South Africa provides the hiking enthusiast with an abundance of trails, terrain and climates to choose from. Whether you are looking for a short day hike, or multi day trail hike in the mountains, through the desert, forest or along the ocean, South Africa has a trail that will tick al your boxes.
Many of the hiking trails in South Africa can be found in the 19 National Parks and local parks spread across the country's nine provinces, however some are also located on private farm land where permits are required from the owner instead of SANparks (South African National Parks).
Hiking in the Western Cape
The Western Cape is home to The Rim of Africa - the longest hiking trail in South Africa. It can only be completed as a guided trail in a window period between September and November every year. There are nine sections (or traverses) which can be completed individually, or all together as a "thru hike". The thru hike is definitely not for the faint hearted, with a distance of about 650 km covered over 56 consecutive days.
Another challenging hike - although much shorter - to attempt is the Arangieskop Hiking Trail in Robertson. At just over 20km it is not particularly long but is very steep and technical and is fondly referred to as the "Kilimanjaro of the Cape".
For less challenging day hikes Capetonians are fortunate enough to have Table Mountain National Park and Lion's Head in their backyard. Five trails to consider on Table Mountain are the Pipe Track, Platteklip Gorge, The Woodstock Caves Skeleton Gorge and Kasteelspoort.
Unfortunately there have been a number of well publicised and sometime fatal attacks on hikers in Cape Town and it is strongly advised to hike in groups and not alone - especially on day hikes around the city.
Hiking in the Northern Cape
The desolate and arid Northern Cape is South Africa's largest province and contains not one, but two Transfrontier National Parks. The Kgalagadi (meaning "place of Thirst" in the San language) Transfrontier National park was the first of it's kind established in Africa and is twice the size of the Kruger National Park, covering a mind boggling 3.6 million hectares, sharing borders with Botswana and Namibia. The Kgalagadi offers guided walks with armed rangers.
The Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park was established in 2003 and straddling South Africa and Namibia, is home to the Fish River Canyon hiking trail, a four day adventure through the second largest canyon in the world.
Paying tribute to the Camino de Santiago in Spain, The Tankwa Camino connects Calvinia in the Northern Cape with Ceres in the Western Cape. The Tankwa Camino can only be booked through the tour operator and takes the hiker on a desolate, ten day hike covering a distance of 256km.
For a shorter experience, The Klipspringer Trail in the Augrabies Falls National Park is a three day, 39km circular route over desolate terrain that follows the Orange River and offers spectacular views of the Augrabies Falls and Orange River Gorge.
Hiking in the Eastern Cape
Heading into the rural Eastern Cape one is greeted with lush indigenous forest, unspoilt beaches, misty mountains and the crown jewel of South African hiking - The Otter Trail. Also the oldest hiking trail in South Africa (established in 1968), the Otter Trail starts at the Storms River mouth and takes hikers on a 4 1/2 day, 42km trek to Natures Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park.
While the Otter Trail treats hikers to the beautiful Eastern Cape coast line, the Amatola Trail takes them into the Amatola mountain range. Starting outside King William's Town, the Amatola Hiking trail sees hikers cover 100km over six days, ending near the town of Hogsback. While the Amatola is for fit hikers only, one is reward with beautiful mountain scenery, fynbos and waterfalls.
The Addo Elephant Park is renowned for its' magnificent herds of elephants but also provides hikers with a number of unguided Addo hiking trails in the Zuurberg and Woody Cape Section.