TRAVEL NEWS - South Africa boasts some of the best hiking trails in the world, affording travelers an opportunity to discover a diversity of landscapes.
One could find themselves exploring natural wonders of the world or venturing through coastal forests and summiting mountains.
For unbeatable vistas, here are the hiking trails to consider for your next adventure.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State
There are eight hiking trails in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park but the Ribbok Hiking Trail is without a doubt the most adventurous, covering over 28 kilometres of grassland and woodland. This trail is a two-day overnight hike that offers the opportunity to truly appreciate the views of the Drakensberg Mountains and wildlife inhabiting the park; frequently sighting black wildebeest, blesbok, burchell's zebra, eland, red hartebeest, springbok, along with rare bearded and bald ibis vultures.
There are a few shorter hikes in the Golden Gate National Park but the Brandwag Rock hike offers the most breathtaking views. This loop hike has a medium degree of difficulty and will take approximately one hour to complete. There is only one small climb to reach the top and has a chain to help with the steep ascent.
Tsitsikamma National Park, Garden Route
The Tsitsikamma National Park, which forms part of the Garden Route National Park, has a collection of hiking trails hikes of the most breathtaking views.
The Mouth Trail is by far the most favorable amongst hikers, starting off at Sandy Bay and winding through the indigenous forest to the mouth of the Storms River where one is able to cross the suspension bridge and view the Storms River Mouth Cave. There is also an option to continue along a trail that ends up at a lookout point but it does involve one steep climb.
The Otter Trail is a five-day trail that starts at the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp and continues through the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park. Hikers who have been on this trail will attest that the views are nothing short of spectacular.
Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town
Table Mountain National Park is recognized around the world as one of seven Natural Wonders of the World. The park offers a number of hiking trails that are suitable for all levels of fitness but there are two routes that allow one to truly appreciate the beauty of this iconic Cape Town landmark.
The Platteklip Gorge is the most popular hiking trail and is often said to feel like one is climbing the stairs in a zig-zag fashion. It’s a beautiful trail with views of a ravine and plenty of opportunities to meet other hikers along the way. The hike will take about one and a half to three hours to complete one-way, depending on one’s fitness levels and the number of stops made along the way.
The Skeleton Gorge trail is about three kilometers long but can take between two and four hours to complete the one way trip. The trail begins in the gorgeous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens where you will begin to climb the back of Table Mountain. It is a tough climb but the views are well worth the effort. The Hely-Hutchinson reservoir at the peak of the mountain offers a unique beach-like setting and is a sight to behold. From here it’s about an hour walk to the Table Mountain Cableway station where you can travel back down. One could also continue walking to Maclear’s Beacon which marks the highest point on Table Mountain - 1086 metres above sea level.
Drakensberg Mountains, KwaZulu-Natal
Most hiking routes in the Drakensberg Mountains require one to obtain a trekking permit and the difficulty levels vary considerably. If you are relatively fit then you could attempt the Thabana Ntlenyana trail, which leads to the highest point in Africa - 3482 metres above sea level. For hiking enthusiasts, this is a bucket list experience.
The climb is gradual, winding through grasslands before summiting the flat-topped peak. The 32 kilometre hike can be completed in a day but one shouldn’t underestimate the effects of the lack of oxygen in the air as you climb.
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