We’ve put together a list of trails that still qualify as ‘hikes’ rather than walks (although one or two are barely more), but the degree of difficulty is not too taxing. In other words, you don’t have to be super fit to do these hikes, and for a couple you don’t have to have done more than the odd push up at the gym during the year to manage.
These are hikes you can enjoy at the start or end of a day, when it isn’t quite so hot. And when friends and family enjoy being out of doors together. Again, these are some of our favourites, and if you feel we’ve left anything out, please add your comments at the end of the article.
Waterbuck nature trail – Hans Merensky Nature Reserve, Limpopo
how long: 11 km, 4 hours
Just near Tzaneen, this is a provincial nature reserve in the Lowveld that includes some stunning scenery. Beautiful mopane and red bush-willow woodland, riverine forest and dolerite ridges and the Great Letaba River combine to form a wonderful backdrop for two well sign-posted hiking trails.
There is wildlife too and you might catch a glimpse of the sable antelope and other Lowveld mammals (although no chance of stumbling upon any of the Big 5). There are rondawels to hire, the Tsonga Kraal Museum, and hot springs on offer too.
Kadishi Trail – Blydepoort Resort, Mpumalanga
how long: 2 km
There are a couple of trails available from the Aventura Blydepoort Resort in Mpumalanga that include the Guinea Fowl and the Leopard Nature Trails, but the Kadishi-Tufa trail is the one to look out for, although it’s pretty popular for obvious reasons. This trail starts outside chalet no 64 and ends near the lower viewpoint on the road.
During the walk you descend into the valley taking a meander into the ravine alongside the Kadishi River with its numerous waterfalls and pools.
Loerie trail, near Sabie, Mpumalanga
how long: 14 km, 8 hours
difficulty: easy to moderate
This is a day circular walk that starts at Ceylon Forest Station in Sabie or the Castle Rock Caravan Park and is a favourite amongst visitors, so it might be busy during the holiday season. If you want to make it shorter, park a car at either end and take the 5 km one-way.
But you should find the full length hike relatively easy, considering most of it is level and through pine and eucalyptus plantations. The patches of indigenous forest are well worth it.
Pilanesberg network of trails, North West
how long: 7-8 km, half day guided walks
These are group guided day hikes for visitors to the nature reserve. They vary in length and can take up to 5 hours. The bonus is that your guide usually knows a great deal about the game and vegetation of the Pilanesberg reserve and there is no chance of stumbling from the path.
Depending on whose account you read, children younger than 12 are not allowed on the hike, and group size is kept to a maximum of 10. As an alternative you could try the reserve’s elephant-back safaris.
Spandau Kop walks, Camdeboo National Park, Eastern Cape
how long: 5-16 km
difficulty: easy to moderate
The Camdeboo National Park, previously known as the Karoo Nature Reserve, completely surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet, and it is in turn dominated by the two gloriously unusual geological formations of Spandau Kop and the Valley of Desolation. The Eerstefontein walk starts and ends at Spandau Kop, which you cannot help but see from the town.
In the shadow of this unusual koppie you will find a cactus labyrinth at Obesa Nursery (but that is an aside for those interested in tacking something a little spiritual onto their outing). You can choose any of three walks that start and end at Spandau Kop gate, and there are a couple of great picnic spots at Eerstfontein and Agterstefontein to round it all off. Look out for the amazing gifbol geophytes, a bulb that looks just like an onion.
Terblans Nature Trail, near Knysna, Garden Route
how long: 7 km circular, 4 hours
There is an abundance of day hikes in the Knysna area, and picking but one for the whole family to do is difficult. This route is named after a tree in the area, actually the largest member of the Protea family, and not Terblanche the former AWB leader, despite the similarity of the spelling. This lovely walk starts at the Grootdraai picnic spot at the old Gouna forest station, roughly 17 km north of Knysna and is well marked along the route with the symbol of a wild pig.
The trail does start with a sharp descent and ascent, but aside from this is level and includes a number of incredible yellow wood trees. Because of the predominance of moist forest in the walk, the bird life is wonderful and if you’re quiet, you can hope to see the Knysna turaco, grey cuckoo shrike, olive woodpecker, chorister robin and many more. Look out for signs of porcupines and bush pigs.
Other hikes in the area include the Elephant Walk, Knysna Forest Walks, Kranshoek Forest and coastal walk, and the Robberg Peninsula Walk to name but a few.
Newlands Forest, Cape Town, Western Cape
how long: 1.5 hours
Cape Town has many day hikes. And many books have been written on the subject. If you want an overview, visit a book shop and sift through the available hiking maps and journals of those who have taken the time to document them. Newlands Forest is beautiful in which to walk, particularly because of the welcome shade of the trees in hot weather. There is a circular walk you can do that starts and ends at the Newlands Forest Station and is just long enough to feel as if you’re exercising.
It’s perfect for the whole family and is easy. What’s more, the mountain backdrop and incredible scenery and interlinking paths that invite exploration mean that you could end up here for the better part of a day. If you’re after a longer, slightly more taxing hike, then take the Newlands Forest contour path, which starts and ends at Rhodes Memorial and meanders through Kirstenbosch. Parts are pretty steep though.
Ploughman’s Kop, Royal Natal Park
how long: 7 km, 3 hours
difficulty: moderate to easy
Ploughman’s Kop is a mountain in the shape of a head on the left arm of The Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal Park, which is in turn part of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. Really the walk is about the Ploughman’s pools, but to reach them you need to go on a rather short, but nonetheless taxing up and then down walk that takes you from the Mahai campsite. The pools are en route to the ‘kop’ and well worth the effort, and you can make it up and down within three hours, give or take a few more minutes to enjoy the icy waters of the rock pools.
Advice when hiking:
• one should be relatively fit, although most of the above are easy
• take a first-aid kit along
• be prepared for all kinds of weather, particularly in the mountains
• hike in groups of at least three
• wear a hat
• don’t cross rivers at high tide
• take nourishing food and lots of water along
- South Africa Hiking Trails
- Things to Do in South Africa
- South Africa Attractions
- South Africa Accommodation