Crystal Pools
Crystal Pools
Photo credit: flickr

Need To Know Information

  • Location: Kogelberg Nature Reserve | Greater Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, Steenbras Nature Reserve (via N2 and R44), Helderberg Rural, Cape Town
  • Operating hours: Office hours: 7:30am – 4pm | Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking trail bookings: Monday – Friday (excluding public holidays): 9:00am – 2:00pm
  • Steenbras River Gorge & Crystal Pools operating hours: Hiking trails are only open from 1 November to 30 April each year (closed during winter months) | Hiking trail operating hours are from sunrise – sunset: 6am – 6pm | Steenbras River Gorge & Crystal Pools Hiking Trail operating times may differ slightly according to sunrise and sunset times throughout November – April
  • Entrance Fees / Cost: Entry fee for Steenbras River Gorge: R75 per person | Entry fee for the Steenbras hiking trails: R25 per person | For more information and a detailed list of costs please contact 021 444 6927 or [email protected]town.gov.za
  • Contact details: General enquiries: [email protected] | Booking queries: 021 856 9622 | 021 856 9623 | 021 856 9620 | [email protected] | Emergency number: 021 444 6927 | 021 957 4725
  • Distance from Cape Town: +/- 65km – 80km (depending on route)
  • Steenbras River Gorge & Crystal Pools Hiking Trail Carrying Capacity: To ensure that the hiking trails don’t get too crowded, a maximum of 50 people are allowed per day | It is essential to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment

Crystal Pools Hiking Trail Requirements

You cannot gain access to the area / hike any of Steenbras River Gorge or Crystal Pools’ Hiking Trails without a valid pre-booked and paid permit containing a unique QR Code & proof of identification (driver’s license, ID card, or passport).

Get Your Crystal Pools Hiking Trail Permit

  • To pre-book your Steenbras River Gorge & Crystal Pools permit email [email protected] with ALL relevant information, including the date of your visit and the size of your party / group (a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 10 people are allowed per group)
  • One permit per person is required
  • You can only acquire a permit via email, not at the gate
  • You must pre-book your hiking permit at least two to five working days before your visit
  • The hiking permit does not authorize abseiling activities
  • **NB: Make sure you print out your permit and take it with you when visiting the Steenbras Nature Reserve. Without your permit you will be unable to access the area and hike any of its trails
  • A maximum carrying capacity of 50 people are allowed per day. It is essential to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment

Steenbras River Gorge & Crystal Pools Hiking Trail Booking

  • In addition to a valid hiking permit, you must make a Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking trail booking to access and hike the various trails
  • Click here to make a booking or to find out more. You can also send your booking request via email to [email protected] For additional information you can send an email to the aforementioned email address or call 021 444 6927
  • Bookings are handled between Monday – Friday (excluding public holidays) from 9am – 2pm on weekdays
  • **NB: Securing a booking is not the same as obtaining / securing a valid Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking trail permit. You need a valid Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking trail permit AND a Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking trail booking to access and hike the various trails

How To Make An Electronic Booking

  • E-mail your name, group size, contact number and date you wish to visit the Steenbras Nature Reserve, Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools to [email protected]
  • Wait for a confirmation e-mail indicating and confirming that you have a provisional booking
  • Once you’ve received confirmation of your booking, make an electronic payment
  • E-mail your proof of payment to [email protected]
  • Wait for your electronic permit to be e-mailed to you
  • Print out your permit and take it with you on your Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking adventure

Crystal Pools Hiking Information & Tips

  • Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult
  • It is essential that all first-time hikers taking on the kloofing routes must be guided and accompanied by an experienced kloofer
  • The hiking permit does not authorize abseiling activities. Kloofing and / or abseiling is dangerous and not recommended, unless under the supervision of a registered guide.
  • Hikers must wear suitable hiking shoes and take the necessary equipment with them i.e. food, water, first aid kit, a warm item of clothing and a cellphone for emergencies
  • In case of any emergency, call 021 480 7700 ext 107 or Gordon’s Bay Security on 021 856 0214 or Cape Town Mountain Rescue on 021 937 0300

Crystal Pools

Crystal Pools is one of Gordon’s Bay and Cape Town’s best kept secrets and bucket-list destinations. Located approximately 90 minutes outside of Cape Town, Crystal Pools boasts incredible hiking trails which lead to a series of mountain pools situated within a beautiful Valley known as the Steenbras River Gorge. Both the Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools forms part of the renowned Steenbras Nature Reserve, with the hiking trail following the Palmiet River up the gorge.

Crystal Pools, the Steenbras River Gorge, and Steenbras Nature Reserve offers hikers, adventurers, and anyone eager to explore the great outdoors the ultimate escape from the hustle and hype of the city.

Crystal Pools Hiking Trail

Crystal Pools
Photo credit: flickr

Crystal Pools Hiking Trail Details:

  • Staring point: The Crystal Pool Hiking Trail starts on the R44, just after you’ve crossed the bridge over the mouth of the Steenbras River
  • Level of fitness required: Moderate
  • Distance: +/ – 2km – The first pool is approximately 45 minutes from the start of the trail 
  • Hike Difficulty: Moderate – challenging | While 2km may seem fairly short, extremely do-able, and easy, your legs will beg to differ. Despite the Crystal Pools hiking trail starting out fairly easy, the hike / climb gets tougher and more challenging as you ascend

The Crystal Pools Hiking Trail starts on the R44, just after you’ve crossed the bridge over the mouth of the Steenbras River. Your permits will be checked upon arrival – it is crucial that you book your permits ahead of time.

Once you’re in, follow the little yellow footprints to ensure you stay on the designated path. The path starts out fairly gently, boasting lush green surroundings, indigenous fynbos, exceptional views, and large boulders along the route.

After a quick walk down to the valley floor, the trail persists to follow the river up the valley. The path is well-marked out, with short red pegs in the ground at regular intervals to guide you on your Crystal Pools hiking adventure. The trail does get more challenging as you ascend however, reaching the glorious Crystal Pools and all of its bucket-list worthy attractions and sights far outweighs the effort it takes to get there.

The first pool is located about 45 minutes from the start of the trail. You can stop here for a break, snack, picnic, moment of blissful relaxation in the shade, or a refreshing dip in the mountain pool waters.

Crystal Pools
Photo credit: flickr

If you’re eager to experience some serious swimming and kloofing opportunities, it’s best to hold out for the second pool, which is only a mere 10 – 15 minutes up the trail. The second pool also features a waterfall. Beyond being a stunning sight, standing below the cool flowing water of the waterfall may just be the best, and certainly the most memorable, open-air natural shower you’ll ever experience.

In addition to swimming and kloofing, going cliff jumping / jumping off of the rocks into the Crystal Pools is not only exhilarating, but one of the most adrenalin-inducing, bucket-list worthy experiences. Attracting adventure junkies and thrill seekers from around the world, Crystal Pools features some of the most exceptional, impressive, and down-right thrilling cliff jumps. Undoubtedly making it a real and highly sought-after Cape Town adventure and hiking hotspot.

Crystal Pools
Photo credit: flickr

If you’re feeling extra brave and daring, a great tip is to wait for someone else to jump / take the plunge before you. Among other things, this will give you some real and useful insight into where the best launching spots are. If you’re an inexperienced cliff jumper or kloofer, or if it’s your first time, it is best (and highly recommended) that you only do / attempt this with an expert hiker or professional guide who is vastly experienced and familiar with the route and the pools. 

Hold on! Your Crystal Pools and Steenbras River Gorge hiking adventure isn’t over yet! If you’re still amped, eager, up for the challenge, with a super boost of energy left in your ‘hiking tank’ (fingers crossed), you should definitely keep hiking until you reach the third and final pool. Here you can enjoy more exhilarating swimming and kloofing adventures, as well as exciting cliff jumping opportunities – although not as top-notch as Crystal Pools’ second pool, it’s still incredibly worth it! Not to mention the superb panoramic views you’ll get to soak up and enjoy.

Crystal Pools
Photo credit: flickr

**Important Note: While you may jump (cliff jumping / rock jumping) with the necessary precautions and regulations in place, you are NOT allowed to dive into any of Crystal Pools’ mountain pools.

Once you reach the top of the hiking trail, take a moment, sit back, and relax as you look out over the Steenbras Dam and Dam Wall; All while admiring the panoramic view stretching across the glorious and vibrant False Bay Coastline to the renowned Cape Point in the other direction.

**Tip: This hiking trail is suitable for anyone who is reasonably fit, however, it is slightly more challenging for those who are not in tip-top hiking shape. While the half-day hike takes you through rocky, but generally flat terrain, with an amazing waterfall at the top, it is quite a trek. Make sure you are well prepared and have plenty of snacks, water, and energy to get there.

Fauna, Flora & Biodiversity

Crystal Pools
Photo credit: flickr

As the Crystal Pools Hiking Trail falls under the greater Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, which is home to over 1600 plant species, it boasts a unique biodiversity and is remarkably rich in indigenous fynbos. This makes it one of the most beautiful and sought-after natural wonders in the Western Cape. This unique Kogelberg sandstone fynbos is also loved by troops of baboons. Reserve management tracks their movements and are able to tell you on the day whether baboons are nearby. To avoid any altercations, it is important to keep your food securely stashed away and to act respectfully and responsibly when you do happen to encounter these highly intelligent, and mischievous animals.

Besides baboon sightings, the Fynbos mountain ranges in the Western Cape is home to African wildcats, cape clawless otters, large spotted genets, caracals, cape foxes, and leopards. As most of the cats in this area are nocturnal, you don’t need to worry about any dangerous altercations. However, it is still important to remain vigilant at all times.

Steenbras Nature Reserve

Crystal Pools - Steenbras Nature Reserve
Photo credit: flickr

The Steenbras Nature Reserve forms part of the Greater Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. Deemed one of the Western Cape’s top must-visit destinations and natural attractions, Steenbras Nature Reserve boasts two highly sought-after natural gems – The Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking trail – Both of which should be on every avid hiker, passionate traveler & globe-trotter, enthusiastic thrill seeker, and keen adventurer’s bucket list.

Beyond its unapologetic beauty, alluring sense of natural wonder, and not-to-be-missed hiking adventures and unforgettable experiences, the Steenbras Nature Reserve is known for its unique and thriving biodiversity. Often referred to as ‘the heart of the fynbos’, it is home to more than 1600 plant species and boasts the greatest floral diversity per unit area than anywhere else in the world.

As the area supports five different vegetation types, it comes as no surprise that the Steenbras Nature Reserve is regarded as one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots.

**Interesting fact: The area, now known as the Steenbras Nature Reserve, was originally proclaimed as a protected area in 1979 and was registered with UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1998 and declared an area of international importance.

**The area is protected and managed in accordance with the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), Act 57 of 2003. In an effort to conserve the area, please take note of the following regulations:

  • Never litter. This area is a ‘No Bin’ zone – please take all your rubbish home with you
  • Stick to the designated footpaths and walk single file to avoid soil erosion
  • No fires, firearms, pets, gas appliances or overnighting is permitted

Steenbras River Gorge

Crystal Pools - Steenbras River Gorge

The Steenbras River Gorge forms part of the Steenbras Nature Reserve which, in turn, forms part of the Greater Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. This valley is located just an hour away from Cape Town and is a popular destination for trail hiking, abseiling, kloof-jumping, swimming in the cool and refreshing rock pools, whale watching, scenic drives and coastal fishing.

Steenbras River Gorge is also regarded as the ultimate hiking destination, boasting a variety of incredible hiking trails, including the Danie Miller hiking trail, the Klipspringer hiking trail and the famous Crystal Pool Hiking Trail, ensuring there’s something for every avid hiker to enjoy.