Guide to easy hikes in South Africa. For those with ‘new’ hiking boots.
South Africa has an array of hiking routes to choose from, beautiful, tranquil or stormy; mountainous or coastal – all ranging from being a sea breeze to what-the-hell-was-I-thinking.
In this post we will list some easy hikes in South Africa that are fairly effortless and with the right gear you can take the kids, and in some cases even your pets, along. Generally kids from about eight years old will do well on short, non-strenuous hikes (even multi-day ones), but if you prepare correctly and have the right gear, you can easily go for day hikes with your smaller kids too.
1. Kosi Bay Lakes, Elephant Coast
2 to 6 night slackpacking trails
The Elephant Coast is such a beautiful part of South Africa. The area’s biodiversity of swamp forests, coastal lakes, dune forests, wetlands and remote beaches means that your hiking surroundings will differ from day to day.
This fairly easy slackpacker hike extends through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park over two to four nights, depending your needs. Distance covered daily range from 8km to 17km but routes are flexible.
Your evenings are spent either in bush and beach camps or in guest houses, depending on your tour provider. The trail is still relatively new and it is best to avoid during December and January because of the heat, humidity and heavy rainfalls.
Contact Active Escapes for more information.
2. Giant’s Cup Slackpacking Trail, Drakensberg
3 to 5 night slackpacking trails
Regarded as one of the easier hikes in the Drakensberg, this three to five day Giant’s Cup trial is nonetheless rather taxing. It is well worth it to consider doing the slackpacker version (bed, meals and backpack carried for you), if you’re going as a family. There are a number of operators who offer versions of the hike from between three and five days.
Children are more than welcome on this easy hike despite the overall distance of 60 km covered between Sani Pass and Bushman’s Nek. There are some pretty steep sections within the Cobham and Garden Castle reserves but you only need reasonable fitness to make it. The rest of the hike is mostly across grassland.
Contact Active Escapes for more information.
3. Wathaba Trail, Machadodorp
1 to 2 day (possible overnight option) backpacking trail
Best Trail award winner in 2007 and 2012, this is an even easier hiking trail than the others hikes already mentioned, with two day-hike options – the Lynx Loop of 10km and the Bosbok Route of 4km (so great for those with children younger than eight and dad’s with babies in carriers). You can choose to combine the two trails into an overnight hike as there is accommodation.
Deep in the Skurweberg Mountains lies Wathaba, a wilderness area between Machadodorp and Badplaas, only three hours from Johannesburg. It is a wonderland of waterfalls, river pools, indigenous kloof vegetation, wild flowers, mushrooms, lichens and a rich bird life.
For more information go to Wathaba Trails.
4. Castle Gorge, Magaliesberg
1 day backpacking trail
This easy hike might start off with a steep climb, but it levels out and the rest of the trail is on a fairly level plateau. Thereafter it drops into the Gorge where adults and children can have a swim in the cool mountain pools. Great option for families. You will need a permit from the Johannesburg Hiking Club or the Mountain Club South Africa (MCSA).
This Magaliesberg walk is not clearly demarcated but the path is good, if you know where you are going. The MCSA have a map available, even if it is principally to demarcate the great rock climbs. Once there, the bulk of the day can be idled away alongside the pools mentioned.
For more information go to Johannesburg Hiking Club.
5. The Whale Trail, Western Cape
3 to 5 night slackpacking trail
Cape Nature prohibit children under the age of eight to attempt the Whale Trail. For families with children old enough this is one of the best trails you can do. Stretching 55 kilometres, this slackpacker route stretches from Potberg to Koppie Alleen with five overnight stops, with comfortable accommodation available.
The trail takes visitors through the De Hoop Nature Reserve and the Potberg Mountains where you can view the southern right whale in a natural habitat. The first couple of days are the most difficult at 15 km, but by day three the distance drops to almost half that, giving children a lot of time to snorkel, explore rock pools and rock climb.
To book contact Cape Nature Booking Office Number – +27 (0)21 483 0000
6. The Oyster Catcher Trail, Garden Route
4 night slackpacking trail
This is one of the best rated slackpacking trails in South Africa for a reason. This breathtaking coastal trail teaches hikers about the fragile and beautiful environment around them, all whilst being pampered at the same time.
I do suggest you make your bookings way in advance for this trail, they can be booked up to a year in advance. The best part of this trail is the way providers tailor individual groups’ specifications to meet special requirements. They’re known for hosting large school groups and can easily tailor a tour to meet your family’s needs.
The daily distances vary from 13km and are normally completed in about 6 hours.
To book contact the Oystercatcher Trails.
7. Beachcomber Perlemoen Trail, Overberg
3 night backpacking trail
The trail focuses on interpreting the natural, unspoilt coastal environment. Highlights include seeing the 3000-big seal breeding colony, Quoin Point light house, the Buffelsjag fishing village, the Ghost town – a deserted holiday village buried in sand, seeing two shipwrecks and walking on the deserted white sandy shore.
The longest trail is four days, but you can opt for a shorter trip too.
For more information go to the Beachcomber Guide website.
We endeavour to check all information for accuracy upon writing the article. If this information is outdated or wrong, please let us know and we will gladly amend it where need be.
For more things to do, see and experience in Southern Africa why not go to the following pages to get inspired: