Johnson

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