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Hiker's Guide To South Africa

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(credit: PhotoSky/shutterstock)

It doesn't matter if you are looking for an afternoon hike, a day-long hike or a multi-day hike, South Africa offers some of the best hiking trails in the world. During these treks, you will be able to access some of the most remote regions of the country, see mountains, cross breathtaking landscapes and possibly encounter some of Africa’s most exotic wildlife. There is nothing more exciting that being able to breathe in the fresh air, have a picnic lunch up against a baobab tree or see the skyline of Cape Town.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Top Trails

There are many trails throughout South Africa that are well traveled by both locals and tourists. There are also many trails that are less traveled but still offer the same exciting adventures as some of the many popular hiking trails. One of the most popular, and a must-explore trail, is the Otter Trail. This trail is 26 miles long and if explored right can take up to five days. This trail winds along the east coast and finishes at the western end of the Garden Route. This is one trail that will take you through caves, waterfalls and scenic panoramic landscapes to seaside picnic spots and quiet swimming holes.

Other popular trails in South Africa include the Amathole Trail, Sentinel Peak Hike, Drakensberg Grand Traverse, the Hoerikwaggo Trail, The Whale Trail, Kruger Wilderness Trails and Giant’s Cup Trail.

Related: Backpacker’s Guide To South Africa

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(credit: JONATHAN PLEDGER/shutterstock)

National Parks

The national parks in South Africa have become the leading tourist destinations in the region. Travelers from all around the globe come to South Africa to explore the many different national parks. There are many activities available for travelers at these parks, including hiking, backpacking, camping, water sports and exploring eco-trails. Some of the more popular national parks among those looking to go hiking include Addo Elephant National Park, Bontebok National Park, Garden Route Highlands National Park, Marakele National Park, Mountain Zebra National Park, Namaqua National Park, Tankwa Karoo National Park and West Coast National Park.

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There are many different lookouts throughout South Africa, all offering fantastic views of the landscape and surrounding areas. One of the best views in the country is the one of Simons Town Harbour from the top of Runciman Drive. The view of the harbor is also spectacular as one comes around the side of the mountain. Other great views include those from the top of Lion;s Head, Chapmans Peak and Kirstenbosch.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Guided Tours

Those looking to take a guided adventure through South Africa will find a variety of different companies offering tours and experiences throughout the country. Active Escapes offers traditional backpacking experiences and tours involving daytime hikes with evening stays in luxury hotels. Berg Free is a mountain guide who offers guided hiking tours that range from single day experiences up to five days. Those looking for a unique hiking experience will want to travel with Excelsior Wine Walks, which offers three-day wine walks through the breathtaking Cape vineyards and orchards. Trips with Excelsior Wine Walks also include a hike in the Elandsberg and Langeberg Mountains.

In addition to taking a guided tour, there are also many different self-guided tours you can take. Some self-guided walking tours in South Africa include the Cape Town Walk, Franschhoek Valley Walk, Hermanus Walk, Kogelberg Walk, Drakensberg Hiking and Southernmost Walk. Walking Holidays offers a variety of different self-guided tours on their website, including tips, maps and what you can expect from each one.

Related: Top Safaris In Southern Africa

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Hiking Tips

Planning multi-day hikes will take a little bit more time than a shorter walk. When planning a multi-day hike, make sure to take the time to carefully plan your adventure. List everything you will need on the longer hike, such as change of clothes, food, water, bedding and cooking equipment. Shorter walks may only require a few energy bars, some water and some gear to help you get through the paths.

Though seasons will vary among the different regions in the country, the best times for hiking is in the spring (September through November). Autumn (March through May) is also a nice time of the year to hike. Temperatures and the overall weather is very mild during these times and perfect for going on a long hike.

Hiking through South Africa offers a variety of experiences that you will not be able to enjoy anywhere else in the world. Your hiking adventures will take you through nature preserves and quaint towns. You may even have the opportunity to see native wildlife off in the distance, or even closer. If hiking is something you enjoy doing, you will want to make sure that a hiking trip to South Africa is on your list of places to travel to.

Heather Landon (Heather Leigh Carroll) is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at
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