Home to some of the world’s most famous mountains, South Africa is where we will find a fantastic combination of overnight camping treks, game lodge weekend walks, week long adventures as well as half day and full day hikes. Trails vary in distance, time and location, some are more challenging than others. Many of the half day and full day hiking trails on the map are practically perfect in every way for daytime outdoor family fun.
Above: Table Mountain hiking trail in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Crschmidt)
One of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa, Table Mountain is any adventuring family’s idea of a great day out providing the opportunity to explore this natural wonder on a selection of half day and full day hikes. Table Mountain hiking offers some of the best trails in South Africa with over 70 tracks at varying levels of difficulty, not all of which are suitable for novice and family hiking outings.
The most popular trail to the top is Kasteelspoort which offers hikers a stunning view overlooking Camps Bay. Keep in mind, though, that this is quite a work out. If you are looking for something a little less challenging and with a little more level ground the Pipe Track is a popular choice. Direct ascents from the city side are limited due to steep cliffs around the summit. The mountain attracts thousands of visitors year after year and the panoramic view from the top make it easy to see why.
Longer routes to the summit go via the Back Table from the Southern Suburbs side starting at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens up Nursery Ravine and Skeleton Gorge to MaClear's Beacon. The trail from Skeleton Gorge to Maclear's Beacon is known as Smuts Track in memory of Jan Smuts, who was a keen hiker. Lower slopes of the mountain can be accessed from Constantia Nek, Newlands Forest, Kirstenbosch, Cecilia Park, and Rhodes Memorial. Table Mountain is a fantastic family hiking option.
Above: The Drakensberg. Photo by Wild About Travel
The historic Drakensberg range was named by early European settlers who drove ox wagons up and down the mountain passes, the name means "Dragon Mountains" in Dutch. A popular location on the map attracting local and international guests offering visitors to the Drakensberg Mountain range good winter skiing, log cabin fires, summer time game viewing weekends and shorter up and down daytime hiking pleasures. The Drakensberg is home to some of the top hiking trails in South Africa.
There are a few great over night and daytime hiking trails open on the mountain range. One in particular makes for great family hiking. Rainbow Gorge is an easy 11 kilometres from the Cathedral Peak Hotel or conservation office following the Ndumeni River into a narrow little gorge where running waters trickle down the side of the mountain creating rainbows like magic.
Located in the Royal Natal Park we find Ploughman's Kop trail which forms part of the larger Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park. The starting point is at Mahai camp at the foot of the natural Amphitheatre, an attraction in its own right. The hike is a short seven kilometers stopping by stunning swimming holes on your way to the top. The Drakensberg’s striking beauty, warm friendly people and unspoilt natural environment makes it a captivating mountain range to visit and explore.
Above: Cederberg hiking trail. Photo by SA-Venues
Focusing on sustainability, the Cederberg Conservancy was established in 1997 as a voluntary agreement entered in by local land owners in an effort to manage and conserve the ecosystems and natural environment. There are a total of 22 properties from the central Cederberg that make up the conservancy making up the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor that is famous for the bushman paintings found in the area. The Cederberg gives you a feeling of spirit deeply rooted amongst the wonders of wildlife and telling stories of the ancient Koi San tribes of South Africa.
The conservancy is home to the Clanwilliam Cedar Tree and offers refuge to the rare Cape Leopard while visitors can choose from a selection of overnight hiking trails that range between overnight adventure hikes and five nights on the trail, depending on your level of fitness and ability. The conservancy allows for shorter daytime hikes which are perfect for those fun family adventure hiking expeditions ranging between one and eight hours of easy walking.
Hiking in the Cederberg caters to various levels of fitness and is limited to a maximum of 12 people per group preserving the footprint on the mountain and keeping conservation top of mind. The Cederberg hiking trails in South Africa come highly recommended, steeped in history and without a doubt one of the most beautiful regions and mountain ranges in the country. The Cederberg Conservancy is the perfect place for quality time with the family in awe of nature’s flawless beauty.
Above: View on a Magaliesberg hike. Photo by Karmor
The Uitkyk hiking trail on the Magaliesberg Mountains overlooking Hartebeespoort Dam is one of South Africa’s most popular family hiking trails. Uitkyk has been in the Rissik family for several generations, with sustainability and conservation being the prime focus of the family who have a passion for preservation and understand the importance of taking time out with the people you love.
The trail is well laid out and marked, boasting some spectacular views of the mountain range and the dam below. The trail starts off from a fenced car parking area on Rissik estate and descends to cross under the main road and then starts the ascent to the mountain tops. The ascent is quite steep in places and can be quite tough especially when the weather is hot.
The trail can take up to five hours to finish making it a great Sunday hike for the family. Being close to Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg and in the back yard for those at Hartebeespoort Dam it’s an easy drive there and back giving you plenty of time to take in the scenic mountains during your hike, the view from the top is well worth the walk. One of the best family hiking trails in South Africa.
South Africa is an absolutely magnificent and utterly breathtaking country offering landscape loving locals and visitors from around the world the opportunity to get up close and personal with Mother Nature as a family. Go exploring and spend the morning, the afternoon or the entire day discovering some of the country’s best hiking trails on offer. After you're done tackling one of the great hiking trails listed above as a family, how about making sure your vacation is one of the best family holidays in South Africa by visiting the countries most family friendly attractions and destinations.