10 of the Best Hiking Trails in South Africa
Hiking is one of the best ways to reconnect and appreciate the beauty of nature. South Africa has some of the finest hiking trails in the world, where the opportunities for adventure are endless.
Whether you prefer to hike along rivers or tread up mountains, South Africa has the best hiking trails for hikers of every fitness and skill level.
To help you discover the unparalleled natural beauty of our nation, First Car Rental has put together a list of the Top 10 Hiking Trails in South Africa. With affordable car hire across South Africa, you can get to your preferred destination with ease.
1. Otter Trail - Garden Route, Western Cape
The Otter Trail is considered South Africa's most popular hiking trail, and one of the best for serious hikers.
This 42km-long hiking trail, that begins at the Garden Route National Park's Storms River rest camp and finishes at Nature's Valley, takes hikers through the Tsitsikamma Forest and along the Garden Route's rugged coastline.
The hike takes about 5 days, and although this is not the most difficult hike in the country, it does require a fair level of fitness.
Along the way, hikers will be able to view the Skilderkrans outcrop - a great place for spotting dolphins and whales; the Bloukrans Estuary; and one can even spot the famous Cape Clawless Otter, which can be found around the lowland areas of the forest.
2. Amatola Hiking Trail, Eastern Cape
The Amatola Hiking Trail is considered one of the finest hiking trails in South Africa, but it is a challenging one, even for experienced hikers.
The 100km trail takes 6 days to complete! (accommodation and ablution facilities are available along the trail).
The trail begins just outside King Williams Town at the Maden Dam and ends at the Tyume River, 3km outside of Hogsback. Along the way hikers will traverse some of the most breath-taking mountain scenery in South Africa.
More than half the trail passes through incredible, ancient and indigenous rainforests and crosses several streams and pools.
The birdlife along the trail is incredible and hikers can spot Knysna Louries, Cape Parrots, Crowned Eagles, Barbets, Woodpeckers, Flycatchers, Robins, and even Black Eagles.
3. Golden Gate National Park, Free State
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is ideal for daytrips and a great place for relaxed hikes.
Each of the hiking trails offers grand views of the famous sandstone cliffs and, depending on which trail you choose, you can view spectacular wildlife.
Short hiking trails at Golden Gate include:
- • Mushroom Rock - an unguided easy one-hour hike that is suitable for young children
- • Brandwag Rock - an unguided one-hour loop hike with medium difficulty rating - suitable for children
- • Eco-Ravine - an unguided one-hour hike with a medium difficulty rating - suitable for children
- • Holkrans - an unguided one-hour hike with an easy to medium difficulty rating
- • Boskloof - an unguided one-hour hike with a medium difficulty rating
For the more adventurous hikers, the 28km Ribbok Overnight Trail offers the opportunity to conquer the park's highest peaks.
Hikers can spot a variety of game along this trail, including Black Wildebeest (also known as White-tailed Gnu), Blesbok, Zebra and Springbok, as well as the endangered Bearded Vulture.
4. Wild Coast Hiking Trails, Eastern Cape
The breath-taking views along the Wild Coast Hiking trail are nothing short of spectacular.
One of the best coastal hiking trails in South Africa, a five-day trail from Port St Johns to Coffee Bay, can be challenging and calls for strength and stamina.
However, the natural beauty and the heart-warming hospitality from local villages will always keep your spirits high and your feet willing.
Another popular hiking trail in the Eastern Cape is the 59km Drifters Wild Coast Trail along the northern Wild Coast, which takes you to popular landmarks including Cathedral Rock and Waterfall Bluff, where one of only 19 waterfalls in the world plunges directly into the ocean.
The 80km Diaz Cross Trail, which starts at Woody Cape in the Alexandria State Forest and ends at the mouth of the Great Fish River, is a hiking trail perfect for those who don't want to leave the beachside.
This trail offers luxury accommodation on the way, and porters if you want to slackpack.
5. Amphitheatre Hike, KwaZulu-Natal
The 5km, 1200m high Amphitheatre in the Drakensberg is famed as one of the world's most impressive cliff faces.
The strenuous, full-day Amphitheatre Hike is one of very few hikes in the Drakensberg that summits the escarpment.
This memorable hike begins with a steep zig-zagging path to the base of the imposing Sentinel. From there on the path contours on relatively flat terrain around the base of the cliffs until the climb to the summit.
There are two ways to reach the summit - the Gully or Chain ladders, whichever option hikers choose, the views from the top are well worth the struggle.
Despite the awe-inspiring views, a major highlight of the hike is being able to see the mighty Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world (Note: Tugela Falls is a seasonal waterfall - at its peak from November to February).
6. Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail, Mpumalanga
This 30km, 3 day iconic hiking trail takes you from Paradise Camp in God's Window to the Bourke's Luck Potholes and transports you to a world of stunning natural wonders.
Starting with the Blyde River Canyon, which is one of South Africa foremost tourist attractions, to the gorgeous rock pools, waterfalls and rock formations, the trail offers breath taking views of the Lowveld.
The trail offers comfortable overnight accommodation. You can also enjoy an early evening and morning swim in the natural pools nearby.
This trail is a challenging one best suited for experienced hikers.
Persons under 16 years of age are not allowed to hike this trail.
7. Summit Route, Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, North West
The Summit Route located in the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve is about 25 km long and ascends right from the start.
The trail requires a fair degree of fitness and can be a bit daunting in the heat of the summer months, but the view from the top will make it worth the effort.
The Kgaswane Mountain Reserve is part of the mighty Magaliesberg Mountain range and hikers can find a variety of interesting rock formations along the way.
The trail also offers a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of the very shy and rare Sable Antelope, an animal known for their scimitar horns.
Along the trail hikers will get to visit the beautiful Tierkloof Waterfall and take a swim in the refreshing natural pools in the area.
8. Hennops Trail, Gauteng
Located just 39km from Johannesburg and about 35km from Pretoria, the Hennops Hiking Trail is perfect for taking a break from the city and indulging in nature without having to travel too far.
The two trails available are the 11.3km Krokodilberg Trail, which takes you through a mountainous area, and the 6.15km Zebra Trail, which takes you through a fenced game camp.
The picturesque trails have much to offer, including a suspension bridge, an old mine, ruins, and a cableway to get you across the Hennops River.
At the end of the trail there is swimming pool and braai facility, the perfect end to a great hike!
The Hennops Hiking trail is low on difficulty and is perfect for a day trip. Overnight accommodation facilities are also available.
9. Magoebaskloof Hiking Trail, Limpopo
Another gorgeous trail set in the mountains, the Magoebaskloof Hiking Trail, promises magnificent scenery, cascading waterfalls, cool natural pools, plantations and beautiful forests.
The 50km, 3-day circular trail starts at De Hoek Forest Station, which is situated approximately 22km from Tzaneen.
Hikers have the chance to spot a variety of animals including Samango Monkeys, Bushbuck, bush pigs and an extensive number of birds, particularly in the Grootbosch Forest.
Birding enthusiasts enjoy the best opportunities to see the Black-fronted Bush Shrike in the enormous Woodbush and Swartbos forest areas along the trail.
Hikers must also look out for the unique 'huilklip', or crying rock. This extraordinary natural rock sounds like a gong when it is struck with a stone!
This is a challenging hike and is recommended for experienced hikers.
10. The St Lucia Wilderness Trail, KwaZulu-Natal
A hike through unspoilt trails of the St Lucia Wetland Wilderness brings true joy to the soul.
Situated on the eastern shores of Lake St Lucia, the 4-day hike takes place every weekend from Friday to Monday.
The trail begins at Bhangazi Base Camp and hikers are accompanied by trail rangers to the camp site. Along the trails, hikers can observe a variety of wildlife including Black Rhino, Buffalo and a myriad of birds.
Canoeing and snorkelling facilities allow hikers to enjoy the amazing aquatic flora and fauna that the wetland park is famous for.
Food and basic accommodation is provided throughout the 4-day trail.