The Western Cape is hiking country, and multi-day trails offer an escape into the area’s stunning scenery where shorts, hats and good hiking boots ready you to face them. I invite you to Shop Now in preparation and book to join one of these exceptional Slackpacking Trails which allow you to savour the thrill of a multi-day hike without having to carry your heavy bags or set up camp each night.
South Africa has many remarkable slackpacking trails designed to accommodate any budget and fitness level, with knowledgeable guides adding depth to the experiences and ensuring safety. The Western Cape is no different. These are the Cape trails that I have done and adored.
Despite having a good level of fitness, I realised many years ago that I love being out in nature and hiking, but hugely appreciate not having to carry a heavy bag or set up camp each evening – therefore combining time being active outdoors, with a touch of welcome luxury. Fortunately slackpacking trails meet this requirement with options varying from basic self-guided hikes with hut-to-hut baggage transfers to more comfortable trails with cottage or guesthouse accommodations, and even luxurious experiences.
It means I can venture deep into unexplored areas by day and enjoy the comfort of a warm bed, fresh clothes, and a delicious meal prepared for me at night. These slackpacking trails combine the area’s scenic wonders with exceptional value within a wide range of landscapes. They traverse forests, valleys and shorelines, even UNESCO World Heritage Sites and biosphere reserves, with exceptional birdlife, small game if you’re lucky, and an introduction to the incredible Floral Kingdom as you go.
These slackpacking trails are guided by a private guide with extensive specialist knowledge. You’ll be shuttled to and from the starting and ending points, and your luggage will be transferred between overnight venues. At The Diversity Trail, you stay in the same place for four nights, which is a wonderful aspect. Best of all, a delicious meal and a choice of drinks await you at the end of each day’s trek.
1. The Diversity Trail, Overberg
Trail Duration: 4 nights / 5 days, fully catered & guided
For those seeking a multifaceted adventure that celebrates the rich cultural multiplicity of the Western Cape, The Diversity Trail is a standout choice. The trail’s name is a testament to its focus on inclusivity, and you’ll encounter a variety of landscapes, from lush forests to rolling vineyards. The Diversity Trail is not just about experiencing the beauty of nature; it’s a journey that immerses you in the multifaceted culture and history of the Western Cape. Throughout the five-day and 40km hiking journey through untouched fynbos, into secret forests and along ancient coastlines of the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy. Groups set their own pace and distances can be adjusted according to interests and capabilities.
The Diversity Trail is led by professional FGASA registered trail guide, Christoff Longland, who has a wealth of knowledge about the region’s history, natural wonders, beautiful landscapes and remarkable ecology. The all-inclusive package includes accommodation at the magnificent Bellavista Country Place and a guided tour of the Grootbos Florilegium Botanical Art exhibition at the Hannarie Wenhold Botanical Art Gallery on Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. A visit to the world-renowned archaeological site at Klipgat Cave is included, as is the chance to see an incredible display of the frolicking whales just off the coastline in season.
2. The Fynbos Trail, Overberg
Trail Duration: 3 days / 2 nights, fully catered & guided (flexible)
The Fynbos trail is a unique nature experience in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom that can be undertaken as a fully guided and catered slackpacking trail, as a self-guided and catered trail. This trail, close to Hermanus in the Overberg, has a two-, three- or four-night option, and takes hikers along a beautiful route through coastal and mountain fynbos, as well as remote forests. Highlights include visits to local archaeological sites, learning about the exceptional diversity, threats and ecological wonders of the fynbos and forests, farm-style hospitality, locally sourced meals and expert guides. The business supports local conservation and social upliftment projects through partnerships with The Grootbos Foundation; Flower Valley Conservation Trust and the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy. By hiking the trail, you contribute directly to the conservation of the region and the upliftment of local communities. The fully guided Premium Option is highly recommended, with the add-on option during whale season.
3. Green Mountain Trail, Elgin Valley
Trail Duration: Trail Duration: 4 nights / 5 days, fully catered & guided
The Green Mountain Trail is a four-day route with daily distances that measure between 11 to 18 kilometres to achieve a 60-kilometre total. Staying at the Wildekrans Country House, you are treated to top-class hospitality and led by professionally trained guides with in-depth knowledge of the region. Trek through the pristine fynbos-covered landscape, partly within the beautiful Groenlandberg section of Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and some on private land. Enjoy stunning views over the vast Overberg region, including the Theewaterskloof Dam, the rolling Houw Hoek mountains and as far afield as Hermanus and Walker Bay. This area is a hiker’s paradise with an abundance of fynbos, 1900 plant species, over 200 bird species and numerous antelope. On hot days, stopping to swim in rock pools and farm dams is a mandatory delight. Rich in history, the family-owned working farms of the area date back to the 1700s and 1800s. All landowners are members of the Green Mountain Eco Route, the world’s first biodiversity wine route, and part of the region’s efforts to conserve the environment and promote responsible tourism. All members are Biodiversity Wine Initiative champions.
As part of the trail’s social responsibility programme, hikers are encouraged to Walk with an Alien, a project in which a personalised walking stick is carved from alien vegetation by local communities.
4. The Chokka Trail – St Francis Bay
Trail Duration: 4 days/ 3 nights, fully catered & guided
The Chokka Trail is situated in the Kouga Region, Eastern Province, a mere hour’s drive to the west of Port Elizabeth between Oyster Bay, St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis. Here the main attractions include three picturesque fishing villages, a rugged coastline, sand dunes as far as the eye can see, a tidal river, protected fynbos, wetlands and a visit to South Africa’s only privately owned working harbour. The Chokka Trail traverses a 62km route, offering a completely different look at this stretch of coastline. Since the Chokka Trail was launched a decade ago, hundreds of hikers have headed to do this four-day hiking walk that takes you through parts of the Coastal Cradle of Humankind and offers the chance to see whales in season, dolphins, otters and small game like duiker and bushbuck. It includes visits to the chokka processing plant and a chokka tasting, as well as a tour of the SANCCOB Eastern Cape Coastal Bird Rescue Centre.
5. Oystercatcher Trail, Mossel Bay
Trail Duration: 4 days/ 3 nights, fully catered & guided
One of the first slack-packing trails established in South Africa, the Oystercatcher Trail is a superb coastal walk, varying from cliff paths to beaches and spectacular sand dunes. The hiking is generally easy going over moderate distances, although a good level of hiking fitness is recommended. Hikers return to the same accommodation each evening having covered a different section of the coast. There is an interesting variation in flora and landscape and evenings are spent chatting, enjoying the excellent evening meal and getting a good night’s sleep in the well-appointed lodging. The route takes you from Gourits River mouth via Kanon and Fransmanshoek Conservancy on the first day, and you’ll end at Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse in Mossel Bay on the fourth day. One of the distinctive features of the trail is its focus on birdlife, in particular, the endangered African Black Oystercatcher. While hiking the Oystercatcher Trail, you’ll pass picturesque fishing villages and learn about the rich cultural history of the region. Accommodation is in well-appointed coastal establishments on a fully catered basis.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply seeking an escape to nature, these Cape-based slackpacking trails and the luxury that surrounds them, offer an experience that will stay with you long after the journey is over.
Whilst enjoying The Diversity Trail in the Overberg recently.
** Top pic courtesy of Green Mountain Trails.
** This post is made possible by Superbalist – who understands the needs of travellers. Mine in particular.