Groeneweide Forest Trail – The Green Route
Groeneweide Forest Trail – The Green Route
After living in Cape Town for pretty much all of our adult lives, Belinda and I made the decision to move to the Garden Route. We soon discovered that there were just as many hiking opportunities in the Southern Cape as there were in the Cape Peninsula.
As a member of the SAPSTAP Hiking Club, I set about identifying short hikes that the club could host on Wednesday afternoons. This meant driving around and talking to fellow hikers to get ideas on where to look for good ‘short hike’ options in the Southern Cape.
The first hike that SAPSTAP hosted was the Buffalo Bay Hiking Trail situated just outside the coastal village of Buffalo Bay. It was the perfect introductory hike and 9 hikers attended the inaugural Wednesday hike of 2019 on the 7th of August. Better late than never! You can read all about it here.
For the second hike, I needed a trail with a twist. I settled on The Bush Pig Trail in the Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area. While it was a thoroughly enjoyable hike, a large part of the trail was closed for maintenance. We made it work, by incorporating a part of the Galjoen Trail which meant that we got to hike a 2.7 km stretch along the beach which was brilliant! It happened on the 1st of September 2019 and you can read all about it here.
The Groeneweide Forest Trail was the third hiking option that I explored for the SAPSTAP Hiking Club for their Wednesday hiking programme. The trail is located on the beautiful Saasveld campus of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in the Garden Route town of George.
How to get there
To get to the Saasveld campus you turn onto the Saasveld/Seven Passes road out of Courtenay Road in George (At the Pine Lodge Conference Centre). Follow this road for 5km exactly and then turn left into Saasveld at the sign. The photo below gives you an idea of what the entrance to the University looks like.
Once you have entered the campus grounds follow the paved road until your reach the second road to your right. Turn right there and follow the road around to the right and past the cricket field on your left. Travel on until you reach the University library on your right and park your vehicle there in the small parking area outside the library on just a bit further on near where the campus buses stop and pick up students.
The entrance gate is manned 24 hours a day by campus security personnel so you can come and safely hike this trail any day of the week between sunrise and sunset.
Hikers issue themselves with a SANParks permit at the trail head. There is no cost to this permit. Tear off the permit from the counterfoil and keep it with you for the duration of your hike. Our suggestion is that you indicate on the counterfoil strip which route you are going to hike and the time that you set out so that if there is a problem on the trail, the people coming to look for you know which trail to check first.
- General Enquiries: (044) 356 9021
The Speedy Review
This is a safe and thoroughly enjoyable forest hiking trail located on the magnificent Saasveld campus of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in the Garden Route town of George. There are three hiking trails to choose from with distances ranging from 9 km to 13 km. It is child friendly (10 years and older), but unfortunately no dogs are allowed. It doesn’t have beautiful waterfalls, deep ravines or magnificent views of the surrounding landscape, but it does deliver an authentic forest hiking experience. We highly recommend it, especially if you live along the Garden Route.
Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, because dogs are not allowed on the Groeneweide Forest Trail. Nina was at home dreaming of her next nature walk in the Southern Cape.
The Nitty Gritty
I finally got the chance to do this hike on Tuesday 03 September 2019. I got permission to leave the office a bit earlier so that I could scout the route before bringing the SAPSTAP Hiking Club members there on a Wednesday afternoon hike. I did this hike again on 11 September 2019 with 7 other hikers, including Belinda. This blog post has photos taken from both hikes, but the account of the hike will focus mainly on the first time time I hiked the trail alone on 03 September 2019.
After I signed in at the security hut at the entrance to the Saasveld campus of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in George, I received brief directions to the parking area near the start of the trail. I left the security hut and drove up the paved road and took the second turn to the right, followed the route past the cricket field on the left and parked in a small parking area outside the University library. So far so good. I climbed out my bakkie, put on my daypack and looked around to see if I could see the trail head or any signage that could tell me where the hiking trails started. Nada. I then approached some of the many students walking by and asked them if they could point me in the direction of the hiking trails. No one knew anything about hiking trails. Eventually, I found one student who had done the trail before and pointed me toward the trees next to the cricket field. When I got to the cricket field, I still couldn’t see any sign of the trail head. It took another frustratingly long 20 minutes, of walking backwards and forwards, before I eventually walked down a mowed path through the bushes to find the trail head sign hiding at the back.
I quickly issued myself a SANParks permit from the book inside a wooden box erected next to the trail head sign. It was 15h52 before I started hiking the 9 km (2-4 hours) Green Route and with sunset predicted at 18h13, I had my work cut out for me to finish the trail before it got dark. There is also a map at the start that shows the three hiking routes: the Green Route (9 km), the Blue Route (11 km) and the Red Route (13 km).
Just on the other side of the trail head sign, there is a wooden pole displaying the three route markers. All three routes start and end at the same place. Each route is marked with footprints with the relevant route colour as the background. What is quite different to most other trails, is that the distance markers count down the kilometres the further you hike, instead of racking up the mileage. The first distance markers are right at the start and count down after every kilometre hiked. The distance markers for the return leg of the route are not accurate at all, but more about that later.
The trail begins with a gentle downhill gradient toward the river. I got the feeling that as soon as I started to walk, the forest swallowed me up and I became part of the vegetation I was walking through. On other hiking trails, you use the pathway as a platform to look outwards and admire the view. With this trail, you get the authentic forest experience without the majestic waterfalls and deep bolder-filled ravines.
At about 16h05, I past the 8 km mark (990 m) and 200 m later I crossed over the river and headed up the other side. The river was easy to cross, but it was muddy.
The trail is not immediately visible on the other side of the stream as the vegetation growing in the stream is quite tall. If you look up and across at the other side of the river, before crossing over, you will see the wooden board on the other side showing you where to go. All three trails are still together at that point.
The trail gradually climbs again after crossing the river. You are aware of the river running below you on your right. There no clearings where you can see the river clearly though. At 16h15, I walked past a 3 km distance marker (149 m elevation). This did not gel with the distance markers reducing in distance. It also did not make sense for the return distance to the end of the trail as I had only walked 1.75 km, according to my Garmin GPSMap64S device. While the ‘outgoing’ distance markers are fairly accurate, the distance markers on the return leg are way off, including this one.
The trail splits in two at the 3 km distance marker, with a path going left and up and the other continuing straight and down. There are no directional signs to indicate which way to go. The correct way is to the left. The path to the right is actually the return leg rejoining the outward trail and heading back to the start.
About 15 minutes later (16h20), I walked past the 7 km distance marker after covering a distance of 2.05 km.
At 16h35, the trail intersected with a grassed jeep track (2.86 km). That is the point where the three trails split from each other. The Blue and Red Routes go left and the Green Route goes right. The sign says 2.3 km. Two minutes later, I walked past the 6 km distance marker (3.10 km).
At 16h42, the jeep track split left and right (3.53 km). The trail marker for the Green Route pointed me off to the left. I turned left and the path narrowed into a single forest track and continued steeply downhill until it crossed the river 5 minutes later (3.86 km). After crossing the river, the trail climbs steeply again.
At 16h50, I walked past the 5 km distance marker (4.13 km). Very soon thereafter, the trail intersected with a wide gravel road. The trail turned right there. The trail marker is on a tree on the other side of the jeep track. After a short distance, the Blue Route joins the gravel road from the left hand side (4.29 km). At 17h00, I walked past a red ‘4 km’ sign painted on a tree on the right side of the gravel raod (5.05 km).
A few minutes later, I came across a trail map board and a sign that said “Forest Walk” and pointed into the forest to the right. I turned right, but saw that there was only a Red Route trail marker on the pathway. There was no sign of a Blue Route or a Green Route trail marker. I continued on the gravel road for a short distance, but could not spot any other Green or Blue Route trail markers. I turned around and returned to the trail map and it was only then that I saw that, according the map, all three routes had joined up again and led back into the forest at that point. That was very confusing. It would be great if the officials in charge of trail maintenance could put up a Blue and Green Route trail marker on the same wooden pole as the Red Route trail marker. That way anyone walking the Blue and Green Route would know that, that was the correct path to follow. The trail went uphill from there and then steeply downhill.
At 17h17, I crossed over a wooden bridge after passing under a beautiful display of bearded trees (6.34 km). The trail climbed steeply thereafter with several level sections in between that helped me to catch my breath while walking. At 17h23, I walked past the 4 km trail distance marker after covering a distance of 5.75 km.
At 17h30, the trail went left off the jeep track and on to a single forest path that went downhill (6.7 km). The croaking call of a Knysna Loerie, perched high above me, reminded me that I had just 45 minutes left before the sun disappeared behind the nearby mountain range. I picked up the pace and barrelled along the narrowing path.
At about 17h40, the trail crossed over a damp river bed nestled in a nursery of bright green ferns. It was one of the prettiest spots on the trail (7.3 km). The path became very narrow after that point and was right on the left edge of the embankment I was walking along. That was the most technical section of the trail, although it didn’t prove to be too much of a challenge.
At about 17h45, the path I was on rejoined the outward trail at the so called ‘3 km’ distance marker. The actual distance to the end of the trail from that point was only 1.75 km. The next distance marker I came across was the 2 km mark (8.17 km) with just over 1 kilometre to go. At 17h55, I again reached the first river crossing of the trail and crossed in the opposite direction (8.24 km). The last kilometre of the trail was a gradual uphill path. I reached the trail head and the end of the hike at 18h08. With the last light of the day fading fast, I returned to my vehicle and drove home after a very enjoyable hike. The photo below is of the group that completed the hike with Belinda and I on 11 September 2019.
The Stats – Groeneweide Forest Trail (Green Route)
The total hiking stats for this day hike, according to my Garmin GPSMap64S device, on 03 September 2019, were as follows:
|Total Distance||9.36 km|
|Total Time Taken||02h16|
|Max Speed||7.3 km/h|
|Moving Average||4.8 km/h|
|Overall Average||4.3 km/h|
|Temperature||7°C / 23°C|