#SpringTrips: SA hikers’ bucket list to kick the winter blues goodbye
Aaah Spring! Sweet floral scents surround you as the warm rays of sunshine tickle your skin.
Nothing quite beats the “feeling” of spring – a feeling that one experiences through all senses.
The best way to fully engage with this feeling is to get out and about, and in touch with nature. And what better way to achieve this than through a hike on one of SA’s many trails along the coasts, mountain ranges, forests and even suburbs.
Feel the ground beneath your feet; take in the fresh air with doses of scents from nature – the ocean, a beautiful blossom, the crispness of morning dew – all while spotting wildlife and enjoying Mzansi’s scenery and sunshine when hiking.
South Africa boasts so many natural spots with spectacular scenery, making it a noteworthy hiking destination. In fact National Geographic even named the Garden Route the world's best spring trip last year – beating 12 global destinations, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef, New York City's Central Park and the Balkan express through Eastern Europe.
And if that’s not enough motivation to get you on your feet, did you know that South Africa’s spring blooms has been named as one of the 20 greatest destinations on Earth for flowers? That’s right, the annual Namaqua flower spectacle has been described by many as “something almost out of this world”.
One of the best things about hiking is that it caters for all levels of fitness. There’s no pressure to complete hikes at a fast pace – giving hikers the pleasure of taking in awe-inspiring scenery and the chance to explore their surroundings along the way.
With so many hiking and walking trails across the country, we’ve narrowed it down to five of the best - each offering a unique view and landscape. So get prepping for your hike, as spring is just around the corner.
Must-do spring hikes in SA
This Reserve, which is just 10 km from the centre of Johannesburg and 5 km from Soweto, is open to the public from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week, with no entrance fee.
A complete delight for nature enthusiasts wanting to escape the bustling city life, it is said to be the largest nature reserve in the Johannesburg Metropolitan area, boasting diverse fauna and flora – with more than 215 bird species.
The hiking trails “vary in distance and in degree of difficulty”, with the Reserve promising that a three-hour hike on the flatter areas “can be completed by most people who can manage three hours of shopping”!
“The steeper, hilly areas can be testing for even the fit,” advises the Reserve.
Whichever of the trails you chose, this highly-rated route in Gauteng makes an ideal breakaway from the daily routine and a chance to soak up the spring sunshine and enjoy nature.
Access: Entrance to the Reserve is at Silent Pools, Frandaph Drive in Mondeor. It is open seven days a week and access is free.
Contact: 082 458 2816.
The first ever wilderness trail to be offered in the Kruger Park, Wolhuter allows hikers to get right up close to the wildlife in the company of an experienced guide.
The trail stretches over three nights and two days. It starts and ends at a base camp where guests sleep in rustic, but cosy overnight huts.
Wilderness qualities are high as the trail area is far removed from the boundaries of the Kruger National Park. It's incredibly scenic and also, as mentioned above, allows you to get right up close to all sorts of wildlife - from harmless antelope to intimidating elephants and toothy predators... if you're lucky. The guide accompanying you will also be a constant source of knowledge.
Contact: Check out SANParks' website for more details.
In KwaZulu-Natal’s northern Drakensberg, lies the Amphitheatre - a landmark within the incredible mountain range and a World Heritage Site.
The Amphitheatre Heritage hike, for the fit and experienced hiker, is about 25-30 kilometres long and usually takes three days to complete, with a total ascent of nearly 1200m.
You can book accommodation along the way at lodges, tented camps and backpackers – and can also sleep in caves if you're feeling adventurous!
The Amphitheatre Slackpacking trail is ideal for hikers of average fitness to reach the top and experience unforgettable views.
Access: For full details on daily access and routes, click here.
Contact:Hike bookings and inquries can be arranged by a hike organiser such as Active Escapes.
Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal offers family-friendly hiking adventures with easy walks to the lagoon, as well as guided walks.
Umhlanga Lagoon encompasses a wetland, and coastal and dune forest, with an abundance of wildlife – including bushbuck and duiker. There are also a myriad of plant species to be spotted and hikers are encouraged to look out for the 500-year-old white stinkwood tree.
One of the highlights of this hike is getting to the secluded beach, with the lagoon situated on one side.
Access: There is no entrance fee, pets are not allowed though.
Contact: For inquiries call 031 205 1271 or click here for more information about the hiking trail.
Two years ago, most of the Silvermine West section of the Park in Cape Town was destroyed by a wildfire - fortunately it has been rebuilt and reopened to the public since 2016.
Located in the centre of Table Mountain National Park, there are a few Silvermine routes available that hikers with a particular interest in flora will enjoy as the stunning area boasts fynbos.
Try out the popular Silvermine Waterfall Walk - ideal for families and you can take your pet along too - which is an easy 2km walk that you can complete in an hour. However, be cautious when close to the slippery edge of the 30m waterfall.
If you want more of a challenge, then try out the moderate 6km walk from Silvermine to Noordhoek Peak. This hike will take you about 2.5 hours to complete (including return) and is combined with an additional loop to Elephant’s Eye Cave, offering a 360-degree panoramic view of the Peninsula.
Click here for more information about Silvermine hiking trails and other Cape Town hiking adventures.
Access: Adults, R40; children R20; free entrance for WILD Card holders
Contact: +27 (0)21 780 9002
If you've got time, you can also opt for the iconic, 5-day long Whale Trail in the De Hoop Nature Reserve outside Bredasdorp.
Aptly named after hundreds of Southern right whales that journey to the De Hoop Nature Reserve every year to calve and mate, the De Hoop Whale Trail is one of the best whale-watching spots on the planet.
Access: Stretching over 55 kilometres from Potberg to Koppie Alleen, this five-night hike will entertain you with its abundance of flora and bird species along the route.
Contact: 021 483 0000
There’s no way we could have a “SA’s best hikes” list and not include the iconic Otter Trail – after all, it has been listed as the very best hiking trail on the globe and due to its popularity, it sometimes takes as long as a year to be on the waiting list before making the great 5-day trek along the Garden Route’s coastline.
The is 42.5km long trail stretches the Eastern Cape coastline from Storms River Mouth to Natures Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park.
Get prepared to hike across a range of heights along the rocky shoreline, from sea level up to a height of more than 150m.
And while there’s no guarantee that you can do this hike in Spring due to the number of people across the world waiting anxiously to accomplish this trail, it should be on every South African’s bucket-list.