Cedar Falls Day Hike – Baviaanskloof
Cedar Falls Day Hike – Baviaanskloof
This is a half day, out-and-back, route that begins at the Cedar Falls Base Camp. You would only really do this hike if you have booked for the Leopard Trail, or if you have booked one of the accommodation options on the farm and have included this hike as an early morning or late afternoon activity. If only we lived close enough to do this hike as part of a weekend away with friends and family, but unfortunately Cape Town is just too far away to travel for an overnight stay.
We have written a comprehensive blog on the Leopard Trail so we won’t repeat all the information in this post. If you have not read the Leopard Trail post, you might miss out on a few important bits of information about the logistical challenges that you will face when hiking or camping in the Baviaanskloof. We encourage you to read our Leopard Trail post here.
You may be wondering whether you should do this day hike before or after you have conquered the Leopard Trail. In our opinion, it is better to do the Cedar Falls Day hike as a bonus ‘Day 5 add on’ to the Leopard Trail, for two main reasons. Firstly, we were able to invite some of the spouses of our hiking party to the Cedar Falls Base Camp to braai with us on the evening that we had completed the Leopard Trail and to share in the highlights of the hike (and there were many). They brought along meat, salad and cold beverages which made the whole experience all the more enjoyable. The other, more important, reason was that we could all do the Cedar Falls Day hike the following morning and then travel home together. This hike is suitable for those who do not hike often and are game for a little bit of an adventure. We all took away our individual, different experiences and feelings about the Leopard Trail, but we all agreed that if you do the Leopard Trail, you MUST do the Cedar Falls Day hike to get the most out of what the Baviaanskloof has to offer. It is really a very special hike that you will thoroughly enjoy.
How to get there
The Go Baviaans website has a comprehensive explanation of how to get to the Cedar Falls Base Camp by road which you can read here. There are more detailed directions included in our post about the Leopard Trail.
The Speedy Review
First off. If you are anywhere remotely near to Baviaanskloof, you HAVE to make time to do this hike. It is absolutely spectacular and one of the most enjoyable experiences we have had in all our hiking adventures thus far. It includes such a huge variety of terrain types, from jeep track sections, to scrambling over boulders. Not to mention the two compulsory swims through the kloof, in black mountain water, to get further up the trail towards the two waterfalls.
If the members of your group are all able to make the swim, make sure to pack in some snacks and supplies in a waterproof bag to take along with you. The waterfalls are a great place to stop for a rest, a swim and something to eat.
We cannot wait to get back to this part of the world, just so we can hike the Cedar Falls Day hike route again. It really was something we will always remember.
Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, because no dogs are allowed due to it being in a nature reserve.
The Nitty Gritty
On Saturday 27 October 2018, we started walking relatively early at about 06h20, after the usual ‘hiking alarm’ went off while it was still dark. A pot and a metal spoon works wonders to rouse people from their slumber. Instead of the 8 hikers who completed the Leopard Trail the day before, we were now 11 strong, including the 3 husbands who had joined us the previous evening. We walked up from the Hiker’s House toward the swimming pool and turned left on to the gravel jeep track, just before reaching the swimming pool itself. We followed the signage for the waterfall and passed through a farm gate and continued along the gravel jeep track. I turned on my Garmin eTrex 20x and Strava App at the farm gate that signalled that we were leaving Cedar Fall Base Camp. The weather was cool and our faces absorbed the refreshing breeze as though it was a tub of moisturiser. The last day of the Leopard Trail had been a hot and dry one!
After about 650 m, the trail split and we went off to the right and on to a rocky path, still following the waterfall signage. At 06h32, we took a quick right off the waterfall trail to take a look at the labyrinth.
After a brief visit to the labyrinth and a compulsory group photo, we headed off again along the waterfall trail. We soon spotted an animal track in the muddy soil that was a good candidate for a leopard spoor. None of us are particularly good at identifying animal tracks so we will let you decide whether it was a leopard that tip toed through the mud, or a large dog. Soon after that, we came across a tiny hand print on a rock that looked like it could be from a baby baboon. Who knew baboons also did arts and crafts!
At about 07h15, the trail climbed a bit over a steepish, but short hill section, just enough to get the heart rate going [2.65 km GPS / Strava 2.4 km]. That was immediately followed by a descent on the other side.
At 07h22, we crossed a muddy stream section where we found a waterfall sign that appeared to indicate that the trail continued straight on through the bushes [2.96 km GPS / 2.7 km Strava]. There did appear to be some shoe prints there that continued on into the thicket, however they disappeared after only a few metres. After a bit of searching, we found that the trail actually turned sharp left there, in front of the sign and continued along the right edge of the muddy stream. The elevation at that point was 906 m. That area had been quite badly affected by recent flooding, making the terrain difficult to walk through and the path was obscured in places. It’s in your own best interest, for this hike, to wear waterproof hiking boots, or shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and full of mud.
At about 07h35, the trail took us under a large tree that had fallen over, high above the path. After walking underneath the fallen tree, the trail made a sharp right and over a section of large boulders [3.37 km GPS / 3.1 km Strava]. We had been walking for about 01h15m, at that point. We took the opportunity for a short break there to take in our surroundings and to enjoy the shade while it lasted.
We soon came across the first of four rock pools, including two compulsory swims, before reaching the waterfalls. That first rock pool was the smallest of the lot and does allow you to pass it on the left hand side without having to swim through it [3.42 km GPS].
At 07h52, we crossed the river through what looked like a dense thicket and emerged on the other side relatively unscathed [3.90 km GPS]. At 08h03, we arrived at the first compulsory swim section after walking a distance of 4.1 km GPS [4.0 km Strava] which took us about 01h45m. The elevation was 918 m. All of us had agreed before we started the hike that we would do the 2 compulsory swims to the waterfalls, with just one of us choosing to remain behind. Most of us had other clothes to swim in so that our main hiking gear stayed dry. We picked a shady spot to leave our stuff and I decided to take only my camera, my cell phone (for the Strava App) and some snacks, in case we got hungry. These all went into a 20 lt waterproof bag. I wrapped my camera and my phone separately in my pair of hiking socks so that they did not bang against each inside the waterproof bag. Smelly but effective!
The water was cold and black which meant that some of us had to summon up some additional courage to enter the water and swim through the gap in the kloof towering over us. Belinda and I were two of the first to swim through that compulsory swim section. We chose to swim towards the left where there appeared to be an easier way out of the water. The right hand side seemed to require a bit more fancy footwork to get out. I am not, no have I ever been, a dancer by any stretch of the imagination! The last person to swim through that section climbed out on the other side at about 08h25. For those who are a little apprehensive about the compulsory swims, you can actually walk a long section of the way at knee then waist height, with only the last few meters requiring actual swimming. I chose to do breast stroke so that I could push my waterproof bag ahead of me as I swam.
Fortunately, prior to the hike, I was given a good pair of water shoes that helped a lot for the swims, climbing over the boulders and walking along the remaining section of the trail. Some of the group decided to keep their walking shoes on while others chose to continue bare foot. Those without shoes made slow progress after the first compulsory swim compared to the rest that had some type of footwear on. Our suggestion is that if you cannot get your hands on a good pair of water shoes, bring along a pair of rockies or takkies (not slip slops) to put on your feet after the swim sections. You can put them in your waterproof bag to keep them dry. Those in our group who didn’t have waterproof bags used normal back refuse bags that seemed to work well, although they did look like floating bags of burnt candyfloss. A few people swam with their takkies on, but found that once they filled with water, they made swimming extremely difficult.
We then continued further up the kloof toward the waterfalls. The terrain included large boulders, gravel and river stones which were quite tricky to negotiate when you were sopping wet. We passed by a rather large rock pool (no 3) that initially looked like the second compulsory swim, but we were easily able to pass it on the right hand side along a boulder section.
Just after the large rock pool (no 3), we arrived at the second compulsory swim section that looked remarkably similar to the first. We were already wet, so there was less hesitation in getting in that time. The difference with the second compulsory swim was that when we reached the other side we had to be careful not to stub our toes on the submerged rocks at the water’s edge. Some were more successful at this than others! Ouch! We climbed out the other side on to a small section of green grass.
That was the point when the hike started to get really exciting. After we climbed out of the water and shook off the excess water, we continued climbing over boulders toward our destination. The trail took a sharp right to reveal a long rock ramp that led up further into the kloof. The ramp was very slippery and the water was rushing down it on our left hand side as we carefully made our way to the top. The scene that was waiting for us just around the corner was nothing short of spectacular! A two tiered waterfall loomed large in front of us, accompanied by the deafening sound of rushing water. All I could think of was what our one friend was missing out on by staying behind at the first compulsory swim. We had reached the waterfalls at about 08h50. That meant that it had taken us about 02h30m to get there, covering a distance of around 5.5 km (Strava).
It didn’t take much convincing for all of us to jump in the top rock pool and to swim to the waterfall to see if we could get behind it. While the water did pound us on our heads, we still managed to swim behind it and tread water while watching as the water smashed itself into the pool in front of us. Check out the video below to get an idea of how much noise the waterfall made.
We spent about half an hour swimming at the waterfalls and enjoying the beautiful surroundings before making the journey back to our hiking colleague who was waiting for us on the other side of the two compulsory swims. We decided not to have a snack break there as well because it would mean that, including the time we would take on the return journey, we would have left our friend alone for more an hour and a half.
We got back to our friend at around 10h00 and enjoyed a leisurely snack break. I also took the opportunity to take a few photos of the little creatures living in the river next to us. Belinda and I were both surprised to see how many little fish were in the river. Unfortunately my camera wasn’t quick enough to get any photos of the fish. Along with the fish, there were loads of crabs scurrying around underwater, while a couple of frogs looked on from their rocky beaches.
At 10h37, we packed up, put our toasty warm hiking socks (minus the undamaged electronic devices) and hiking boots back on and headed back to the base camp. We completed the hike at about 11h50 and packed up our stuff for the road home, but not before jumping into the camp’s swimming pool for one last dip.
The Stats – Cedar Falls Day Hike
The total hiking stats for this day hike, according to the Strava App, were as follows:
|Trip Odometer||11.1 km|
|Elevation Gain||447 m|
Watch the Relive video below to get a good idea of the route and the elevation profile of this glorious day hike.
This has got to be one of the best day hikes that this country has to offer. It is not too physically demanding so it can be a family outing with children old enough to walk around 10 kilometres and who can swim short distances unaided. It has the elements of rugged beauty, stunning plant life and the fun factor that comes with swimming across stretches of cold black water.
It has everything you would want in a relatively short day hike in a remote location. Cheers, Baviaanskloof. You have really outdone yourself in providing us with a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable adventure in the bush!