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Published: 24-Jun-2020

Best long-distance hiking trails on the Garden Route in South Africa

The Garden Route is synonymous with outdoor activities, in particular nature walks and hiking. Around Treedom there are numerous day hikes through the forests, as well as amazing coastal trails to explore. However, the Garden Route is also home to some of the best long-distance hiking trails in South Africa. Here are the top 5 long distance trails that we have researched for you – from slack-packing to traditional backpacking hikes, from relatively easy to fairly strenuous, but all of them beautiful!


What about planning a holiday where you explore one of these famous trails, and then spend a week recovering in the comfort and luxury of our treehouse luxury villa?

Oystercatcher Trail

  • Start: Sandpiper Cottages, Boggomsbaai (near Mosselbay)
  • Finish: Gouritsmond
  • Duration: 4 Nights, 5 Days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 51km

The Oystercatcher Trail is named after the African Black Oystercatcher that is prevalent along the route. This is five-day guided hike starting in Mossel Bay and ending at Gouritsmond.

Without any real inclines or declines, and the option of slack-packing, this trail is not very difficult. Be warned, however, that the distance covered each day is substantial and those less fit will have weary legs after a solid day of walking.

Accommodation is provided in guest cottages at Sandpiper Cottages or other establishments of similar quality. All meals are provided - on some days you’ll carry your own picnic lunch, on others you’ll enjoy lunch served on the beach. In the evening, you will be treated to a delicious hot meal in the communal dining area.

The Hunter-Gatherer Trail

  • Start: Boggomsbaai
  • Finish: Gouritsmond
  • Duration: 4 Nights, 5 Days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: between 12 and 20km a day, depending on fitness

The Hunter-Gatherer Trail explores the way in which the ancient Khoisan inhabitants of this region lived centuries ago. Designed to cover a portion of the very popular Oystercatcher Trail's route, the Hunter Gatherer Trail is a guided five day hike that has you beach-combing and rock-hopping the beautiful coastline of the Garden Route, covering the paths of the Khoi San hunter gatherers who survived on these beaches thousands of years ago. You’ll also get to kayak along the Gourits River.

Daily hiking distances vary between 12km and 20km, depending on the fitness levels of those in the hiking party. Hikers do not walk to a new site every night but rather take meandering loops to and from two base camps. This means that you never have to carry very much (other than a day pack).

Accommodation is basic but adequate, with the option of tents, dormitories and rustic cottages. Ablution facilities are available at each stop. You have the option of cooking your food on an open fire, and you can even catch your own food if you fancy a bit of fishing.

The Otter Trail

  • Start: Storms River Mouth
  • Finish: Natures Valley
  • Duration: 4 Nights, 5 Days
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Duration: 42.5km

The Otter Trail follows the magnificent Garden Route coastline from Storms River Mouth to Nature's Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park. It is considered by many to be the top long-distance hiking trail in South Africa. At only 42km long, it is not as long as some other long-distance trails in South Africa, but it’s not an easy trail by any means.

The trail follows the rugged, rocky shoreline ranging in elevation from sea level to a height of more than 150m. Most of the trail follows cliff tops returning to sea level to cross rivers. The distances covered every day are relatively short, giving you time to enjoy the incredible vistas, rockpools, and beaches along the way. The beauty of this hike is what will really leave one breathless.

Self-catering accommodation is provided in rustic huts and so is water and firewood.

The Outeniqua Trail

  • Start: Beervlei Hut (S33 55.480 E22 43.599)
  • Finish: Harkerville Hut (S34 02 881 E23 14.085)
  • Duration: Series of day walks or over a period of seven days. Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Duration: 108km

This spectacular trail takes you through the ancient forests of Outeniqua, between George and Knysna on the Garden Route. It is a seven-day hiking route which means your backpack will be quite heavy and you are advised to wear a good pair of boots with thick socks. Your feet will hurt, and you will be tired after each day's hike. Hikers do not have to hike the full 7 days and shorter options are also available.

You will be rewarded with unsurpassed scenery which the Outeniqua Mountains are famous for. The hike wends its way through ancient indigenous forests with incredible tree ferns and mountain scenery. It is a self-hike and is well signposted.

Accommodation is in rustic huts which offer shelter, firewood, grids, water and rudimentary bedding; no pots. There is only electricity at Millwood, Diepwalle and Harkerville huts.

The Tsitsikamma Trail

  • Start: Natures Valley
  • Finish: Storms River Mouth
  • Duration: 5 Nights, 6 Days
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Duration: 62.3km

The Tsitsikamma Trail is a great alternative if the Otter Trail or Outeniqua Trails aren’t available. The trail crosses many of the same rivers as the Otter, climbing numerous ridges before reaching Storms River Bridge, near where the Otter Trail starts.

For those who are less keen on spending a full six days on this trail, Tsitsikamma offers variations of the trail with two- to six-day options available. Slackpacking is also available, giving you the option of having your baggage transported between different overnight huts, so that you only have to carry your daypack.

The huts on the trail are basic but decent. Each site has 24 bunks between a few rooms.

References

Back to Things to do when holidaying in Wilderness

Useful links: A Luxury Villa on the Garden Route; Treehouse villa in Wilderness; Rates for our Treehouse Villa; Things to do in Wilderness; About Treedom; Visit Treedom

 

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