The West Coast is one of the most diverse regions in the country, with each terrain connected through trails. Here are some of the top hikes to try.
The idea behind this lovely trail is to ‘walk in the footsteps of Eve’ and find out how early Homo sapiens experienced the West Coast National Park. It’s a two-and-a-half day, 30-kilometre wilderness hike that takes you through indigenous fynbos, along deserted beaches and around the tranquil shores of Langebaan Lagoon.
The hike starts on the beach south of the West Coast National Park and ends at Seeberg cottage, the highest point in the area. Both nights are spent at Duinepos Chalets inside the park and the first day includes a sunset walk to the dunes overlooking Langebaan Lagoon. Climax of the hike is a visit to Kraal Bay where Eve’s footprints were discovered, and a delicious seafood braai.
This guided, two-and-a-half day trail is as much a cultural and historical experience as a hike, with an emphasis on the food and wine of the region. It follows a route once trodden by short-necked giraffe, our Homo sapiens ancestors and later the San; then came the early pioneers, settlers and finally the farmers of today. On the Darling Stagger, you’ll explore some of this history as well as contemporary culture, while enjoying culinary and wine delights.
The first day is a gentle seven-kilometre cycle from !Khwa ttu San Cultural Centre to Yzerfontein on the coast. The second day is a 13-kilometre hike across farmland from !Khwa ttu, through the olive groves and vineyards of Darling Hills, and finally to Darling itself.
The third day is a short 5km meander through Darling, followed by lunch at Groote Post farm.
The Crayfish Trail Company offers either a three-day or a six-day slackpacking hike that links a series of quaint coastal towns and farms, including Elands Bay, Steenbokfontein, Lambert’s Bay, Doring Bay and Papendorp. Alternatively, hikes can be tailor made for guests with specific interests. The hike organisers have tried to incorporate elements of the West Coast’s unique culture, history, natural beauty, wine, food and spirit of adventure.
You’ll walk for kilometres and not see another soul while taking in spectacular ocean views from cliff-top paths and through unspoilt fynbos. Bird watching on the trail is excellent, while dolphins and whales often make an appearance. During the spring flower season, the landscape is transformed to a kaleidoscope of colour.
The Cederberg Wilderness is a 71-000-hectare World Heritage Site that boasts spectacular mountain landscapes studded with astonishing rock formations. The region is crisscrossed by 300 kilometres of hiking trails on well maintained paths, many of them old woodcutters’ routes.
Hikes can take any shape, from a half-day amble to seven days spent in the wilderness. Trails are self-guided and you need to carry your own pack with all your provisions. Camp wild, or overnight at one of the campsites or chalets at Kliphuis and Algeria. Alternatively, hikers can stop in at one of the remote villages or farms in the mountains.
Acquire maps and permits from CapeNature or visit Algeria Camp. For multi-day hikes, you will need to have a fairly high degree of fitness and be entirely self-sufficient (fires are forbidden, so take a gas stove).
Before tackling the Maltese Cross hike, you need to collect a permit and map at Dwarsrivier Farm (or at Algeria Camp). Starting at Dwarsrivier, this is a delightful, seven-kilometre trail on well-marked path and takes from three and four hours. The hike starts out on the valley floor, then begins a moderate climb (some might find sections a bit strenuous) to the famous sandstone cross. The climb is well worth it, not only for the sense of accomplishment at reaching the giant crucifix, but for the sumptuous views in all directions.
Pick up a permit at Dwarsrivier Farm or Algeria Camp.
To reach Wolfberg Arch via Wolfberg Cracks, most hikers start from Sanddrif holiday resort (pick up a map and permit), although there is an alternative route from Driehoek. The trail to Wolfberg Cracks is steep, but the path is good. When you reach the base of the cliffs, there are two possible routes. Most hikers opt for the easier, main crack to the left (it involves some scrambling). The small, third crack (the alternative route), involves more scrambling and squeezing up a chimney, but the rock formations inside the Cracks are spectacular.
From here, there are a number of routes to the Arch: about six kilometres on relatively flat terrain. Wolfberg Arch is a magnificent rock formation and a just reward for the long ascent. Hikers can spend the night here and return the following morning.
Start early, the hike takes at least 8 hours and requires a fairly high level of fitness.
Designed by Galeo Saintz and Ivan Groenhof, Rim of Africa is the longest mountain traverse of its kind on the continent. It’s an epic, 650-kilometre hike over 56 days that links existing trails across the Cape mountains, crossing numerous CapeNature reserves and 180 private properties between the Cederberg and Outeniqua mountains.
The initiative is all about conservation and involves local communities by training ‘nature champions’. It’s a not-for-profit public benefit trust and civil-society organisation that works to support landowners, local conservation groups and build a community of custodians, in cooperation with CapeNature.
Rim of Africa has nine sections, known as traverses. You need to be a fit and experienced hiker seeking a deep wilderness experience. You can choose to do only one traverse, or link a few of them together. Each traverse averages seven days and covers from 60 to 100 kilometres. Traverse 1 is a guided, 50-kilometre, wild-camping route through the Cederberg.
Traverse 1 starts in Clanwilliam and is one of the easier Rim of Africa routes.