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 …
Tag: Southern suburbs hikes
Alphen Trail – Constantia Green Belt
UPDATED ON 05 JANUARY 2019
On Saturday 05 August 2017, Belinda, myself and the hound went for a walk along the Alphen Trail in the Constantia green belt. For those who have not read any of our previous posts, the hound I am referring to is Nina our rescue pitbull. We were also joined by my brother and his son which really made it a family affair.
The Alphen Trail is an ‘out and back’ route that you can begin either in Alphen Drive on the one end or Brommersvlei Road on the other.
The advantage of starting in Alphen Drive is that there is a security hut staffed by a security guard who can keep watch over your vehicle and whatever you may have inside it, while you are gone.
The Alphen Trail is a very popular trail that is used by the dog owning fraternity come rain, wind or sunshine. I walked this route twice before putting this blog together. The first time was in the pouring rain. I expected to be the only one on the trail, but I was very much mistaken.
There were several people walking their best friends with me. Some were more prepared for the bad weather than others. I had brought a rain jacket with me, but in hindsight should have also brought an umbrella and a towel for Nina. The towel would not have just been useful to dry her off , but also to wipe away the mud that had accumulated on her legs and underbelly from walking on the soggy trail. I have never gotten used to smell of wet dog in the car!
How to get there
The start of the Alphen Trail is just off the M3 highway. Take Exit 14 (Constantia Main Road) and then turn onto Alphen Drive. You will see the start of the trail next to the wooden security hut and small parking area. Here is a link to the Google Maps location to the start of the trail.
The Speedy Review [tl;dr]
This trail is one of the easiest we have reviewed. It is flat, short, and suitable for the entire family. It is easy to get to, and the scenery is very beautiful. It is great for an after-work stroll, or if you have a gap between appointments and feel like some fresh air outside. It is usually really busy, especially on weekends. Every Saturday morning at 8am, there is a Park Run along this trail. Expect to see lots of runners, walkers, dogs and horses along this trail.
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
We started walking at 13h49, from the start in Alphen Drive. It was a perfect winter’s day in Cape Town with the sun shining and no wind to speak of. The trail was busy as usual, but the pathway is wide enough to accommodate plenty of walkers and their canine companions. What is also nice about the Alphen Trail is that no cycling is allowed. I have nothing against cyclists, it’s just good to be able to walk on at least one trail without having to worry about being in the way of a mountain biker on a mission to get to the finish!
Just after we started, we turned right and crossed a cement bridge. The photo below was taken after I crossed the bridge and turned around.
Nina was on her first hike wearing her new imported harness and lead that my wife, Belinda, had brought back from a recent trip to the UK. Both these items are bright pink in colour. Pink for girl dogs! Yet, we were greeted by fellow dog lovers who passed us along the way with the same greeting, “Aaaww you dog is so beautiful. How old is he?” Really!!! Granted, she is built like a brick latrine so I can understand the initial thought process, but she’s wearing bright pink, people!
The path continued on and was very wide and flat. Like most trails in the green belt you have a variety of choices about which way to go. We reached a river crossing and could have turned left over the wooden bridge or continued straight and up a slight incline into the more forested part of the trail.
We opted to turn left and over the bridge. The photo below was taken during a previous walk in the pouring rain. After crossing the river, the trail turned to the right and continued along the other side of the river toward the mountain.
The trail then opened up and we got a clear view of the mountain rising up in front of us. I can see why this trail is so popular. The views are magnificent.
There are always a plentiful supply of Hadeda Ibises on either side of the pathway searching for food in the long grass. They are mostly quiet when they are feeding. Good to know that even Hadedas don’t talk or sing when their beaks are full.
Further along the trail, the pathway narrowed and we walked through an open grassed area. There was plenty of space to sit down and contemplate life and our purpose on this earth. There is another entry point there which is more or less in the middle of the trail. Signs there remind you to scoop up your dog’s poop.
We walked passed a water fountain donated by the Varsity Old Boys Running Club Constantia. There was a bench there if you preferred that over the grass.
At 14h15, just after the water fountain, the path split again into two options. We chose to go right and over the wooden bridge. The other option allowed us to go straight on. The distance covered to that point was 1.4 km.
The scenery change on the other side of the bridge was quite dramatic. We found ourselves in the middle of a beautiful forest.
At 14h19, a short distance later, the path diverged again and we chose to follow the left fork and returned to the sunshine. There was a bench on that path where you can sit and relax and again take in the beautiful views that the green belt has to offer.
My nephew came over to me at that point and showed me a prickly seed pod and told me to warn those who read this blog to always wear shoes when walking along this trail or they could step on one of these things and hurt themselves. Thanks for the warning, little man.
Just so that you don’t have to take my word on the ‘no cycling’ rule, I have included a photo of the sign.
At 14h29, we reached Brommersvlei Road and the end of the Alphen Trail. The distance covered to that point was 2.0 km. The moving time was 33 minutes and the total time was 40 minutes. The elevation there was 66 m. We turned around there and walked back, but chose to vary the route slightly on the return leg.
While walking back we chose to continue straight and not turn left toward the bench on the hill. That route took us passed a stone wall on the left hand side of the trail.
When we arrived back at the large open grassed area it was buzzing with people and their dogs.
I even managed to get catch a glimpse of a squirrel enjoying a nut in the shade of a tree. It didn’t seem to mind all the dogs running around or that I was aiming a camera at it.
The Alphen Trail with the combination of green grass, forest areas, wide footpaths, bridges, benches and a river running through it really is a fantastic walking route in the middle of the residential suburb of Constantia.
The route is quite short at 2.0 km, with a moving time of 33 minutes, but walking back along the same route makes it a tidy 4.0 km with a total time on the trail of 01h20 which is ideal when you only have a couple of hours in your day to get out and about with your dog or your family or both.
At 15h09, we arrived back at our vehicles in Alphen Drive.
The hiking stats for this hiking route were:
|Trip Odometer||4.00 km|
|Moving Average||3.9 km/h|
|Overall Average||3.1 km/h|
|Max Speed||7.1 km/h|
|Elevation||36 m – 66 m|
I have attached a GPS trip log for the hike, including a side elevation profile.
You can watch the Relive video of the hike, on our own YouTube channel, that we repeated on 05 January 2019 here.
Elephant’s Eye Trail
On Sunday 14 May 2017, we were invited to join friends of ours on a hike to the Elephant’s Eye cave, located in Silvermine. Silvermine forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. Access to Silvermine Dam is controlled by a boom gate operated by SAN Parks. A ‘My Green Card’ or a Wild Card will get you in for free. If you don’t have one of those, it will cost you R50 a person. During that time of year, day visitors need to be out of the park by 18h00.
I had a vague recollection that I had done this hike before, when I was still at school. I had no actual memories of the hike though. That said, I have very little to no memory of my schooling either. Actually Varsity is a blur as well. Anyway, we had heard so much about Elephant’s Eye Cave that we both decided to do it. Again. Or for the first time. Who knows!
How to get there:
The entrance to Silvermine Nature Reserve is just off Ou Kaapse Weg. A short distance after the turn-off, you will reach a security boom, where you can pay your entrance fee or show your Wild Card and get in for free. You will travel for approximately 2.7km before reaching the parking lot.
There is a sign-post which directs you to the start of the Elephant’s Eye trail –
The trail starts at the following coordinates: S 34⁰ 04.513′ E 018⁰ 24.052′
The Speedy Review
The trail to Elephant’s Eye cave is an easy walk, suitable for the whole family. It is short (5km there and back) and the views over the Southern Suburbs are beautiful. The first time we did this hike, we did a detour after the cave to the view point over Hout Bay – it extends the walk a little bit, but the terrain remains fairly flat, and believe me, the view at the end is so worth it.
I wouldn’t really classify this as a hike, more of a walk (or suitable for an easy trail run). If you have 2 hours to spare on an afternoon, it is a great way to get out into nature.
There is no signal from just after the main entrance until about 1km into the trail, so make sure you make all necessary calls and send all the messages you need to before you get there.
There is also not much shade at all on the trail, so ensure you have enough water, sunscreen and a hat. If you go later in the afternoon, there is a bit of a shadow from Constantiaberg Peak over the last section of the trail near the cave, but for the rest, you will be out in the open. If you are taking your pets along, make sure you stop and rest frequently, and have enough water for them.
Nina rated this trail 4/5 paw prints. This trail is the perfect distance for Nina, especially for an afternoon hike.
It did get rather hot, but an earlier start next time should solve that problem.
Blog Post Updated
We did this hike again on 04 April 2018. We have included a few new photos as we had Nina with us and we wanted to get her impressions of the trail.
The only difference with the second time round is that we walked back along the same route and did not go via the Hout Bay view point due to time considerations. The stats for the second hike, in total, were as follows:
Distance: 5 km
Time Taken: 2 hrs
The Nitty Gritty
We started hiking at 14h14 and walked passed a dogs only poo bin. The trail began with a wide jeep track. The temperature was recorded at 28⁰ C with a slight breeze. Just 3 minutes into the hike, we passed an ablution block on our left hand side and it was open. Useful information if you haven’t had a chance to go before the hike!
At 14h25, the jeep track began to ascend gradually. At 14h28, we turned right off the jeep track on to a narrow path. This is a short cut alternative to following the jeep track as it winds its way in a zigzag pattern up the hill. The distance covered to this point was about 900 m.
Looking back at the ground we had covered, we had a bird’s eye view of the Silvermine dam. Even here the dam level has been affected by the drought conditions.
At 14h32, we joined the main jeep track again. After about 20 meters, we turned right again off the jeep track and on to a trail signposted for Elephant’s Eye. A security alert sign has now been erected there warning hikers of the safety risks in hiking in that area. That section of the park should only be hiked in a party of 4 or more.
We followed the trail through a pine forest that still showed signs of the recent devastating fires in amongst the new growth shoots.
The trail then curved to the right and up to the Fire Lookout Station. It has a commanding view over the southern suburbs below which extends all the way to Gordon’s Bay.
We reached the Fire Lookout Station at 14h56 [1.98 km]. The elevation was 571 m. After briefly inspecting the Fire Lookout Station, I turned around and I got my first look at the Elephant’s Eye cave. The sun was shining directly at us so I was not able to get a clear photo of the cave’s entrance. I did manage to get a few photos of the view from the Fire Lookout itself.
At 15h01, we walked a short distance, back the way we had come and turned right on to the trail to the Elephant’s Eye cave. The trail started immediately with an incline. At each subsequent intersection, we kept right and after about 7 minutes, we reached a ‘contour’ type path that led us to the entrance to the cave. It is then that you really begin to grasp how big the cave really is.
We reached the entrance to the cave at 15h11 [2.46 km] and had reached an elevation of 623 m. The inside of the cave itself was quite surprising. There are several rocks dotted around on the ground that are covered in a fine layer of smooth sand while the roof of the cave can best be described as an enormous vertical garden of greenery. The time taken to reach the cave was about an hour which included quite a few stops to take photos of the scenery. The GPS location of the cave is: S 34⁰ 03.612′ E 018⁰ 23.702’E. We left the cave at 15h29 and headed back the way we had come.
After we left the cave, we decided that instead of returning on the same trail we had walked, we should rather turn right (away from the pine forest) and walk to the view point overlooking Hout Bay. We were not sure how much time this would add to our overall journey, but guessed that it would be no more than an hour extra. That actually ended up being a good guess. The trail became a wide jeep track again as we walked toward the view point. At 15h51, the jeep track joined up with the original jeep track from the start and headed off to the right, toward the mountain peaks. The jeep track then ascended gradually toward the viewing point.
At 15h57, we turned right off the jeep track and on to a narrow path marked “H T” in yellow, alongside a yellow shoe print. The distance to this point was 4.7 km. The elevation was 613 m.
At 16h12, we reached the viewing point over Hout Bay, directly above Chapman’s Peak Drive [5.48 km]. It’s the kind of view that forces you to take a step backwards in surprise that something can be so beautiful. We all sat down and let the view, the sun and the breeze wash over us. There was cell phone signal there so we made the most of the opportunity and sent photos of the view to our families and friends and wished our Moms ‘Happy Mother’s Day’. The elevation, at this point, was 613 m.
At 16h30, we left the viewing point and headed back on the trail and on to the jeep track again. After walking over the hill, we walked down a cement jeep track [7 km] toward the Silvermine dam. At 17h03, we turned off the jeep track and on to a path that took us toward the dam.
At 17h08, we turned right off the path and on to a wooden board walk that continued around the outer edge of the dam. The sun was beginning to set which turned the dam into a smoky black mirror. We arrived back at the start again at 17h16 for a total walking distance of 8.47 km, that took us around 3 hours to complete.
The trail markings on this hike are in the form of signposts, silver plaques and silver circular maps mounted on low rock pillars. There was one yellow shoe print on the trail, near the Hout Bay viewing point.
There are no distance markers on this trail.
The route we walked had a total walking distance of 8.47 km. We walked a circular type route, but there were also a combination of other alternate routes available. The standard disclaimer for any hike in the Table Mountain National Park is that alternate routes should only be attempted if you have someone in your party that is familiar with the route to be taken and that enough time has been allocated to complete that route in daylight hours.
The hiking stats for this hiking trail are:
|Trip Odometer||8.47 km|
|Moving Average||3.8 km/h|
|Overall Average||2.8 km/h|
|Max Speed||8.2 km/h|
|Elevation||442 m – 623 m|
I have attached a GPS trip log for the hike, including a side elevation profile: