Tag: cape town hikes

Devil’s Peak Hiking Trail

Devil’s Peak Hiking Trail

Devil’s Peak Hiking Trail     As a Capetonian, or anyone else really who visits the Mother City, one cannot escape the presence of Table Mountain. If you talk to anyone that doesn’t live in Cape Town they will tell you that the mountain has…

Tygerberg Nature Reserve – Hiking Trails

Tygerberg Nature Reserve – Hiking Trails

Tygerberg Nature Reserve – Hiking Trails     Blog Post Updated on 21 July 2018   If you had to ask most Capetonians about a nature reserve on the top of Tygerberg hills, I can guarantee you that you will probably get a blank stare…

Chapman’s Peak Trail – Hout Bay

Chapman’s Peak Trail – Hout Bay

Chapman’s Peak Trail – Hout Bay

 

 

Belinda and I got the chance to do this hike on Wednesday 18 July 2018 as part of our hiking club’s (SAPSTAP) day hikes plan for 2018. We were joined by Roderick who recently accompanied us our our somewhat dramatic hike through the Fish River Canyon in May this year. It was a surprisingly warm Winter’s day with a maximum temperature of 26°C.  It was for that reason that we did not bring our dog, Nina, with us. Nina does not do well in the heat and we had planned to begin the hike at 12h30, during the heat of the day.

Before I begin to relate our experience of this trail, I think it would be helpful to find out a bit about the history of the area that we hiked through and how the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive was constructed. It really is quite a story!

 

A brief history of Chapman’s Peak

Chapmanspeakdrive.co.za has, for perhaps obvious reasons, the most detailed online history of how this Peak got its name and how Chapman’s Peak Drive came about. Here are a few excerpts from their webpage:

Apparently, “Chapman’s Peak is named after John Chapman, the Captain’s mate of an English ship, the Consent. The peak which looms overhead was not named after a governor or brave mountaineer, but a lowly ship’s pilot. In 1607, the skipper of the British ship Contest (sic) found his vessel becalmed in what is now Hout Bay and sent his pilot, John Chapman, to row ashore in the hope of finding provisions. The pilot later recorded the bay as Chapman’s Chaunce (chance) and the name stuck, becoming official on all East India charts.”

The Captain of the Consent, a 115 ton English trading vessel, at that time was a man by the name of David Middleton, the younger brother of Sir Henry Middleton. David Middleton later attained the rank of General and sailed again in May 1614 to a place called Bantam in the East with a fleet of three ships, the Samaritan, the Thomas and the Thomasine. These ships also docked at the Cape of Good Hope. He arrived in Bantam in February 1615. Unfortunately in April 1615, his ship the Samaritan went down with all hands on the return journey near the coast of Madagascar, although the exact details of his demise are not known. He was survived by his wife and three or four children.

 

How was Chapman’s Peak Drive Built?

Again Chapmanspeakdrive.co.za provides us with the following answer to that question:

“The road was cleverly planned with the road surface based on the solid and conveniently located 630 million year old Cape Granite contour, while the many roadside cuttings would be carved out of the more workable Malmesbury series sediments.

In 1915, with the use of convict labour supplied by the newly formed Union Government, construction began from the Hout Bay end, and in the following year work began from Noordhoek. The first portion of the road to the Lookout was opened in 1919.

The spectacular roadway took seven years to complete, at a cost of 20 000 pounds. The Hout Bay Noordhoek Road ‘hewn out of the stone face of Sheer Mountain’ was opened to traffic on Saturday 6 May 1922, by the Governor of the Union of South Africa, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught.”

 

How to get there

The start of the trail is located on Chapman’s Peak Drive in Hout Bay. You should enter Hout Bay from the direction of Constantia Nek and head through the village to Chapman’s Peak Drive on the other side. At the Chapman’s Peak Drive tollgate you need to inform the staff member that you are going to hike the Chapman’s Peak Trail and that you need a ‘Day Pass’. A ‘Day Pass’ entitles you to make use of designated picnic areas, viewing spots and mountain trails. In summer, the applicable hours for a ‘Day Pass’ are 06h00 – 20h00 and in winter 07h00 – 18h30. A ‘Day Pass’ will be issued to you free of charge and will allow you to travel up Chapman’s Peak Drive until you reach the ‘turn around’ point. There will be someone there to check you ‘Day Pass’. Once your ‘Day Pass’ has been checked, you should turn immediately to your left and into a relatively large parking area where you will see the trail head for the Chapman’s Peak Trail. Park there and put your valuables away and out of sight. Keep your ‘Day Pass’ because you will need to produce it at the tollgate again when you leave.

It’s really important that you remember to ask for the ‘Day Pass’ – Belinda didn’t, and ended up paying nearly R100 (R47 x 2) for the toll fees…

 

 

The Speedy Review [tl;dr]

Chapman’s Peak is one of those iconic locations in Cape Town that is steeped in history and stands as a leading example of human ingenuity and engineering. Chapman’s Peak Drive is arguably one of the most scenic drives on the planet and connects the villages of Hout Bay and Noordhoek. The Chapman’s Peak Trail guides you up to the summit from where you are able to enjoy a 360° view over Hout Bay, Noordhoek, Kommetjie, Strandfontein and as far out as Simonstown’s on a clear day. It is a short but challenging route that reminds one of sections of another iconic location, Lion’s Head. It would be an ideal trail to hike to enjoy the sunrise or sunset without the constant foot traffic of the more popular Lion’s Head Trail. In our opinion, the Chapman’s Peak Trail is suitable for children aged about 10 years and older, who enjoy walking. You do need to have a certain degree of fitness to enjoy the trail and there are plenty of flat rocks at the summit to sit and lie down and enjoy the view, or recover from the climb. It is not an easy hike as some might tell you.

 

 

Trail Ninometer

 

 

 

Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, as she did not accompany us on this trail. Although dogs are allowed in the Table Mountain National Park and on this trail, but we decided not to take Nina along due to the high temperatures and the time of day we were planning to hike the trail.

 

 

 

 

The Nitty Gritty

We started the hike from the parking area at about 12h45. Before you even realise what is happening you immediately begin climbing a rocky pathway that runs on the left of a mountain stream. There were 3 of us hiking. Roderick, Belinda and me. After about 200 m, the tail began to veer to the left away from the stream.

At about 13h00, we crossed a steadily flowing stream after covering a distance of about 400 m. We stopped for a photo and then carried on. The path started to turn back to the right and the lower peak rose directly in front of us for the first time.

At about 13h10, we crossed a second stream (600 m) and continued climbing. Soon after the stream, the trail flattened out, and turned to the left. We then came upon a cairn at the centre of a t-junction on a plateau. We took the path to the right and followed the gravel path around the right shoulder of the lower peak.

 

 

At about 13h20, the trail began climb again after being relatively flat since the cairn (1.1 km). At 13h55, we reached a small saddle between the two peaks. We got our first view of the Southern suburbs on the other side of the mountain. We recognised the suburbs of Strandfontein, Noordhoek, Sun Valley, Kommetjie and Simon’s Town is the distance. The hiking distance to the saddle was about 2.2 km with a total hiking time of 01h05m. We had walked closer to the far end of the saddle to get a good look, so we had to turn around a head back a short stretch and turned left to get back on the trail to the summit.

 

 

The last stretch to the top was quite steep and lasted about 15 minutes. On reaching the top, you have to walk straight between two large rock formations and then turn left and follow the path as it winds its way to the trig beacon above you. We reached the summit at about 14h15. The ascent had taken us around 01h30m with a hiking distance of 2.6 km. Chapman’s Peak is about 567 m in elevation.

We ended up relaxing for about 40 minutes at the top soaking up the spectacular views and snacking on all sorts of hiking food stuffs, including bananas, naartjies, salted peanuts, dried pears, boiled sweets, crisps and biltong.

 

 

We began our descent at about 14h55 and completed the hike at 16h00 making it in around 01h05m.

 

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The Stats

The total hiking distance for this trail is 5.2 km. It took us about 01h30m to reach the summit (567 m) and just over an hour to descend again. The elevation gain for this hike, according to Strava, was 405 m. We spent about 40 minutes at the top taking in the magnificent views and taking lots of photos. I left my Garmin GPS in my vehicle so I was not able to gather any further stats for this hike. I still cannot believe I left my GPS in the car.

Watch the Relive video to get an idea of the route and the elevation profile of this very special hike.

 

 

India Venster – A Window over the Mother City

India Venster – A Window over the Mother City

India Venster – A Window over the Mother City   Post Updated on 09 July 2018   The word ‘venster’ is the translated Afrikaans word for ‘window’. This trail is called India Venster apparently because the ravine in which it is located resembles the geographical…

Falke Delvera Full Moon Hike – A Twilight Adventure

Falke Delvera Full Moon Hike – A Twilight Adventure

Falke Delvera Full Moon Hike – A Twilight Adventure   In the ever changing and fast paced world we live, everything has become a rush and we end up not spending quality time with our kids, if you have any, and with our spouses or…

The Dark Gorge – A Magical Place in the Forest

The Dark Gorge – A Magical Place in the Forest

The Dark Gorge- A Magical Place in the Forest

UPDATED – 17 DECEMBER 2018

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.

Newlands Forest, like many other hiking destinations in and around Cape Town, also has its secrets. Special places that are only known to the locals by word of mouth.  The Dark Gorge is one of these best-kept secrets. The Dark Gorge is not a recommended safe hiking route and there are signs erected at the beginning and end of the route that strongly discourage hikers from using it rather than the safe option of Newlands Ravine.

Now Belinda and I have our reservations in writing about a hiking route that is not considered safe for use by SANParks. The last thing we would want is for someone reading this blog to get injured while trying to go where we have gone before. For this reason, we have opted to include a disclaimer in this blog right in the beginning to warn you of the possible dangers of taking this route so that you are aware of the risks before choosing to do it.

Safety Disclaimer

The Dark Gorge is situated adjacent to the recommended hiking route, Newlands Ravine. It’s potential risk of causing injury does not only come from a fall from height or extreme scrambling sections, but also from loose rocks underfoot. The trail consists of small to medium sized rocks that have spilled down the ravine over time. These rocks can be dislodged quite easily by a hiker’s boot and can cause a mini rock slide that could cause the hiker to loose his or her footing or, more importantly, send a few rocks down on to the feet or legs of the hikers following immediately below.

It is therefore strongly advised that if you choose to do this hike, that you be especially careful with your foot placement and make sure that the hikers in your party are at least 5 meters apart during the ascent to allow enough time to shout a warning of a mini rock slide and enough time for evasive action to be taken by the following hikers below.

If you decide to hike The Dark Gorge after reading this blog, we cannot be held responsible for any injuries that you or your hiking party may sustain.  

 

 

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.  Here is a link to the Google Maps pin.

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. If you don’t have one, click here for steps on how to get one.

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, two Working on Fire helicopters were parked on the helipad ready for action.

 

 

Opening Times and contact information:

For more information, the SANParks Mount Pleasant office can be contacted on:

+27 (0) 21 689 4441

The emergency number for the Table Mountain National Park is:

+27 (0) 86 1106 417

 

The Speedy Review [tl;dr]

The Dark Gorge Trail is situated in the Newlands Forest which falls within the Table Mountain National Park. This is an ‘out and back’ route, with a circular bit at the end, that should ideally be done in the early morning while it is still cool. It should not be attempted if it has been raining at least 5 days before the day you plan to hike it. The moss covered rocks in the gorge will prove very tricky in wet conditions.

Whilst not that long (just over 8.5km), the terrain is tricky, and there are a few areas of scrambling.  Make sure you wear shoes with good grip, and keep a safe distance, around 5 metres, between yourself and your fellow hikers.  Watch out for loose rocks underfoot.  You will need a relatively high level of fitness, and if you are afraid of heights or ledges, we would suggest you pick another trail (you will find heaps on our blog).

That being said, the trail is extremely exhilarating and definitely worth it once you reach the top.

 

 

Trail Ninometer

Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, as she did not accompany us on this trail. Although dogs are allowed in Newlands Forest, it is not advisable to take your dog up the Dark Gorge for your own safety and that of your dog.

 

 

The Nitty Gritty

We hiked this trail twice before compiling this blog post. The first time was on the 22nd of October 2017 and the second on the 14th of January 2018. The photos included in this post are from both of these hikes, but the route described in this post relates only to the second occasion. We hiked this route again on 17 December 2018 and have added a few tips as a result.

This route should not be attempted on your own and should preferably be done with someone who has done it before. There are sections of the route where the trail is not clear and there is a risk that you will get lost and end up in a section of the forest that is far more dangerous to ascend than even the Dark Gorge.

On the 14th of January 2018, a fellow SAPSTAP hiker and I attempted to ascend through the Dark Gorge. I had done the trail once before, with our friends Devin and Chandra, but Roderick had not done it at all. We started hiking at 07h45.

There is a board at the top of the tar road 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 main tar road. There are many variations of hiking routes that will take you up to the contour path. This post will not concentrate too much on the trail to take to get to the contour path due to these varied options. It will depend on how much time you have available to do this hike as to what route you will take. This post will concentrate more on the Dark Gorge itself and how to navigate safely through it rather than how to get to it.

We continued along the tar road, passed the ablutions facilities until we reached the river bridge. Just before the bridge we turned right and followed the path adjacent to the river. The distance covered to that point was 150 m.

At 07h51, we joined with a wider track which turned towards the right [400 m]. After a short distance [30 m], we turned left between a few tree logs and continued to follow the river up the hill. At 07h55, we reached a slightly raised pipe in the track and turned left there.

At 07h57, we reached a cement bridge over the trail where two dogs were enjoying the chance to play in the river. We crossed straight over a wide gravel jeep track there and followed the trail as it continued up the mountain.

At 08h02, we came to a t-junction in the path [870 m]. There was a handwritten note made with a black permanent marker on the trail marker saying “Joburg” with an arrow pointing to the left.  We turned left there and soon after that walked across a wooden boardwalk.

At 08h08, we arrived at a fork in the trail. We were still walking quite close to the river on our left hand side [1.08 km]. We ended up taking the right hand fork. As I mentioned earlier in the post, there are a lot of options to take that will get you to the contour path so you do not necessarily have to follow this specific route to get to the start of the Dark Gorge.

After about 20 meters, the trail split again and again we chose to take the right hand fork. Shortly thereafter, we walked across a raised wooden boardwalk. At 08h10, we turned left and continued to head up the mountain [1.15 km].

At 08h16, we crossed a dry river bed and turned right [1.43 km]. Shortly after crossing the river bed, we turned left on a trail which eventually ran dead. After making a u-turn and heading back the way we came, we arrived back at the main trail and turned left and continued along the Woodcutter’s path. At 08h22, we crossed another dry river course [1.63 km].

At 08h25, we reached a gravel jeep track and turned left [1.84 km]. That section of the trail was open and unprotected from the elements. At 08h29, the jeep track narrowed into a footpath that led back into the forest [2.13 km].

At 08h31, we had to scramble over a tree that had fallen across the path [2.17 km]. It wasn’t difficult at all to get over/around it. At 08h33, we crossed a river course and headed round the corner were the path split again. The right fork is the correct route as the left fork runs dead after a short distance.

At 08h36, the path led us into a boundary fence. We had covered a distance of 2.26 km to that point. We turned left there and followed the path with the boundary fence on our right hand side. We continued along this very steep path and reached the contour path at 08h47 [2.6 km] where we turned left again. This section of the trail was open to the heavens and after a few minutes of walking we entered the forest again briefly followed by patches of bright sunshine. It was already quite hot at that stage and I was perspiring like a race horse in Durban.

At 08h53, we reached the wooden boardwalk and enjoyed the full protection of the forest again.  At 09h02, we arrived at the picnic spot located opposite the start of Newlands Ravine [3.62 km]. This is slightly past the start of the Dark Gorge, but it was a good spot for us to rest up and have a few snacks and water before tackling the potentially dangerous, Dark Gorge. We rested for about 7 minutes and then turned right on the wooden boardwalk again and headed back the way we had come.

When we hiked this route the first time, we arrived at the picnic area from the other direction (ie from the left).  It doesn’t really matter which route you take, the main point is to get to the picnic spot as that is your marker that you are in the right place, and near the start of the Dark Gorge ascent. If you are sitting at the picnic spot, facing the mountain, the start of the Dark Gorge is about 60 m to the right along the contour path. It is just after the end of the section of wooden boardwalk leading from the picnic site. There is a fire damaged tree on the mountainside of the path that marks this point. The tree has a ‘v shape’ to it and a rock has been wedged into the bottom of the ‘v’.

 

 

ALTERNATE ROUTE TO DARK GORGE

On 17 December 2018, we explored an alternative route to the start of the Dark Gorge. We started from the top parking area of Rhodes Memorial. We followed the trail across two jeep tracks and up to the turnstile leading to the King’s Block House. We did not go through the turnstile, but turned right and headed into Newlands Forest. The trail dipped in and out of shade across a few streams until we reached the start of the Dark Gorge. The distance covered on this route was 2.76 km and took us around 01h07m, slightly shorter and quicker than coming up through Newlands Forest from the Fire Base.  

 

 

 

The route up the Dark Gorge turns off the Contour path at that point. The path is not clear there, but you need to proceed up the ravine on the right hand side of the dry river bed and the path will become increasingly easier to see the further you walk. Look out for rock cairns to keep on the correct path.

At 09h16, we came across a sign for the Dark Gorge in amongst the trees [3.76 km]. It warns hikers that it is an extremely dangerous route and that one should not attempt the ascent. The sign continues by advising that the safer recommended route is via Newlands Ravine. Fortunately, the path from there on out is marked with rock cairns by considerate hikers who had gone before. Keep a look out for small rock cairns along this route. They are sometimes not easy to see. They will guide you and keep you on the ‘safer’ route, notwithstanding the above cautionary notice by SANParks.

The early part of the Dark Gorge route will take you up the right hand side of the ravine. The path later crosses over to the left further up and leads hikers away from the Dark Gully which is too dangerous to attempt without climbing ropes and safety equipment. At 09h36, we reached the stage where the trail moved across to the left and away from the Dark Gully [4.26 km]. You will see a green strip of vegetation that runs up the center of the Dark Gorge. The path runs up on the right hand side of this green strip of ground foliage.

At 09h47, we continued to follow the rock cairns up the Dark Gorge and noticed that, after a while, the path moved toward the right of the gorge again [4.46 km]. Sometimes it will be necessary for you to stop and look up ahead of you to see where the rock cairns are. There are sections of the trail where the rock cairns are not visible until you are right on top of them so be careful that you don’t wander off this ‘recommended’ route.

At 09h51, the path crossed the gorge again to the left and the trail consisted of exposed tree roots that provided good hand holds and foot placements to scramble up the gorge. The route up the right hand side of the gorge consisted of loose rocks and is not a safe way to go. It is not recommended to do this hike after rain or in wet weather as these tree roots become very slippery and are a hazard instead of a helping hand.

The last section of the Dark Gorge is exposed to sunlight. The path also gets quite unclear towards the top so try and keep to the left and use the tree roots to make your way up slowly. The final few meters involved scrambling up vertical rocks. You shouldn’t be in a rush when doing this trail as you will need to concentrate on each step you take for your own safety and for the safety of your fellow hikers below you.  Remember to keep a safe distance between you and your fellow hikers.

At 10h08, we climbed out of the Dark Gorge after an exhilarating experience. We were met on top by stunning views of Devil’s Peak and the City below below us.

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At 10h20, we arrived at Pulpit Rock and had a snack and water break. We were grateful for the shade cast by the individual bolders. Pulpit Rock is positioned between the Dark Gorge on the right (standing facing the pulpit and the City below] and the Dark Gully on the left. It is visible from the top of the Dark Gorge and there are various paths that will take you there.

It is not advised that you go back down the Dark Gorge to get to back to your car.  Rather use the easier and safer Newlands Ravine trail.

We left Pulpit Rock and reached the start of Newlands Ravine at 10h45 [5.63 km]. To get to the start, you need to go straight and then left after exiting the Dark Gorge and follow the path to the top of the next ridge.

We descended Newlands Ravine and followed the path as it zigzagged reasonably gently down the ravine, well compared to the Dark Gorge anyway. At 11h08, we entered the protection of the forest cover again [6.0 km].

At 11h19, the path split left and right and we chose to go left [6.24 km]. At 11h30 , we reached the bottom of Newlands Ravine after covering a distance of 6.57 km and a total hiking time of 03h45m. We stopped at the picnic spot for a short break.

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At 11h38, we left the picnic spot and turned left on to the wooden boardwalk and after a few meters turned left on to the forest path leading down to the car park.

At 11h58, while walking along the path, we had an encounter with a Boomslang that slithered across the path in front of us [7.0 km]. It came in my direction and turned off at the last second allowing me to get a photo of it as it slithered quickly passed me. After this fortuitous encounter, we decided to write a hiker’s guide to snake encounters and snakebites which is really worth a read. After sighting the snake, we reached a split in the path, left and right. The correct path was to the right.

We continued along the path and at 12h10, we turned left and headed further down toward the car park [7.55 km]. At 12h17, we stopped at the river and refilled our water bottles [7.65 km].

At 12h22, we walked across the wooden boardwalk and turned right at the ‘Joburg’ trail marker [7.86 km].

At 12h25, we crossed the wide gravel road and proceeded along the path with the cement bridge on our right hand side. That was where we had seen the two dogs playing in the river earlier [8.0 km]. At 12h35, we reached the main tar road and turned left toward the start of the trail [8.52 km]. We passed the ablution facilities on our right hand side and reached the start / finish point of the hike at 12h37, with a total hiking distance of 8.65 km.

 

The Stats

Although not as long as some of the other routes in the Table Mountain National Park, this is an intensive hike and needs about 4-5 hours to complete safely.  If you rush, you put yourself and your fellow hikers at risk of injury.

Here are the hiking stats for this trail:

Trip Odometer  8.65 km
Total Time  04h52
Elevation Min  127 m
 Elevation Max  785 m
 Elevation Gain  734 m

 

Cape of Good Hope Overnight Hike – A Coastal Trail at the Tip of Africa

Cape of Good Hope Overnight Hike – A Coastal Trail at the Tip of Africa

Cape of Good Hope Overnight Hike – A Coastal Trail at the Tip of Africa   Updated on 04 January 2020   The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is formerly known as the Cape Point Nature Reserve. According to the official website, the Cape…

The BOS 400 Sandy Bay Trail – The Naked Truth

The BOS 400 Sandy Bay Trail – The Naked Truth

This hike offers an up close and personal experience of the natural beauty that Hout Bay has to offer Updated on 02 February 2019 The wreck of the BOS 400 barge is located off the coastal suburb of Hout Bay in Cape Town. According to…

Hiking in Newlands Forest

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.

 

Trail Ninometer

 

 

 

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:

  1.    Wild Almond [Brabejum stellatifolium]
  2.    Radiata Pine [Pinus radiata]
  3.    Cape Saffron [Cassine peragua]
  4.    Bladder-Nut [Diospyros whyteana]
  5.    Ironwood [Olea capensis]
  6.    Cape Beech [Rapanea melanophloeos]
  7.    Hard Pear [Olinia ventosa]
  8.    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 Stats

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
Total Time 03h40
Moving Time 02h23
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.

 

 

 

 

Coastal Hiking Trail – Blaauwberg Nature Reserve

Coastal Hiking Trail – Blaauwberg Nature Reserve

Blaauwberg nature Reserve is a hidden gem along the Western Seaboard     This blog post is very similar my post on the Tygerberg Nature Reserve.