Where to go Hiking in South Africa

Journeys | 11.03.2020
Everyone has an escape. Maybe yours is the beach or going to the local park to read a book. Mine is being in nature and smelling the fresh, clean air and gazing over endless greenery while hiking.
South Africa is the perfect destination to relish outdoor adventures and reconnect with nature. With diverse landscapes, this country offers mesmerising mountains, pristine coastlines and the added bonus of meandering rivers cascading into secret waterfalls and caves.
While on an overland tour through South Africa, you will certainly be exposed to the dramatic terrain as you travel to amazing highlights and check off unique adventures you never thought possible. But the best adventures are those hard earned and while spotting wildlife from your seat in the safari truck might have its thrills, getting out on the hiking trails in nature will not just get your heart rate pumping, but loads of Instagram ready vistas too.
The Best Multi-Day Hikes in South Africa
Sure, we may not be the original, but with many hiking trails to rival the famous Camino de Santiago, you will discover South Africa's untouched beauty.

  • The Cape Camino
The best views in Cape Town are those you see while hiking the many trails of varied difficulty. So if you are looking to explore Cape Town on foot, then the Cape Camino is the adventure you've been waiting for.

Divided into 7 sections, each 16-25km in length and purposely mapped in the shape of an infinity symbol, the multi-day trails have a sacred spin. Featuring peri-urban terrain, the Cape Camino hike offers you an opportunity to unwind and reconnect. It's trails boast coastal treasures, historic winelands, enchanted forests and mountainside footpaths covering a total distance of 160km.

You can choose to do part of the route over 3 to 5 days, or commit to the full 7 to 9 days and complete all seven sections. Much like the Camino de Santiago you will have the added bonus of memorable interactions with locals while creating meaningful connections with Cape Town's friendly faces, picturesque beauty and sacred sites.
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

  1. Section 1: Wine to Water – Constantia Nek to Muizenberg (18km)
  2. Section 2: Whale Tale – Muizenberg to Simon's Town (16km)
  3. Section 3: Cape Buchu – Simons Town to Scarborough (25km)
  4. Section 4: Lady Lighthouse – Scarborough to Hout Bay (20km)
  5. Section 5: Atlantic Sunsets – Hout Bay to Sea Point (17km)
  6. Section 6: The Way of the Water – Sea Point to Rhodes Memorial visiting natural springs throughout the city (17km)
  7. Section 7: Mountain Shade – Rhodes Memorial to Constantia Nek (20km)

Start of trail: Schoenstatt Retreat in Groot Constantia
End of trail: Constantia Nek

Fitness level required: All levels are accommodated as you can elect to walk tar roads or mountain footpaths in some sections.
Distance: 160km in total.
Accomodation: Mix of local accommodation partners and couchsurfing.
To book your spot: You can self-navigate with a comprehensive map or hire local guides to accompany you. To book, visit the Cape Camino website.
  • Explore the Otter Trail:
The Garden Route along the eastern cape coastline of South Africa is a favourite road tripping route for locals and tourists alike. While we all love a great road trip, this stretch between Mossel Bay and Storms River is also a hikers scenic paradise.

Expect a journey of five days covering breathtaking coastal beauty, exploring rocky shorelines with some steep climbs and tricky descents including the odd river crossing. This rustic and often rural hiking trail requires some grit with few flat stretches. The overnight stops have basic amenities including ablutions, but almost everything else from sleeping bags to food and cooking utensils will need to fit into your carefully packed backpack.

Challenges aside, if you are up for the adventure then this multi-day hike will reward you with spectacular scenery and major kudos.
Location: Garden Route, South Africa

  1. Section 1: Storms River Mouth to Ngubu Huts (4.8km)
  2. Section 2: Ngubu to Scotts Huts (7.9km)
  3. Section 3: Scott to Oakhurst Huts (7.7km)
  4. Section 4: Oakhurst to Andre Huts (13.8km)
  5. Section 5: Andre to Natures Valley (10.8km)

Start of trail: Storms River Mouth
End of trail: Nature's Valley

Fitness level required: Best suited to experienced and fit hikers.
Distance: 45km in total.
Accomodation: Rural/Basic huts with ablutions.
To book your spot: This trail is rather popular so you will need to plan ahead with bookings filling up sometimes one and a half years in advance. To book, visit the South African National Parks Otter Trail page on their website.

Not in it for the long haul, no problem. Here's my pick of the best day hikes in South Africa to explore while visiting this diverse country.
Best Day Hikes in South Africa
  • Hike up Lions Head:
Perched alongside Table Mountain, Lions Head offers the most perfect city views. It's a coveted sunset picnic spot in the warmer months but those looking for the ultimate views lace up their hiking boots to conquer the summit.

This trail is clearly marked but be prepared to encounter chains and ladders as you test your upper body strength while pulling or being pushed to the top. Whether you make it all the way up or not, you will still be treated to spectacular vistas of the Cape Peninsula and on a clear day, you will see all the way out to Robben Island in the bay.

Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Start of trail: At the foot of Forestry Road
End of trail: Round trip will take you back to the parking lot at the start

Fitness level required: A moderate level of fitness will get you to the top in just under 2 hours.
Distance: 5.5km loop.
Need to know: Bring a head torch and warm coverup for sunset hikes.
  • Hennopos Hiking Trails close to Johannesburg:
A route frequented by hikers training for Kilimanjaro, these trails are popular with day hikers and trail runners. There is a selection of 3 routes all starting from Hadeda Camp and featuring a river crossing via a suspension bridge and the added adventure of a cable car.

Other highlights include an underground cave and historical sites such as an old hospital, settlements and dolomite mines. You can even partake in wildlife viewing while enroute as Zebra, Impala and Kudu roam the area.

Location: South Africa

  1. Route 1: Zebra Trail (5km)
  2. Route 2: Krokodilberg Trail (10km)
  3. Route 3: Dassie Trail (2.5km)

Start of trail: Hadeda Camp
End of trail: Round trip back to Hadeda Camp

Fitness level required: Suitable for hikers of all fitness levels.
Need to know: A fee of 80 ZAR is payable at Hadeda Camp on arrival.
  • Amphitheatre Sentinel Peak Hike in the Drakensberg
Towering mountains, lush valleys and untouched nature accurately describe the magic region of the Drakensberg. With endless trail options to choose from, you may be left unsure of which one to set foot on. Well rest assured, the Sentinel trail will live up to its reputation as the best trail in the area.

This route traverses the uKhahlamba World Heritage site as you find yourself on the 'roof of Southern Africa'. Eager hikers will be guided by winding paths to sections with chain ladders, read: 'not for the faint hearted'. Yes, you may not be able to feel your feet by the end of this half-day adventure, but who cares when you get to witness the Tugela River as it cascades a depth of 948m making it the second tallest waterfall in the world. However, the waterfall is seasonal as it is fed by rains so ensure you time this hike according to the weather patterns to see the waterfall flowing.
    Location: uKhahlamba Drakensberg, South Africa
    Start of trail: Sentinel car park
    End of trail: Ends back where you started

    Fitness level required: Challenging and best suited to relatively fit hikers.
    Distance: 12km in total with 3000m elevation.
    Need to know: An entrance fee of 55 ZAR is payable to the Royal Natal National Park and additional day hike fee of 90 ZAR at the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge and you can elect to drive a further 7km on a very rugged dirt road to the Sentinel car park or pay R150 - R255 per person for a return transfer to the start of the route.

    • Never hike alone. It is safest to hike in groups of three or more to ensure safety in numbers.
    • Always get a map or use a hiking app to get detail on the trails. Apps are incredibly useful and often have built-in alerts for help in case of emergency.
    • Be prepared with sufficient water and energy snacks.
    • Bring your sun hat and sunblock and wear sturdy hiking boots.
    • Hiking South Africa trails during the warmer months of September to March ensures you are less likely to encounter rainfall. Also know when to turn back as weather conditions can change rather quickly.
    • Accidents can happen in a heartbeat so prepare for any situation by reading this handy guide from Cape Nature
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