You know what they say, when in doubt, hike it out! Okay, they might not say that, but in Cape Town we certainly do. In Cape Town, hiking is not only one of our favorite local past times and outdoor activities, but one of the top things to do an any trip to the Mother City. Especially if you consider yourself to be an avid hiker, keen trailer, or nature-loving adventure seeker at heart. Plus, the fact that Cape Town is home to an endless range of beautiful natural wonders, nature reserves, mountain ranges and stunning scenic landscapes, makes it the ultimate hiking paradise.
Besides a variety of exciting day-time hiking routes, the Western Cape boasts a thrilling selection of overnight hikes. All of which has something unique and exhilarating to offer. Here are our top 5 overnight hiking trails in Cape Town that undoubtedly deserves to be on every avid hiker’s bucket list.
#1 THE CEDERBERG WILDERNESS
Situated only a couple of hours outside of the Cape Town CBD, the wild and unapologetic beauty of the Cederberg provides the ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Considered one the most undisturbed regions of Cape Town, the Cederberg Wilderness has remained relatively untouched by the masses. Thereby making it one of the Mother City’s most magnificent natural gems. And undoubtedly one of the top overnight hiking trails in Cape Town to explore and discover. And the fact that the Cederberg Wilderness boasts a variety of exciting hiking trails to choose from, means there’s a thrilling trail suited to every hiker.
The Algeria Campsite serves as one of the main hubs from which hikers can explore and experience everything the Cederberg Wilderness has to offer at their own pace. Offering both camping accommodation as well as self-catering cottages, the Algeria Campsite accommodates all overnight hikers. In addition to the Algeria Campsite, hikers can also choose to spend the night at one of the many other overnight huts spread throughout the reserve.
Some incredible natural landmarks and must-see sights to look out for on your Cederberg Wilderness overnight hiking adventure includes the Wolfsberg Arch, a giant rock-formed archway, as well as the Stadsaal Caves, which contains San art dating back thousands of years.
Here are some overnight trail sections with the distance of that section:
- Pahuis Pass – Heuningvlei = 13km
- Kleinkliphuis – Krakadouw Pass = 11km
- Dwarsrivier (Clanwilliam) – Heuningvlei = 12km
- Heuningvlei – Krakadouw Peak = 4km
- Heuningvlei – Boontjieskloof hut = 12km
- Boontjieskloof hut – Crystal Pool = 14km
- Crystal Pool – Sleeppad = 8km
- Crystal Pool – Algeria = 15km
- Rooiberg – Kruisrivier – Algeria = 19km
- Rooiberg – Kruisrivier – Syferfontein – Bakleikraal – Kromrivier = 29km
#2 THE WHALE TRAIL
The iconic Whale Trail is widely considered as one of the most sought-after hiking trails in the Western Cape as well as one of the top overnight hiking trails in Cape Town and South Africa. And with good reason too! Situated in the 34 000-hectare De Hoop Nature Reserve, one of the largest natural areas managed by CapeNature, the Whale Trail, together with De Hoop Nature Reserve, is undoubtedly one of the Western Cape’s most glorious natural wonders. As well as the ultimate destination to explore for any nature loving adventure enthusiast.
The famous Whale Trail consists of a five-day, 56km overnight hiking adventure that includes both coastal and mountain trail routes. But don’t worry, you will be well rewarded for your extreme hiking efforts with some of the most sensational scenic sights scattered along the Western Cape coastline. Not to mention the variety of hidden gems, spectacular views, adventures and magnificent marine life sightings you’ll be able to enjoy along the way. As you probably could have guessed, the Whale Trail is named after the many Southern Right Whales who annually return to the De Hoop waters. Hikers can therefore expect some truly incredible Southern Right Whale sightings as they make their way along this thrilling overnight Cape Town hiking trail.
In addition to all these amazing hiking experiences, sights and adventures, the variety of charming cottages scattered along the Whale Trail route allows for a comfortable and enjoyable overnight stay as you discover some of the most beautiful landscapes the Western Cape has to offer. It truly is unlike anything you’ve experienced before! The Whale Trail is one incredible Cape Town overnight hike that every avid hiker should get to experience at least once in their lives.
Here is what you can expect on the 5-day Whale Trail overnight hiking adventure:
- Day 1: Potberg Hut to Cupidoskraal (15km – tough)
- Day 2: Cupidoskraal to Noetsie (14.7km – moderate)
- Day 3: Noetsie to Hamerkop (7.8km – easy)
- Day 4: Hamerkop to Vaalkrans (10.5km’s – moderate)
- Day 5: Vaalkrans to Koppie Alleen (7km – easy)
#3 CAPE OF GOOD HOPE TRAIL
There is absolutely no denying the fact that the Cape of Good Hope is widely known as one of Cape Town’s top attractions and must-visit destinations on any trip to the Mother City. Declared as both a World Heritage Site and a protected Nature Reserve, the Cape of Good Hope is home to a vast natural vegetation and rich biodiversity. In addition, the Cape of Good Hope is also known as one of two world-renowned landmarks situated within the iconic Table Mountain National Park. Recognised globally for its extraordinarily rich and diverse fauna and flora, the Table Mountain National Park is home to the world’s smallest, yet most diverse, floral kingdom, known as the Cape Floristic Region. With the beloved Cape Fynbos, an ancient indigenous vegetation that is endemic to the tip of the African continent, being one of only six floral kingdoms in the world. And is the only one that occurs entirely in one country. Thereby making the Cape of Good Hope the ultimate destination to explore for any nature lover.
In addition to the Cape of Good Hope’s rich biodiversity and indigenous fauna and flora display, this incredible overnight Cape Town hiking experience consists of a circular trail that takes hikers along majestic cliffs, picturesque beaches, stunning shorelines and shipwrecks. Boasting some of the most magnificent views you’ve ever seen right throughout your bucket-list worthy Cape of Good Hope overnight hiking adventure. Thereby making all the hard hiking graft that much more worth it! Plus, there truly is nothing like exploring and experiencing one of the Western Cape’s most glorious natural wonders on foot and completely immersing yourself in the experience. Hikers can find overnight accommodation along the Cape of Good Hope hiking trail in the form of huts situated high up on ridges, overlooking the spectacular Cape coastline. Sounds pretty spectacular right? This is one memorable Cape Town overnight hiking experience you won’t soon forget.
- The two-day, one-night Cape of Good Hope Hiking Trail follows a circular route of 33.8km through. It begins and ends at the entrance gate of the Cape of Good Hope, where secure overnight parking is provided.
#4 BOOSMANSBOS WILDERNESS AREA
Another one of the most exhilarating and top overnight hiking trails in Cape Town is without a doubt the Boosmansbos Wilderness area. Located in the Langeberg mountains, 22 km northwest of Heidelberg, in the South-Western Cape, the Boosmansbos Wilderness area encompasses 14 200ha and is incorporated within the beautiful Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. Due to its off-the-beaten path location and untouched natural state, the Boosmansbos Wilderness area is the ideal destination for an overnight hiking experience for those seeking some solitude from the hustle and bustle of the city. Boasting around 64 km of marked trails that lead up and down cliffs and deep into one of the Western Cape’s most expansive forests, the Boosmansbos Wilderness hiking trail is filled with beauty, thrill and adventure around every twist and turn. Making it any avid hiker’s dream come true!
In addition to an endless variety of beauty and adventure, the Boosmansbos Wilderness hiking trail is considered one of the Western Cape’s tougher overnight hiking trails. It is therefore extremely important that this top overnight hike only be attempted by hikers who have a certain level of fitness and experience and is well-equipped and prepared to deal with the difficult terrain and adverse weather conditions that may arise. For overnight hikers taking on this thrilling, yet challenging, hike, there are a variety of huts along the route that provide only basic shelter. Allowing for quite the rustic, immersive and authentic experience. Besides the huts, hikers can also choose to camp right out in the open under the stars. Thereby providing for a true overnight Western Cape wilderness hiking experience you’ll undoubtedly cherish and remember for many years to come.
- Distance: 27km+ over 2 days
- Beauty: 5/5
- Difficulty (fitness): 7/10 (Difficult i.e. need to be fit/strong)
- Technical rating of trail: Standard trail walking
#5 THE OTTER TRAIL
The renowned Otter Trail is without a doubt one of the most exciting, rewarding and top overnight hiking trails in Cape Town that takes place along the beautiful Garden Route coast. And certainly one of the most well-known too. The Otter Trail is officially the oldest and undoubtedly the most iconic hiking trail in South Africa, with avid hikers and nature-loving adventurers travelling from all corners of the globe to experience it first-hand. The trail, which runs along the stunning coastline between the Storms River mouth and beautiful Nature’s Valley, was opened in 1968 and to this day is still considered one of the best multi-day trails in the world. As you probably could have guessed from its name, the Otter Trail is named after the shy, mostly nocturnal, Cape Clawless Otter which inhabits the estuaries and streams of the beautiful Cape coast.
In addition to the truly spectacular views, stunning landscapes and picturesque sights you’ll encounter all the way throughout your hike, the famous Otter Trail is certainly not to be underestimated. Although this 5-day, 45km overnight hiking adventure mostly consists of standard trail walking interspersed with “walk-through” river crossings, it certainly includes some steep climbs and descents as well as technical river crossings. With the main technically difficult part of the trail being the Bloukrans River crossing which involves swimming across the river and climbing up steep terrain by use of a rope. Thereby requiring a certain level of fitness and experience to conquer. But, don’t let that detour you from taking on this bucket-list worthy Western Cape overnight hiking adventure! The pure variety and stunning splendour of the vast landscapes you’ll get to explore and discover on the Otter Trail is truly unparalleled.
Any fit hiker will probably be able to finish each day before lunch time. However, the trail offers so much to savour along the way that each day will be filled with a variety of adventures and thrilling experiences. From blissful days spent swimming in rivers and streams, walking through dense coastal forest and relaxing on beautiful beaches to gawking at huge waves crashing into the shoreline, enjoying the rich floral, insect and bird life, exploring the underwater world in tidal pools or gazing at dolphins and other marine life playing in the waves. There truly is nothing quite like it!
- Beauty: The definitive 5/5
- Difficulty rating: 7/10: The Otter might not be as demanding as some other longer trails, like the Amatola or Outeniqua, but it should not be underestimated. It has some steep climbs and descents, as well as technical river crossings.
- Technical rating: Mostly standard trail walking interspersed with “walk-through” river crossings. However, the main technical difficulty of the trail is the Bloukrans River crossing which involves swimming across the river and climbing up steep terrain by use of a rope.
- Duration: 45km | 5 days
Here is what you can expect on the 5-day Otter Trail overnight hiking adventure:
- Day 1: Start to Ngubu huts – 4,8km (2-hours)
- Day 2: Ngubu to Scott huts – 7,9km (4-hours)
- Day 3: Scott to Oakhurst huts – 7,7km (4-hours)
- Day 4: Oakhurst to Andre huts – 13,8km (6-hours)
- Day 5: Andre huts to De Vasselot / Nature’s Valley – 10,8km (5-hours)