Hiking enthusiasts will instantly fall in love with the stunning scenery and diverse wildlife in South Africa’s Western Cape province. The area is home to some of the best places to hike in the country, and the mild year-round weather makes heading into nature for the day (or week) possible any time of year. Whether you want to explore the coast, the mountains, or wine country, here are 10 wondrous Western Cape hikes.
While you could just drive down the winding road by Chapman’s Peak, you’ll get better views and more in touch with the area’s nature by hiking it. Like many hikes in the region, it’s full of proteas and fynbos, and you’ll get a fantastic view of Hout Bay and Fish Hoek while climbing.
Boosmanboos Wilderness Area
Located in the Langeberg Mountains, the Boosmanboos Wildenerness area is full of fantastic forests and lush mountain terrain. You’ll need to book in advance to get in, and only 12 hikers a day are allowed, but the views and feeling of isolation away from other tourists is worth it. There are over 200 bird species in the area, so make sure to bring the binoculars.
De Hoop Nature Reserve
If whales are your thing, then you need to add De Hoop Nature Reserve and Whale Trail to your list. This area has both coastal and mountain hiking, with spectacular backdrops in every direction. A full hike down the whale trail takes about five days, and you’re sure to get your moneys worth if you spend a few nights there.
For visitors to Cape Town and Capetonians alike, Lion’s head makes a fantastic place for a moderate day hike with incredible views of Table Mountain, Camps Bay, Cape Town CBD and the ocean, depending on where you are on the hiking trail. The last part is a little tougher with a small climb involved, but if you’re used to hiking it shouldn’t be an issue. There are also a few side trails worth exploring within the area.
Bontebok National Park
While it doesn’t offer the challenging peaks of some of the other parks, the serene nature and wildlife of Bontebok National Park is well worth it. It’s the smallest of the South African National Park’s, and you can see plenty of grazing bontebok and birds in the area as well. Many people also take a dip in the Breede River or bring some food for a braai.
Fernkloof Nature Reserve
Located just above Hermanus, the Fernkloof Nature Reserve is a fantastic place to explore a wide variety of different species in close proximity. There are 60km of well-maintained trails in the area, and you will also likely run into baboons, mongoose and a few klipspringers while hiking.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Most people coming to Kirstenbosch will just stroll around and look at the pretty gardens, smell some herbs, and maybe stop and eat at one of the restaurants. But outside of the serene gardens below, there are some challenging hikes available. Choose from seven trails to conquer on your way through the area — the restaurants will still be waiting for you when you’re done.
For visitors to Cape Town, the Cederberg Wilderness area is a bit far at three hours out, but the drive is well worth it for the incredible natural scenery. The area has over 71,000 hectares of diverse and rugged terrain full of protea and rooibos. It’s also an ideal spot for rock climbers.
Paarl Mountain Reserve
Overlooking the town of Paarl, this reserve has fantastic rock formations and offers incredible views of the valley from the top. For those looking for a challenging but short hike, make sure to scale up Bretagne Rock. There are also plenty of places in the reserve to have a picnic or a braai.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
Set just outside Stellenbosch, this nature reserve is a good place to reward yourself with a stop in wine country after tackling all of the rest of the hikes on this list. Hikers can get stellar views from any number of trails in the area, and can even see some snow-dusted peaks if they go in the winter.
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This article was originally published on September 18, 2015.