Activities / Western Cape

Rock-hopping in Bainskloof

Updated Monday, 28 January 2019

For more adventurous types who don’t only go camping to sleep off the previous night’s Klipdrift or spend the weekend fantasizing about the return of their hair-dryer, I highly recommend camping at  Tweede Tol in Bainskloof and doing the rock-hopper trail along the Witte River between the campsite and Eerste Tol at the top of the Bainskloof Pass.

Bainskloof is situated in the Limietberg in the Western Cape. The campsite is conveniently located no more than an hour and a half from Cape Town and is about 15 minutes from Wellington

From a camping perspective, Tweede Tol, managed by Cape Nature, is slightly commercial. This means that site sizes are somewhat limited and that neighbours are almost certainly guaranteed, however, it also means that the campsite is well-maintained. Booking is essential as are permits for designated trails.

When we chose to do the rock-hopper trail, we were a little unprepared for the day ahead of us and the thought of spending a morning scrambling along a river bed for 6km was slightly more romantic than it turned out to be.

We left a little late in the morning (in December) and made a seemingly wise decision to scramble upstream based on the relative ease of climbing up rocks as opposed to down them and with the perceived logic that navigation would be much easier.

Our judgement may have been slightly suspect and the trail took us about 8 and a half hours- most of which was during the hottest part of the day. It didn’t take long before constant balancing resulted in sore feet and the urge to get to the next shady spot or decent pool was an absolute necessity rather than a natural delight. Also, there came an hour past the half-way mark where distance suddenly mattered and every bend provided a cruel sense of hope that it was the last, when in fact it was at least an hour premature.

Despite the exhaustion, it was an absolutely fabulous day. The river bed was devoid of lazy frolickers (well anyone at all), the sense of escape was preserved, there were some exquisite rock pools, and the exercise was welcome.

Some advice if you are considering this trail:

  • Downstream is apparently recommended for a reason
  • 6km wound along a river bed is not 6km along a tar road
  • Do not wear precious clothes or shoes
  • Take lunch
  • Leave before 10am in mid-summer
  • Remember to have two cars- one for both the start and the finish- because walking up/down the tar road at the end is simply not an option
  • Do not go if you hate hiking, are indifferent about nature or are anticipating a long, late night around a camp fire that night
  • Do not go with someone who insists on talking the whole time

In all honesty, this is conveyed from the point of view of a timid adventurer, so my perspective is slightly corrupted by my tainted fitness, aversion to heights and inhibited courage, and is in no way a reflection of my fellow rock-hoppers, who are confident and less obsessed with a dip in every pool. In absolute fairness and in humble resignation to reality, I do believe that without my company and presence, the trail should have taken closer to six and a half hours. That said though, my comrades were equally exhausted and unamused by the 8th last bend before we eventually reached the end.

If you’re fit, healthy and a fervent nature-lover, this trail is saturated with reward.  A recommendation for the following day is to do the 9 km Bobbejaan’s River Trail to a waterfall. For the shocked and worn, however, Sunday is best spent lounging with the weekend masses in splendid rock pools in the Witte River near the campsite and picnic area.

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Destination Information:

Contact Details for Cape Nature:

Tourism reservations and bookings:
National callers: 0861 CAPENATURE (227 362 8873)
International callers: +27 861 227 362 8873 or +27 (0)21 659 3500