Our Lion’s Head trail experience

The Cape Trail: Our Lion’s Head trail experience 

Lion’s Head is one of Cape Town’s most iconic sights. Rising from the back of Signal Hill, it presents locals and tourists alike with incredible views of Cape Town and its surroundings.

The start of the Lion’s Head hike can be accessed by turning right at the corner of Kloof Nek Road and Signal Hill Road if approaching from town, or left if approaching from Camps Bay. About 200 m up Signal  Hill Road you will see a metal boom and jeep track path on the left-hand side of the road (mountainside). Here you may look for parking on the opposite side of the road (town side). You may need to drive a little further to find parking, depending on how busy it is. Once you have parked, walk to the boom where you will see the signpost for Lion’s Head hike that indicates the start of the hike.

The initial 800 m is a steep ascent up the wide jeep track. Along this segment, there are a couple of viewing spots on the left of the path should you wish to stop and soak in the views of the coastline. At 800 m you will find green netting on the ground, which is used for the paragliders that jump from Lion’s Head. Continue on the jeep track for another 150 m of relatively flat track, before the rocky ‘steps’ begin.

Continue straight and do not veer left at the adjoining paths. At times you will need to take big steps to clear rocks and ledges along the route. Fortunately, there are steel handles and ladders to help you up the most difficult sections. With about 500 m to go, you will come across a T-junction, where the signpost will indicate two options: the recommended route via the ladders and chains (‘Chain route’) or the ‘Alternative route’.

Although the Alternative route is slightly longer, it is far less busy than the Chain route. Turn left at the T-junction to follow the alternative route, which will take you along the contour of the mountain until you are on the edge looking out over Camps Bay, and Table Mountain. Turn right and head up the rocky section until you come to a plateau. From here you will see the ridge of the ‘mane’ of Lion’s Head that takes you directly to the summit. Continue on the path that veers slightly right and meets up with the Chain route at a large tree. Turn left and head up the 10 m steep rocky section above the tree.

At the top there is surprisingly ample space so sit, relax and cast your eyes over the Atlantic Ocean, Table Mountain and Cape Town CBD or North towards the Hottentots Holland mountain range. This is particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset, enjoyed with friends and a picnic basket.

Pet-friendly trails you should visit!

The Cape Trail: Pet-friendly trails you should visit!

There is no joy much purer than hiking on trails with your furry best friend! Here at The Cape Trail, we will show you around the best trails to visit for your outing with your fur baby. Let us walk down the wonderful pet-friendly trails across the Cape. Take a look at the list of trails you should visit with your pet below: 

Cave Peak and Spes Bona forest

  • 6.5 km loop
  • Some water
  • Shade in forest areas
  • Little water
  • Dog friendly (sort of)*

This 6.5 km loop is a great hike when you’re in the mood for something a little more adventurous. Cave peak offers several caves to go and explore. The descent meanders through the beautiful Spes Bona Forest. I would make sure you have a decent general knowledge of the area or bring someone with you who does as the path can get a little confusing at times. Although a great hike all year round, the contrasting colours of the blossomed fynbos flowers in spring is particularly spectacular alongside the unbeatable views of False Bay.

The hike starts at the entrance to Echo Valley off of Boyes Drive. If you are lucky with your timing, there is parking directly opposite the entrance. When you begin the hike, you immediately start climbing some rocky stairs. After about 400 m of climbing there is a slight deviation in the route, stay on the more obvious route. A little further up at 750 m, is Weary Willy’s with built-up stone and metal signage. Follow the route to Amphitheater and Echo Valley Forest (on the left). Don’t forget to look behind now and then during your ascent to appreciate the view of Kalk Bay.

Continue up the path through the fynbos until you reach some large boulders on your right. This area is called Hungry Harry’s. Here, approximately, 1.2 km into your hike take a turn to your left. From this turn, until the summit of Cave Peak, directions can get a little confusing. The paths aren’t always very obvious. When in doubt, look out for cairns that will help you find your way up. The path should aim towards just the left of the bottom of a small rock overhang. Admittedly, we got lost and went off track a bit, but reached the overhang at about 1.45 km. Continue heading up until you reach a large tunnel structure formed by rocks. Enjoy the view on the other side of the tunnel where you can see up until Simon’s Town. To continue on your route, walk through the tunnel staying slightly to the left. The path will head downhill again before heading up again. Ahead of you will be two options to scramble your way to the top, we suggest the option to the right for slightly easier scrambling.

At the top, you are treated to stunning views all the way over to Noordhoek. We did a bit of exploring at the top to find the perfect spot to have a snack and take in the scenery. From where you reach the top, continue hiking along the path to your left. This route takes you alongside numerous cave entrances to go and explore. Please make sure you are fully geared before exploring any of the caves. At approximately 2.4 km into your hike, the path takes you through a small yellowwood forest, with another cave entrance. Continue to walk alongside the rock on your right. The path will lead you to some built-up stone with directions on top, follow the directions to the amphitheatre.

This path will take you alongside an old fence, on your right at about 3.4 km, with a beautiful view of the valley. The path will lead you to the beautiful amphitheatre, a large clearing in your walk. You will find another set of built-up stones here, with a detailed map of the different hiking routes the area has to offer. From here, continue towards the Spes Bona Forest. The hike will take you along the top of the mountain until 4 km where the descent towards the forest begins. A couple of hundred meters further, they will reach Spes Bona Forest. For many, this is the highlight of the hike. The boardwalks lead you through the beautiful milkwood and yellowwood forest for another few hundred meters. Along this section of the hike, watch your head, some low lying branches need ducking under.

On the other side of the forest, the descent continues through fynbos, with more amazing views of the ocean ahead. At about 5.7 km, you reach another set of directions on the built-up stones. Follow the route back towards Weary Willy’s. This path will continue back toward the original entrance, watching your step on your way down. Some fun pictures have been carved into some of the rocks. At Weary Willy’s, take the exit back to Boyes Drive. The route returns to the start of the hike and parking area.

*This route is technically classified as dog friendly, but the scrambling may be difficult to do with your pooch. I would recommend finding an easier alternative route to find your way up to Cave Peak.

Constantia Nek

  • 1.5 hours (to Alexandra Reservoir)
  • Moderate terrain
  • A half shaded, half unshaded
  • Water available
  • Dog friendly

A pleasant and well-occupied trail up the southeast side of Table Mountain, the hike up Constantia Nek is easily manageable, accessible, dog friendly and a perfect way to enjoy the outdoors for the whole family. Situated in Table Mountain National Park in the south (via Constantia), the path is clear, walkable and well-worn, with a few rocks, roots and steps to negotiate at first, beyond which a steep tarred road will take you to the top, with the view that awaits well worth the effort.

 Starting from the Cecilia Forest parking lot on Rhodes Drive in Constantia in the Southern Suburbs, the first segment of the hike winds its way alongside many tall, majestic trees before entering the thick vegetation of Cecilia Forest, providing much-needed shade in the heat of the day. A map of the area is printed on the signboard at the start of the jeep track adjacent to the parking lot, with several various pathways leading to the same destination, yet we took the route as follows:

From the parking lot, the jeep track gradually winds its way up, the old pine trees stretching high into the sky along the dirt road before being covered by many overhanging branches and vegetation, with the path becoming visibly rocky and uneven.

Approximately 15 minutes into the hike, a small free-flowing stream will traverse the main path on which you are walking. Before crossing it, take the clearly visible pathway up to the left of the stream, which again is covered in roots and rocks, so watch your footing.

Five minutes along this path will take you up to the main jeep track once more, as you will reach a fork in the road. Traverse the jeep track, continuing up the narrow path to the left of the river which is defined by several wooden logs built-in as a staircase up this path. The pathway is well worn, clearly visible and easily walkable, and gently ascends upwards before reaching another intersection, with cement braai areas clearly visible on the left of the path. Opposite these is a flight of stairs built into the rising embankment with the help of wooden logs.

Continue along this path, where after approximately ten minutes at a leisurely pace, the path will intersect the main, tarred Constantia Nek jeep track. And don’t be fooled – this pathway is steep! There is no gradual increase about this road, and it sharply ascends the side of the mountain before cutting back to an even steeper section.

Breath-taking views of the Southern Suburbs, the ocean and mountains in the distance, along with the encouragement of some families and dog-owners along this popular route, will keep you going as the track hugs the side of the mountain all the way to the top.

The breathtaking view will keep you going. As the path flattens out, the first of three dams will appear on your left, the first being De Villiers Dam – feel free to swim here, picnic or enjoy a picnic along the shore. At this point, you would have ascended 400m from the parking lot.

Continuing along the tarred pathway, the Overseers Cottage appears soon after on the right, outside which is a water fountain, providing much-needed hydration and a cool drink for you and any furry friends.

The path slowly rises along for another few hundred metres, where you will find Alexandra Reservoir first, and then Victoria Reservoir just after, to your right. Both are picturesque settings, which make for great photos and a lovely picnic area on the rocks. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed.

Arangieskop multi-day trip trail

The Cape Trails: Arangieskop multi-day trip trail

Arangieskop is a stunning and challenging two-day hike. There is certainly a good reason it is considered to be one of the toughest hikes to complete in the Western Cape. Day one is only 10 km but it is a steep uphill battle almost the entire way with an overnight stop at the Arangieskop hut. Day two starts with another short uphill climb to the summit followed by a long tough descent that will most certainly take its toll on your body, leaving you struggling to walk comfortably the next day. If you do brave this hike, the views and general scenery along with the unbeatable feeling of accomplishment make it all worthwhile. 

The hike starts from the Dassieshoek hut, as you exit the gate take a turn to your left. Walk along the dirt road until you reach the Dassieshoek Nature Reserve. At the first fork in the road about 800 m into the hike, make sure to stay left. On day 1 look out for the white footprints and cairns, these will keep you on track in moments of uncertainty.

At 1.2 km take a sharp left, close to the picnic area. Shortly after this, I crossed a bridge made from a railway line. The road will take a bend to the right shortly afterwards at about 1.36 km. A set of footprints will guide you off the road to the path on your left where the ascent begins. Some carved out stairs will assist you for the first part of your climb, which takes you into the fynbos. Unfortunately, this area was still recovering from fire damage when we walked through it. Although the bushes may still be recovering, don’t forget to take a look at the scenery of Robertson behind you and the beautiful mountain ahead of you.

At 4 km the descent starts into the valley. On your way down there’ll be some chains and ladders to help you get down to the water. At the bottom you will find plenty of shade, flowing water and many comfy rocks to rest on. This area is great for a tea stop, a short recuperation period and a water refill. It will be needed, as the section ahead is no easy feat.

Day 2 is a total distance 0f 12.5 km back to the Dassieshoek hut. To make your way to the Arangieskop summit, backtrack the way you came into the Arangieskop hut and follow the yellow footprints to the top. The hike to the summit is just over 1 km in distance and 200 m in elevation.

After reaching the summit, the tough descent begins. Go especially slowly and carefully over this first section but be sure to still stop and take in the spectacular views while descending. About 4 km into the hike, the trails lead you down into a forest area.

The best table mountain trails!

The Cape Trails: The best table mountain trails!

Mountain hiking is one of the best activities that you can do with your friends and family. Not only is it fun, but it also allows you to discover the beauty of nature in ways that you didn’t know before. The Cape is full of beautiful landscapes that are waiting to be discovered by you. Start your mountain hiking journey with us and we’ll lead you to the best trails across the area. Check out the best mountain trails below: 

Kirstenbosch – Nursery Ravine – Constantia Nek Loop

  • 10 km circular route
  • 4-5 hours
  • Shade for part of the hike
  • Water on the trail during winter, not summer
  • Moderate – Strenuous difficulty
  • A mix of road, jeep track and single track
  • Dog friendly (if fit)

The hike begins at Rycroft gate i.e. the top entrance to Kirstenbosch gardens. There is parking available opposite the entrance. If you have a Wild card or Table Mountain National Park activity/access card you will enter for free. If you do not have such a card you will need to pay the daily visitor’s fee. The hike starts gradually as you ascend straight up the road in front of you towards the towering mountain. Straight ahead the road will turn into a jeep track. Take this path until it converges with another jeep track. Turn left and continue upwards towards Constantia Nek. Soon you will encounter a flight of stairs on your right. Head up these stairs that will take you to the contour path, a beautiful well-defined single-track that winds its way all around Table Mountain. Turn right at the contour path and follow it all the way until you reach Nursery Ravine. Although not well signed, this will be the first well-forested area you come across, deep within a ravine and with a daunting stairway to the top on your left. Don’t let this scare you, however, this is where the fun begins!

The hike up Nursery Ravine is long and steep – involving high steps and sections of scrambling. Take your time and enjoy the fresh shaded forest and the inevitable sounds of trickling water and chirping birds to your left. Approximately one-third of the way up you will pop out of the shaded area and will have your first glorious view back across the Cape. Continue winding up the mountain and be careful of slippery rocks as you use all the might in your legs and often your arms to help inch your way up. There is a wooden stairway with a side bannister to help you pull yourself up the final stretch and collapse on top of the mountain with a sense of relief. Take a moment to acknowledge your climbing prowess and soak in the spectacular views. This is a perfect place for a snack.

Having recovered from the ordeal, facing the mountain take a left (there is a map at the top in case you feel lost) towards Constantia Nek. Approximately 100 m afterwards you will come to a junction where you may turn right to the dams and kasteelspoort (all the way on the Atlantic side) or left towards Constantia Nek. Take the latter option. This path twists and turns around the rocky outcrops so stay focused to ensure you do not fall off the track. There are also brief shallow sections of steep rock descents so be careful to slowly choose the safest route and descend in one piece. You will continue for approximately 30 minutes before the path develops prepared ‘steps’ with wooden edges. At this point, you will know you are near Constantia Nek. Continue down until you reach a tar road. Turn left and descend towards the Overseers overnight hut (see Constantia Nek hike). Have a sip or fill up from the drinking tap graciously provided next to the hut. Then continue down the road and prepare your legs for what is about to come.

The road becomes very steep as you descend towards Constantia Nek. Although challenging, the scenery offers some respite. At the bottom of the first section, the road turns sharply to the left and shortly after there is a dirt single track with steps to the right. You may either continue on the tar road straight or take the single track right – they will converge later on. The single track is more technical and involves more tricky rocky sections whereas the road is easy going but slightly longer. At the point where they converge there is another sharp turn in the road. This will be at the end of the single-track or the point at which you can see the single-track stairs coming down from your right if you remain on the jeep track. Turn left here and continue on the jeep track in the direction of Kirstenbosch (with devil’s peak ahead). This marks the beginning of the way home.

At the next jeep, the track junction continues straight. The path undulates with multiple paths stemming off of it but remain steadfast and do not diverge from the path. Be careful of mountain bikers flying past as this area is very popular. From the aforementioned junction, you will walk for approximately 45 minutes before coming to the border of Kirstenbosch (well-signed). Heading left here will take you back onto the contour path into Kirstenbosch. 

However, continue straight on the bike-friendly single-track that will take you to the upper keep track of Kirstenbosch. Walk down the jeep track – you will soon come across the flight of steps you ascended earlier on the left. At the next junction turn right onto the jeep track that will lead to the starting tar road that takes you back to the top gate of Kirstenbosch.

Jonkershoek Eerste/ Tweede Waterval Trail

  • 4km round trip (3km round trip to the first waterfall)
  • Approximately 3 hours in total
  • Moderate terrain
  • Partly shaded
  • Drinkable water unavailable
  • Not dog friendly

The picturesque Jonkershoek Nature Reserve located just outside Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands is well-known for its plentiful hiking and mountain-biking routes, with the Eerste/Tweede Waterval Trail a shorter, moderately difficult option that most members of the family should be able to conquer. Snaking along the tributaries of the Eerste River, the Eerste Waterval – Afrikaans for “First Waterfall” – is an easy 1.5km away from the start of the hike, with a well-treated, flat and sandy footpath leading to the water cascade. The Tweede Waterval – “Second Waterfall ” – is situated further along the same path, which includes a moderate ascent up the pathway, with the last few hundred metres involving clambering over rocks along the riverbed to the second waterfall.

Jonkershoek Nature reserve is situated just 10km from Stellenbosch, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, at the end of Jonkershoek Road. The nature reserve provides a range of activities for the whole family, including day hikes, swimming, bird watching, mountain biking, river rafting/kayaking, picnicking and fishing. A conservancy fee of R50 for adults and R30 for children is payable at the entrance (free for Wild Card members), where the guard on duty will direct you to the start of this hike, a 5km drive along a rocky dirt road from the entrance gate.

The sandy hiking path takes you on a relatively flat and easy route to the right of the river, with the picturesque Hottentots-Holland mountains towering above. Lizards are often seen basking in the sun, the bird-life is thriving and frogs can be heard croaking in the water as the path remains parallel with the river for the most part, before an obvious though signless right turn 1km in takes you to the first “Eerste” waterfall a few hundred metres off the main path. The area at the base of the waterfall is very small, but shaded, with young children often seen splashing in the gently-flowing stream below.

Back-tracking along the pathway to the waterfall, a right turn will take you along the main path to the second waterfall. The sandy pathway becomes a bit more rocky, first crossing a small tributary before ascending sharply – this ascent is a few hundred metres long, yet wooden logs have been built-in as stairs to help ease the way.

The path then flattens out, but is now elevated above the river, with a well-beaten left turn soon visible – this is not part of the path, but rather a stop-off point many have used to make their way down to the river for a swim or picnic.

Thereafter the path seemingly comes to a fork, leading either to a sharp up-turn to the right or straight on along the actual river. The right turn is in fact the way back from a different route in the reserve, with the rocky route directly ahead leading to the base of the second “Tweede” waterfall some 500m ahead.

Cape Point – Kanonkop

  • 7 km circular route
  • No shade on trail
  • No water on trail
  • Easy – moderate difficulty
  • Sand and dirt single track with some tar
  • Not dog friendly

The Kanonkop hike starts in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. There is an entrance fee to enter the reserve, otherwise check ahead to see whether your Wild Card or Table Mountain National Park activity/access card provides you with free entrance. The Kanonkop trail is suitable to hikers with a moderate level of fitness. The terrain in mostly dirt or sand single track with a shorter section on a tar road. There are a few shorts climbs on this hike with the summit at 236 m. The hike takes approximately 2 hours (excluding a tea/lunch stop). After completing this trail, there are plenty of other places to explore in the reserve, including some nice

The hike starts from the Buffelsfontein visitors centre. Take some time to look around the visitors centre. There’s plenty of information to take in about the history of the reserve as well information about the flora and fauna. A viewing spot near the centre overlooks a stream where you can often find some the animals of the park drinking. The overnight hiking trail also continues via the visitors centre, so make sure you take the right path. You’ll know you are at the right spot when you find a little blue and yellow boat to your left. Just after this you will see a sign clearly marking the start of the path.

The path starts on a dirt trail through a bushy area, but a after a few hundred meters the path crosses a little stream over a bridge. From this point, the trails becomes more sandy. About 600 m into the hike, the path crosses a tar road. The path on the other side is easy to see. This path will eventually meet with the path from Bordjiesrif (which you will return on) at 1.2 km. This marks the start of the gentle climb up until the summit of the hike.

The sandy path continues towards Kanonkop with Paulsberg, the highest peak in the area (368 m) in sight. After roughly 100 m there is another bridge where the path crosses another little stream. At about 2.4 km the path takes a bend to the right where the climb to the top becomes a little more rocky and steep. Just a little further on, at about 3.2 km you will find the old cannon which was once used to signal Simonstown the arrival of ships into False Bay.

A few hundred meters away is a perfect lunch spot overlooking the bay. The descent continues to provide spectacular views of the bay below with plenty of spots to stop and take in the view. At 3.4 km there’s a fork in the path. The path to the left leads to a detour with a worthwhile view point. The remaining descent is a little more technical and steep than the climb until the path ends at the tar road at 4.8 km, across from the Booi se Skerm parking area.

Here, take a turn to the right and follow the tar road. Along this road, the lime kiln can be found which was once used to burn calcrete and shells for lime. At about 5.2 km a short but unwelcome ascent begins which eventually leads you to the start on the off road trail. At 5.5 km turn right at clearly marked Kanonkop trail that continues to ascend for another 200 m. At this point, at 5.7 km the trail meets back up with the trail on the way to Kanonkop. Continue to follow this path back to where the hike ends at the Buffelsfontein Visitors Centre.

Palmiet River Trail

  • 10 km (5km to The Beach and back)
  • Approximately 3 hours in total
  • Easy to moderate terrain
  • Unshaded
  • 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.

Description

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.

Chapman’s Peak

  • 5.5 km there and back
  • Rocky terrain
  • No shade
  • Water is rainfall dependent so pack
  • Dog friendly (for agile pooches)

This hike starts just off of the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive. Although the views along this route are already amazing, the higher you go, the better it gets! If you are driving from the Hout Bay side you can ask for a day pass when you get to the toll gate if you plan on returning the same way. If you’d like to continue to Noordhoek you will have to pay the fee for your vehicle. The trails start does not have much space in terms of parking, so, we encourage carpooling and getting there early. Most of the terrain is rocky with a few rocky stairs. The hike is a total distance of 5.5 km and should take you about 2.5 hours with an easy pace.

The first few hundred meters of the hike starts with a set of rocky stairs which takes you across a little stream (seasonal/rain dependent). After about 750 m of rocky stair climbing you will come across a little viewpoint to your right for you to look back on what you’ve already accomplished and the beautiful bay. About another 100 m from this, you will find your first and only crossroads in the trail. Be sure to stay right when you get to this point. Straight will take you towards Noordhoek and left will take you towards Blackburn Ravine.

After the crossroads, the path towards Chapman’s Peak is quite straight forward. The trail continues to steadily climb while taking you around Lower Chapmans Peak. Along this section you can enjoy the stunning views of Hout Bay and the iconic Sentinal Hill. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled into thinking the Lower Peak is your summit though, as Chapman’s Peak will be out of sight at this point. As the path takes you around the lower peak, Chapmans Peak will come into view.

The path toward the peak has a very gentle gradient. The stunning views looking out to the ocean continue along this path. As you get closer to your summit you can even look over to the Noordhoek and it’s beautiful beach. Once you get to the last section before the summit, the gradient becomes steeper. The views from the top are unbeatable, but as with any peak in Cape Town often a little windy. If the weather allows for it, stop and enjoy the views and your snacks here before the descent back down the same route.

Jonkershoek Eerste/ Tweede Waterval Trail

  • 4km round trip (3km round trip to the first waterfall)
  • Approximately 3 hours in total
  • Moderate terrain
  • Partly shaded
  • Drinkable water unavailable
  • Not dog friendly

The picturesque Jonkershoek Nature Reserve located just outside Stellenbosch in the Cape winelands is well-known for its plentiful hiking and mountain-biking routes, with the Eerste/Tweede Waterval Trail a shorter, moderately difficult option that most members of the family should be able to conquer. Snaking along the tributaries of the Eerste River, the Eerste Waterval – Afrikaans for “First Waterfall” – is an easy 1.5km away from the start of the hike, with a well-treaded, flat and sandy footpath leading to the water cascade. The Tweede Waterval – “Second Waterfall” – is situated further along the same path, which includes a moderate ascent up the pathway, with the last few hundred metres involving clambering over rocks along the river-bed to the second waterfall.

Description

Jonkershoek Nature reserve is situated just 10km from Stellenbosch, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, at the end of Jonkershoek Road. The nature reserve provides a range of activities for the whole family, including day hikes, swimming, bird watching, mountain biking, river rafting/kayaking, picnicking and fishing. A conservancy fee of R50 for adults and R30 for children is payable at the entrance (free for Wild Card members), where the guard on duty will direct you to the start of this hike, a 5km drive along a rocky dirt road from the entrance gate.

The start of the hike is marked by a relatively small sign, but clearly visible on the right as you close in on where the road crosses the river to a very small parking lot – space is limited, with your best bet parking on the side of the dirt road.

The sandy hiking path takes you on a relatively flat and easy route to the right of the river, with the picturesque Hottentots-Holland mountains towering above. Lizards are often seen basking in the sun, the bird-life is thriving and frogs can be heard croaking in the water as the path remains parallel with the river for the most part, before an obvious – though sign-less – right turn 1km in takes you to the first – “Eerste” – waterfall a few hundred metres off the main path. The area at the base of the waterfall is very small, but shaded, with young children often seen splashing in the gently-flowing stream below.

Back-tracking along the pathway to the waterfall, a right turn will take you along the main path to the second waterfall. The sandy pathway becomes a bit more rocky, first crossing a small tributary before ascending sharply – this ascent is a few hundred metres long, yet wooden logs have been built-in as stairs to help ease the way.

The path then flattens out, but is now elevated above the river, with a well-beaten left turn soon visible – this is not part of the path, but rather a stop-off point many have used to make their way down to the river for a swim or picnic.

Thereafter the path seemingly comes to a fork, leading either to a sharp up-turn to the right, or straight on along the actual river. The right-turn is in fact the way back from a different route in the reserve, with the rocky route directly ahead leading to the base of the second – “Tweede” – waterfall some 500m ahead.

This section may prove somewhat challenging for very young or older hikers, who will need to constantly traverse the flowing water on either side of the river to find the best-possible route along the river bed. Rocks may be a little difficult to clamber over at times, while some are a little slippery, so make sure of your footing, and also be prepared to get a little wet – a towel, and second pair of socks, is advisable.

This route does provide welcome shade, and is well-worth the clambering as you eventually reach the base of the beautiful waterfall which cascades into a small pool surrounded by pebbles. There is space on the rocks to enjoy a snack and sit back and take in the breath-taking scenery.

With a short stop at the first waterfall included, the total time taken to the second waterfall from the start was approximately an hour-and-a-half, with a similar time taken to back-track and return to the parking lot at the start.

Kirstenbosch – Nursery Ravine – Constantia Nek Loop

The top of the Nursery Ravine ascent

  • 10 km circular route
  • 4-5 hours
  • Shade for part of the hike
  • Water on trail during winter, not summer
  • Moderate – Strenuous difficulty
  • Mix of road, jeep track and single track
  • Dog friendly (if fit)

The hike begins at Rycroft gate i.e. the top entrance to Kirstenbosch gardens. There is parking available opposite the entrance. If you have a Wild card or Table Mountain National Park activity/access card you will enter for free. If you do not have such card you will need to pay the daily visitor’s fee. The hike starts gradually as you ascend straight up the road in front of you towards the towering mountain. Straight ahead the road will turn into a jeep track. Take this path until it converges with another jeep track. Turn left and continue upwards towards Constantia Nek. Soon you will encounter a flight of stairs on your right. Head up these stairs that will take you to the contour path, a beautiful well-defined single-track that winds its way all around Table Mountain. Turn right at the contour path and follow it all the way until you reach Nursery Ravine. Although not well signed, this will be the first well-forested area you come across, deep within a ravine and with a daunting stairway to the top on your left. Don’t let this scare you, however, this is where the fun begins!

The hike up Nursery Ravine is long and steep – involving high steps and sections of scrambling. Take your time and enjoy the fresh shaded forest and the inevitable sounds of trickling water and chirping birds to your left. Approximately one third of the way up you will pop out of the shaded area and will have your first glorious view back across the Cape . Continue winding up the mountain and be careful of slippery rocks as you use all the might in your legs and often your arms to help inch your way up. There is a wooden stairway with a side banister to help you pull yourself up the final stretch and collapse on top of the mountain with a sense of relief. Take a moment to acknowledge your climbing prowess and soak in the spectacular views. This is a perfect place for a snack.

Having recovered from the ordeal, facing the mountain take a left (there is a map at the top in case you feel lost) towards Constantia Nek. Approximately 100 m afterwards you will come to a junction where you may turn right to the dams and kasteelsport (all the way on the Atlantic side) or left towards Constantia Nek. Take the latter option. This path twists and turns around the rocky outcrops so stay focused to ensure you do not fall off the track. There are also brief shallow sections of steep rock descents so be careful to slowly choose the safest route and descend in one piece. You will continue for approximately 30 minutes before the path develops prepared ‘steps’ with wooden edges. At this point you will know you are near to Constantia Nek. Continue down until you reach a tar road. Turn left and descend towards the Overseers overnight hut (see Constantia Nek hike). Have a sip of or fill up from the drinking tap graciously provided next to the hut. Then continue down the road and prepare your legs for what is about to come.

The road becomes very steep as you descend towards Constantia Nek. Although challenging, the scenery offers some respite. At the bottom of the first section the road turns sharply to the left and shortly after there is a dirt single track with steps to the right. You may either continue on the tar road straight or take the single track right – they will converge later on. The single track is more technical and involves more tricky rocky sections whereas the road is easy going but slightly longer. At the point where they converge there is another sharp turn in the road. This will be at the end of the single-track or the point at which you can see the single-track stairs coming down from your right if you remained on the jeep track. Turn left here and continue on the jeep track in the direction of Kirstenbosch (with devil’s peak ahead). This marks the beginning of the way home.

At the next jeep track junction continue straight. The path undulates with multiple paths stemming off of it but remain steadfast and do not diverge from the path. Be careful of mountain bikers flying past as this area is very popular. From the aforementioned junction you will walk for approximately 45 minutes before coming to the border of Kirstenbosch (well-signed). Heading left here will take you back onto the contour path into Kirstenbosch. However, continue straight on the bike-friendly single-track that will take you to the upper jeep track of Kirstenbosch. Walk down the jeep track – you will soon come across the flight of steps you ascended earlier on the left. At the next junction turn right onto the jeep track that will lead to the starting tar road that takes you back to the top gate of Kirstenbosch.

When you reach the bottom gate, legs possibly jelly-ish from the elevation change you have just covered, take a look back at the mountain and track the journey you have just accomplished.