I round off each day with an hour’s walk, often longer, as it helps to clear my mind after a busy day and affords me an opportunity to don my best Women’s Boots. Beyond that though, I regularly seek out escapes to the surrounding beaches and mountain slopes, of which there are thankfully many.
Here’s a look at some of my recommended Cape Nature Trails to encourage you to get out there too. After all, with walking, all’s that is needed is a good pair of Boots for Women (or men), a passion for the great outdoors, and in my case – the company of two devoted dogs.
Most of my daily walks do see me skirting the Rietvlei Wetland Reserve and the Bloubergstrand Beach as I live in that part of Cape Town, but windswept coastal wanders, leisurely ambles through luxuriant nature reserves and clambering over city icons have also been known to soothe my spirit too. Often enjoyed with family and friends. So, lace up those hiking boots, and hopefully, I’ll see you out there soon
Table Mountain, Skeleton Gorge Trail
Table Mountain is the most iconic mountain in Cape Town, and it would be remiss to exclude it. Voted one of the 7 Wonders of the World, it towers above the city and can be enjoyed from endless vantage points. The Skeleton Gorge hiking trail takes you up the Eastern side of Table Mountain. You’ll start in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and hike around 7kms for 4 hours depending on your level of fitness, with the trail ending at Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain at 1086m above sea level. Here you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the city and ocean. Sunsets do not get much better than from this vantage point. The trail is not for the weak though. You will need to be very fit to take it on and prepare for the hike in advance – also don’t go alone as you’ll need backup, water and snacks. There are slippery stone steps, steep rocky sections, and wooden ladders to overcome along the way.
The Hoerikwaggo Trail, Cape Town
Arguably the most gratifying and challenging of all Cape Town overnight hikes is the Hoerikwaggo Trail. Hoerikwaggo is the Khoi people’s name for Table Mountain which means ‘Mountain in the Sea’. One of the city’s hidden gems, the 75 km trek takes five days to complete and is usually done with experienced guides from a local tour company. It’s very popular, so you’d do well to get your name down well in advance. The dramatic, undulating trail begins in the Cape Point Nature Reserve and follows a designated path along cliffsides and steep ascents and descents, beach walks and mountain paths until you reach Cape Town. Hikers stay in four tented campsites; Smitswinkel, Silvermine, Slangkop and Orangekloof en-route to Cape Town allowing you to appreciate both sides of the peninsula.
Kogelberg Biosphere, Overberg
Kogelberg Nature Reserve is a World Heritage Site located southeast of Cape Town and falls within the larger Kogelberg Biosphere. The Biosphere spans 100,000 hectares and is considered the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, renowned for its pristine beauty and diverse fynbos. The area is comprised of mountain ranges, indigenous forest, highland valleys, rivers and waterfalls making it an ideal place for hiking. There are numerous day and overnight trails at Kogelberg ranging from 3 km to 24 km long. One of the most popular trails in the area is Crystal Pools — a fairly easy hike leading past a series of rocks pools in which hikers love to cool off on a hot day.
Green Mountain Trail, Elgin
An activity that takes you deeper into an oft undiscovered part of the Western Cape, the four-day Green Mountain Trail in the Overberg teaches about the admirable conservation efforts being undertaken in the area and is one of my favourite experiences. The fully guided route has you traversing Cape Nature’s Hottentot Holland Nature Reserve, private farmland, and the Groenlandberg Conservancy, as we searched out the little things that matter and allowed time for introspective appreciation of nature. Covering a distance of 60km in total, the route winds through forests, fruit farms, shoulder-high fynbos and beautifully tended vineyards, with bountiful bird and animal life for company along the way. Time in nature is such a gift to oneself, soul food, a reconnection with the things that matter and a reminder of the need to protect our most precious environment. Especially in such a phenomenal setting. As this is a slackpacking trail, nights are spent in lovely guesthouses.
West Coast National Park, West Coast
The West Coast starts just a short drive up the R27 highway and offers a look at Bloubergstrand, Melkbosstrand and Yzerfontein. But I encourage you to head further North to the West Coast National Park with its 16-mile beach, tranquil lagoon and beautiful landscape. This Park offers a stark contrast between the tranquil turquoise waters of the lagoon on the one side and the wild Atlantic Ocean on the other. Along the ever-deserted beach, waves crash, and the wind always blows, there’s even a shipwreck on the shoreline that you can walk to. Take quiet time at Kraalbaai with its resident houseboats and Preekstoel on the lagoon. With several trails offered, the Geelbek self-guided 9km and 7km walks are the most popular. The Bakoor Trail from the Langebaan gate to the Seeberg Viewpoint is only 4,6km long and may suit some with less time or inclination. For serious hikers, the Strandveld Trail and seasonal Postberg Two Day Hiking Trails may be better. Other walks in the area include the 25km Darling Stagger from Darling to Yzerfontein, passing through wine and olive farms along the way. If you fancy a bit of beach walking, Eve’s Trail is a great option, as it includes the 16 miles as well as sections of the park. Most need to be booked in advance.
Paarl Rock, Paarl
Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve has the second largest granite boulder in the world, beaten only by Australia’s Ayers Rock, and consists of three dominating structures that are visible from a great distance. Paarl originally got its name when early settlers caught a glimpse of the giant boulder after the rain and thought it shimmered in the sun like a pearl. They called the area ‘Die Perel’ and it has remained so, transforming slightly over the years to Paarl. Declared a Nature Reserve in 1977, the area above the town is rich in unspoiled beauty, has landscapes covered in fynbos vegetation, ancient wild olives, rock candle woods and wagon trees. The dams on the top of the mountain contribute to the tranquillity. Several viewpoints offer panoramic views toward Table Mountain and the sea in the west and the Boland Mountains in the east, with well-marked walking trails to enjoy here. The most popular is the Klipkers Nature Trail, a circular route that starts at the Afrikaans Language Monument and takes roughly two hours at a leisurely pace. Although not tarred, the Mountain Road is well maintained, and you can park near the upper garden and picnic area and walk from there. On the plateau, roads are not intensively maintained, mainly to discourage motor traffic and to retain an unspoiled walking area. All that said, the main reason visitors venture this way is to climb Paarl Rock itself. You can clamber up to the top with the help of a chain and rope set in place for support, with little steps carved into the granite to help. lt can be slippery, so wear hiking boots. But you’ll love the sense of achievement when you reach that top point and the 360-degree views.
Bain’s Kloof, Wellington
Home to me for 20 years, Wellington is the more modest of the Winelands towns and certainly one of the most scenic with its outlying vineyards, table grape and citrus plantations, as well as dominant mountain ranges that hold the town in their curve and historically sealed the valley from the hinterland. That was until the completion of Bainskloof Pass in 1853, which remains one of the country’s most scenic mountain drives and offers recreational beauty, hiking trails and picnic spots. The Liemietberg Nature Reserve stretches into the 102 000 ha greater Boland Mountain range and forms part of the impressive Cape Floral Region and is home to 277 varieties of plants as well as the elusive leopard, baboon, otter, honey badgers, klipspringer, steenbok as well as 182 listed species of birds. It’s an untouched natural paradise with nine marked hiking trails set out to offer varying levels of difficulty. Depending on your interest and group dynamics, you could opt to spend a day with the family and a picnic at Tweede Tol or Balgat swimming holes. However, should you choose to do one of the longer trails, I’d recommend the 9 km Bobbejaansriver hike to the three-tier waterfall, the 7 km Murasie hike up to the ill-fated Hugo’s Rest ruins – said to be haunted – and the intensely beautiful 31 km overnight Liemietberg Trail.
For more inspiration read my Seven Best Hiking Trails to do in Cape Town and Hiking the Green Mountain Trail in the Overberg – and get those hiking boots dusted off. And if you need any more information please let me know, otherwise, I’ll see you on the trails.
** When out walking, it is important to take every necessary precaution, especially when exploring secluded areas, as crimes and accidents do happen. Before any hike, make sure you read up safety tips. Most importantly, never hike alone (groups of four or more are recommended), make sure you have a charged phone with you, tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to be back, and avoid hiking in foggy or wet weather. Often, permits are required.
** Above pic of me hiking the Kogelberg taken by Alex Oelofse.