Hiking in Newlands Forest
Newlands Forest Hikes – so many to choose from
Newlands Forest is a firm favourite amongst Capetonians from all walks of life. It plays host to single people out for a stroll, joggers, trail runners, mountain bikers, families and their kids and of course dog walkers. It truly is a special place where anyone and everyone can get in a few hours of exercise or some peace and quiet away from the rat race.
On Sunday 17 September 2017, Belinda and I decided to hike in Newlands Forest. It would be the first time that either of us had hiked in the forest. Fortunately it is also a dog friendly trail so Nina could join us.
How to get there:
The easiest way to access Newlands Forest is along the M3 highway just before the University of Cape Town Upper Campus (direction Cape Town CBD). Look out for the Wildfire Services and Reservoir turnoff to the left. After turning left off the M3 turn immediately right and park in the large parking area. There is a security guard posted there to look after your car while you are off having fun.
After parking your car, you have to walk up the tar road towards the mountain. There are no entrance fees applicable. If you are walking your dogs in the forest, you will need to have a My Activity card.
After a short distance you will pass by the right hand side of a sliding gate that is meant to restrict unauthorised vehicle traffic into the forest. The Fire Management Department building and helicopter landing area are slightly further up the road on the right. You are advised to keep your dogs on a leash until you have cleared the helicopter landing area and you have reached the top of the tar road.
On the day of our hike, a Red Cross Air Mercy Service Helicopter (AMS) had landed and was about to take part in a mountain rescue exercise.
The Speedy Review
This is the perfect trail if you want to enjoy hills, distance and nature without having to travel out of the city. Because Newlands Forest has so many different trails, you can choose to do a long or a short walk, depending on how much time you have. It is perfect for humans and dogs and the terrain changes often so you won’t get bored.
Go early, especially in Summer, because the trails can get quite busy with moutainbikers and trail runners.
Nina rated this trail 4/5 paw prints. She got to meet lots of other dogs along the way and there were plenty of streams for her to drink from.
It did get rather hot, but an earlier start next time should solve that problem.
The Nitty Gritty
At the top of the tar road, there is a board indicating the start of the Newlands trails. You can either go left and continue on the tar road or turn right and follow the Littlewort Trail. We decided to turn left and follow the tar road to the Contour path via Skelmkoppad (gravel road) and the Fernwood Track. We started walking at 09h00 and passed an ablution block on our left hand side. Good to know if you have traveled far to get to the forest. After about 200 m, we crossed over the Newlands Stream.
At 09h08, we came to the end of the tar road at a boom gate and the path continued on as a gravel road. The distance covered to that point was 393 m.
We continued along the gravel round and at 09h16 the road curved to the right after a distance of 783 m. We followed the arrow sign boards and avoided the routes that had a no entry signs on them.
At 09h32, we turned left off the jeep track and on to a narrow footpath. The distance covered to that point was 1.75 km with a moving time of 25 minutes. The elevation was 241 m.
After turning left on to this footpath, we could see that several of the trees had been marked by staff of Kirstenbosch Gardens. A sample of the trees that you can expect to see along this section of the trail are:
- Wild Almond [Brabejum stellatifolium]
- Radiata Pine [Pinus radiata]
- Cape Saffron [Cassine peragua]
- Bladder-Nut [Diospyros whyteana]
- Ironwood [Olea capensis]
- Cape Beech [Rapanea melanophloeos]
- Hard Pear [Olinia ventosa]
- Tree Fuchsia [Halleria lucida]
At 09h37, we crossed two wooden bridges. Nina took advantage of the stream and had a drink of water. The distance covered to that point was 2.0 km with a moving time of 28 minutes. The elevation was 228 m.
At 09h43, we came to a t-junction with a jeep track and we turned right toward the mountain. The distance covered was 2.2 km with a moving time of 31 minutes.
At 09h44, we turned left as indicated by the trail arrow, but stopped short of a sign that warned that no dogs were allowed beyond that point. We figured that it was the outer border of Kirstenbosch Gardens precinct which does not allow dogs.
We turned back and continued along the main gravel road up the hill. The distance to that point was 2.35 km.
At 09h48, we came across two signs warning that dogs were not allowed to progress any further along the main gravel road. The distance covered to that point was 2.45 km.
There was a directional sign board in the bushes on the left that pointed right to a path leading toward the Contour Path and Rhodes Memorial. After turning right off the main gravel road, we walked a short distance and turned left at a fork in the path. That put us on the Silvertree Trail which was a steep track that ascended a flight of wooden pole stairs. After a 15 minute climb up the wooden pole staircase, we reached the Contour Path.
The path to the left takes you to Constantia Nek and the path to the right takes you to Rhodes Memorial [2 hours] and the King’s Blockhouse. The distance to that point was 3.0 km with a moving time of 43 minutes. The elevation was 350 m. We decided to turn right and head in the direction of Rhodes Memorial. Soon after turning right, we encountered a sign that warned us to adhere to the dog walking rules. It appears that dog walkers have been ignoring their responsibilities and that there was a real danger that permission to walk dogs in the forest may be withdrawn at some point. Almost immediately after the Dogs at Kirstenbosch board, the trail changed from being a dirt track to a rocky path.
At 10h10, we reached the section of the trail where there were several raised wooden boardwalks. The distance to that point was 3.2 km with a moving time of 47 minutes. The elevation was 348 m. It certainly made the going over the rocky terrain much easier on the ankles.
At 10h20, we crossed a mountain stream. Nina again took the opportunity to have a drink of water. The day was getting warmer and the heat was beginning to take its toll on our pooch. The distance covered to that point was 3.7 km. At 10h30, the trail opened up and we had our first unobstructed view of the surrounding mountains. We could just see Pulpit Rock off in the distance. We had covered a distance of 4.25 km with a moving time of 01h03. At 10h33, we crossed another stream and Nina had a chance to drink cool mountain water again.
We continued walking and crossed a few more streams along the way. All the while, overhead the AMS helicopter was hovering as part of their rescue exercise. After a few minutes of staring up at the hovering helicopter, I saw that it moved off carrying its prize.
At 10h45, we reached the picnic spot along the trail. It was occupied by several people and doberman pincer. We chose to sit down on the raised walkway and have a snack rather than go into the picnic area and risk a possible confrontation with the other dog. Not that Nina is in anyway aggressive, but there is always the risk that the other dog behaves badly. The distance covered to that point was just short of 5 km was a moving time of 01h13. The elevation was 352 m. The picnic spot was located directly opposite the start of Newlands Ravine. On our next visit to Newlands Forest, we hope to climb Newlands Ravine. It is advertised as a rather tough ascent. At 11h00, we started again and proceeded along the wooden boardwalk toward Rhodes Memorial and the King’s Blockhouse. We continued along the path and came to a raised bridge. No matter how hard Belinda tried to convince Nina that the easiest option was just to walk across the bridge, she would not cooperate. Eventually Nina just walked underneath it.
At 11h13, we reached a view point with a wide angled view of the southern suburbs below. The distance covered to that point was 5.5 km with a moving time of 01h23. The elevation was 391 m.
We continued along the path and re-entered the forest cover again.
At 11h45, we came to a beautiful mountain stream with a waterfall further up the ravine. The distance covered to that point was 6.6 km with a moving time of 01h37. The elevation was 400 m.
A significant part of the trail from that point on was out in the open. At 11h55, we arrived at a metal turnstile next to a fence ladder. The King’s Blockhouse was just beyond the turnstile. The distance covered to that point was 7.2 km with a moving time of 01h45.
We opted to turn right and not to proceed through the turnstile to the King’s Blockhouse. It was getting really hot and Nina was really feeling the heat so we decided to head back into the cool of the forest again. After turning right, we followed the path as it bent back on itself and descended quite rapidly. At 12h05, we reached an intersection with a jeep track. The distance covered to that point was 7.7 km with a moving time of 01h53. The elevation was 278 m.
I turned around here and looked up at the path we had just descended. The King’s Blockhouse was visible above us to the right of the trail.We turned right there and followed the jeep track in the direction of the starting point again.
At 12h22, we came to a fork in the road and chose to head to the right. The distance to that point was 9 km with a moving time of 02h08.
As the day became hotter ad hotter, the local reptiles began to make an appearance. This Southern Rock Agama lizard was making the most of the Spring sunshine.
At 12h26, we came to another fork in the road, with a lower road and a higher road as options. We chose the lower road in the hope that it would take us back to the start in the quickest possible time. The distance covered to that point was 9.25 km. The elevation was 190 m.
We walked through the most beautiful part of Newlands Forest as we approached the starting point. At 12h37, we arrived at a boom gate and could see a tar road beyond the gate. A quick check on Google Maps and we could see that we had come down to the left of the Fire Management Station. The distance covered to that point was 10.1 km. We turned right just before the boom gate and walked along a narrow dirt track. We quickly popped out behind the fenced in helicopter landing area.
We ended the hike at the starting point again at 12h41 with a total hiking distance of 10.2 km.
The route we walked was pretty much circular and had a total walking distance of 10.2 km. There were no distance markers inside Newlands Forest.
Here are the hiking stats for the Fernwood Track to the doorstep of the King’s Blockhouse:
|Trip Odometer||10.2 km|
|Moving Average||4.3 km/h|
|Overall Average||2.8 km/h|
|Max Speed||14.8 km/h|
|Elevation||4 m – 31 m|
I have attached a few GPS trip log images for this hiking trail. Click on the images to enlarge them.