It’s that out-of-door time of year when everyone dusts off their hiking boots. The rain has practically stopped for the season, apart from the odd welcome shower, and the heat of summer is upon us. People are rummaging for route maps, and heading for the hills. Because the intensity of the heat can make for rather uncomfortable midday walking, hiking in the Western Cape is definitely at its best now in October and November. And then again in the autumn months.
Here are three of the top hikes for those who enjoy multiple days spent out in the middle of nowhere:
1. Cedarberg Wilderness Area
– Algeria to Welbedacht Forestry Substation
There are few wilderness areas in the country, and this is one of them. Which means that hikers can make use of a huge system of paths and basic shelters without having to follow any set hiking trail. This particular hike, from Algeria to Welbedacht, is relatively easy. None of the days are strenuous, climbs are optional, and the distances covered are relatively.
Start: Algeria campsite (a popular spot for hikers to begin any ramble through the wilderness area)
Day one: Middelberg hut – 3.5 km
Day two: Middelberg hut to Crystal pool hut – 10 km
Day three: Crystal pool hut to Sleepad hut – 5 km
Day four: Sleepad hut to Welbedacht cave – 6.5 km
Route: Start at the campsite and head up a rather steep incline to Middelberg hut. Next day pass Cathedral Rocks, Grootlandsvlakte and Wildehoutdrif River en route to Crystal Pools hut. On day three, ascend the Engelsmanskloof and those who want to, can continue up Sneeukop, before overnighting at the hut. Day four is relatively easy along Die Trap to Welbedacht cave, so you can also include the climb up Tafelberg. And the return is a gentle descent down Welbedacht gully to the substation.
2. Boland Trail – Sir Lowry’s Pass to Jan Joubertsgat Bridge on the Franschhoek Pass
Be warned: this is a popular trail. It’s close to major towns and a high number of people are allowed on the trail at any one time, so leave this trail for off-peak moments, if you can. Best part about the hike is that, despite its being a 3 day hike, there are other trail options (I’ve listed them a little lower). Watch out for unpredictable weather. Although you’re travelling on a marked footpath, terrain is rugged and demanding.
Start: The security car park at the top of Sir Lowry’s Pass
Day one: Sir Lowry’s Pass to Landdroskop – 23 km
Day two: Landdroskop hut to Boesmanskloof – 17.5 km
Day three: Boesmanskloof hut to Franschhoek Pass – 13 km
Route: The initial part of the route is linear and follows the summit ridge of the Hottentots-Holland range on to Landdroskop and Shamrock huts. From there it follows the eastern slope of the Franschhoek Mountains where you sleep at Boesmanskloof hut. It ends on the Franschhoek Pass.
Alternatives: because the trail is not linear but made up of different smaller routes there are five two-day and two three-day alternatives you can follow. There are also a number of day hikes within the reserve – Suicide Gorge, Boegoeskloof and Jonkershoek Panorama Walk (strenuous).
3. Swellendam Trail – Starts and finishes at the Swellendam Forestry Station
Not an easy trail, this hike is also not very popular – not because it isn’t wonderful but probably because of its length – 6 days. The bulk of it lies in the Marloth Nature Reserve and the flowers and vegetation is quite extraordinary, particularly in spring and early summer. A great place to lose yourself.
Start: Swellendam forest station, Koloniebos hut (use the loo, as it apparently is the last flush toilet you’ll see for the next few days)
Day one: Swellendam forest station to Boskloof hut – 16 km
Day two: Boskloof hut to Goedgeloof hut – 10 km
Day three: Goedgeloof hut to Protea valley hut – 10 km
Day four: Protea valley hut to Wolfkloof hut via vensterbank – 12 km
Day five: Wolfkloof hut to forest station – 10.7 km
Route: This is a circular trail round the Langeberg range of mountains (they’re not called ‘long’ for nothing) directly above Swellendam. One heads off in an anti-clockwise direction around the Marloth Nature Reserve. The trail is spectacular. Leave time to explore Swellendam either before or after.
Good news: there are shorter routes ranging from single day walks to 2,3,4 day hikes.
Find your Cederberg Accommodation here after you’ve completed hike 1. If you’re in need of a break after hike number 2 book your Franschhoek Hotel today. Spend a few days of down time after tough hike number 3 and book into a Swellendam Guest House.