- 10 km (5km to The Beach and back)
- Approximately 3 hours in total
- Easy to moderate terrain
- Drinkable water unavailable
- Not dog friendly
The vast Kogelberg Nature Reserve located near Betty’s Bay along the southern Cape Coast is well known for its longer Perdeberg and Kogelberg Trails, as well as the overnight Highlands Trail, but if you’re only in the area for the day, or wish to take in the beautiful scenery for a shorter time period, the Palmiet River Trail is the perfect hike for you. As the name suggests, the hike – which is more of a pleasant walk – snakes its way 5km upstream along the Palmiet River, traversing small tributaries while cutting through the diverse indigenous vegetation along the river banks in this pristine and beautiful reserve.
The hike begins at the Kogelberg office, situated 3km into the reserve from the turn-off on the R44 just passed Betty’s Bay (coming from Cape Town). A conservation fee of R50 is payable at the office, while Wild Card holders get in for free. At the office, a member of staff will hand you a map and direct you to the start, just behind the building.
Walking along a wooden board and up a short staircase, a clearly marked sign will lead you right onto a jeep track, where after a few hundred metres, another sign will direct you right along the Palmiet River Trail.
From there it’s a simple, well-trodden and clearly visible path which snakes its way down to the river, maintaining a very flat gradient along the riverbank for the entire 5km stretch.
The trail is mostly comprised of a single, sandy track, with the odd rocky section and a handful of mini staircases with built-in wooden logs to assist hikers over the less-than-frequent embankments.
Sticking to the western side of the river, the trail is mostly unshaded, but does cut through patches of high vegetation, with the tall clumps of grass and reeds often reaching face-level, so be careful not to leave a trailing stalk in the face of the person behind you!
There are a number of swimming areas specifically demarcated along the river, with various picturesque photo opportunities to capture the flowing water, with the elevated mountains in the background, combined with an array of diverse and colourful flora along the path.
Every few hundred metres, the path crosses a small tributary or stream, where tadpoles and frogs lie aplenty, while scurrying beetles and lizards are also a frequent citing along the trail.
Around 3.5km in, the path traverses a small rocky section which is easily scalable, yet hikers should watch their footing, especially if wet. Other than this section, the path is well-kept and easily visible – where it does fork, it always emerges onto the same path a few metres later, so do not be perturbed.
At a casual pace, on a path on which the young and elderly will be equally comfortable to manage, it should take approximately 1.5 hours to reach The Beach, a sandy area 5km upstream which, as the description reads, looks very similar to a beach, with the small sandy area and calmer waters of the river – perfect for swimming – providing the optimal setting for a family picnic and refreshing dip amid the quiet and untouched nature of the reserve.
To return to the parking lot, one can either back-track on the same path, or continue along the path for a few hundred metres more before reaching the jeep track for a less-scenic loop back to reception.