De Hel Trail, Constantia
A beautiful walk through the forests of Constantia
How to get there
The start of the trail situated along Constantia Main Road, about 300m before the circle at the top of Constantia Nek.
There is a small parking area at the entrance to the De Hel Nature Area where you can park. Just make sure to pack away all your valuables, as it is a fairly secluded area and there are no security guards in the area.
The Speedy Review (tl;dr)
This hidden gem is perfect for an after work stroll, to clear your mind of all the stress of the day. All you need is 45 minutes and a pair of comfortable shoes. The trail covers a large expanse of the De Hel forest, and it is more beautiful than pictures can capture. We would highly recommend you give this trail a try. It doesn’t require a very high level of fitness so is both child and dog friendly.
Nina rated this trail 4/5 paw prints. She enjoyed the beautiful forest, the new smells, and the terrain was soft underfoot.
She would highly recommend this trail for all dogs, big or small.
The Nitty Gritty
I had driven past the start of this trail after completing the Constantia Nek trail on a previous occasion. I really enjoy walking in the forest, so banked this as a must-do trail for the future. On Sunday 02 July 2017, Belinda was out training at the NSRI base in Melkbosstrand, which left Nina and I to our own devices. I remembered De Hel forest so thought we could give it a try. It was raining on my side of the world, but I took a chance and drove through to the Southern Suburbs hoping the weather would clear. When I arrived in Constantia, I looked up and directly above us there was a patch of open blue sky surrounded by menacing rain clouds. It remained that way long enough for me to complete the hike without getting rained on.
De Hel forest is actually a Western Cape Heritage Site. I did not know that until I visited the trail. A sign has been erected behind the De Hel Trail signboard and faces toward the forest. I’m not sure why they placed it there, where no one can see it. This is what the sign says:
“De Hel was known as the open area forest and fynbos on the original farm in Constantia Valley known as Witte Boomen. Witte Boomen was named after the historically abundant ‘witte bomen’ or silver trees. The area formed part of the Dutch East India Company’s woodcutters post of Witte Boomen from 1657 t0 1754 until it was incorporated into the ‘Paradise’ post at Newlands.
The site represented the cradle of the woodcutting industry. The Dutch East India Company relied on the heavily wooded outpost for material to repair ships and buildings. Indigenous timber was harvested by convicts and slave labour. The timber was brought down the mountain utilising ancient cattle tracks created by the Khoi Khoi pastoralists.”
A second signboard, equally obscured, details how De Hel got its name. According to this signboard,
“The name of De Hel originates from the expedition notes from Governor Van Riebeeck’s son Abraham. In 1676, Abraham was sent to explore the south side of Table Mountain and describes a forest lying below in a deep valley. It was given the name of ‘Hel’ as the forest lies in a seemingly ‘dark, gloomy pit.”
The trail started at the following GPS coordinates:
S 34⁰ 00.626′ E 018⁰ 24.773′
Elevation: 234 m
We started walking at 10:08. There were two options at the start. You could either go to the left or to the right. I stood and watched as people arrived and almost all of the hikers took the path to the left. Nina and I decided to go right. The path was quite wide and almost immediately began to descend into the forest in a zigzag pattern.
The path flattened out again with a small stream flowing on the left side of the pathway.
At 10:14, we reached a wooden foot bridge that went off to the left. The distance covered to that point was 310 m with a moving time of 05 mins 10 sec. Elevation was 119 m. We continue on straight.
At 10:18, we reached a second wooden bridge leading off to the left with the path leading up the hill [481 m]. The moving time was 07 mins 31 secs. We turned left and walked over the bridge and up the hill.
At 10:22, after a short distance, we reached another bridge leading off to the right [599 m]. Moving time was 09 min 45 secs. We ignored that bridge and continued on straight and followed the path as it went further up hill.
At 10:26, we ascended a wooden pole stairway and reached a gravel jeep track [775 m].
We turned right on the jeep track and walked along the pathway toward Southern Cross Drive.
We got to meet lots of friendly dogs on the way. Some were on leashes, but most were not. Nina behaved herself and greeted each dog with a smile and a wagging tail. We even got to do a short obstacle course under and around a large tree that had fallen on to the trail.
At 10:38, we reached the other end of the trail where it met with Southern Cross Drive [1.43 km]. The moving time was 22 mins 26 secs with an elevation of 147 m.
We turned around there and continued back along the same path we had come.
We encountered many of the same people and dogs along the return leg that we had met earlier. This was because the route was semi circular in nature.
While walking along the trail, we were passed by a trail runner with his two pugs bringing up the rear. I watched as both pugs huffed and puffed passed us and stopped at something lying in the pathway. These two pugs started tucking into something with such gusto that I was curious to see what it was.
As I got closer, I saw that it was a huge pile of dog poop. I called to the running man that his two dogs were eating poop. He turned back and tried to call an end to his dogs’ delicious pie eating contest. No such luck! Eventually he had to come over to pick his two dogs up. The smaller pug saw what was about to happen and gobbled up as much as it could of what must have been the most delicious turd ever created. Even though it was so wrong, I was so fascinated with what was happening that I couldn’t look away.
As the runner turned away muttering words like ‘so disgusting’ and ‘I can’t believe you two are eating sh..’ bits of poop were falling from the little Pug’s mouth and on to the ground. It’s moments like that, that make the experience of the great outdoors so memorable.
At 10:52, we reached the footpath that intersected with the jeep track, but instead of turning left and back on to the path again, we continued straight along the jeep track.
At 11:04, we reached the start again of the hike and where I had parked the bakkie. I got out some water for Nina to drink and poured it into her bowl, but she just turned her nose up at it.
There were no distance markers on any of these routes.
We walked a semi circular route, covering some of the same ground on the return leg. The total distance covered was 2.77 km
Here are the stats for this route:
|Trip Odometer||2.77 km|
|Moving Average||4.1 km/h|
|Overall Average||2.9 km/h|
|Max Speed||8.5 km/h|
|Elevation||119 m – 234 m|
Here is the GPS trip log for the hike, including a side elevation profile.