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Exploring Stellenbosch on Foot

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Welcome to Stellenbosch – South Africa’s second oldest town and most inspiring wine, food, art and cultural destination.

There are few better ways to get up close and personal with Stellenbosch’s famed natural beauty than by heading out on a hike. Whether you’re a total beginner or a well-versed outdoorsman (or woman), rest assured that there’s an abundance of trail options to choose from suited to a variety of different levels of fitness.

Not sure where to go or what to bring? Take a look at what some of our avid local adventurers had to say about their personal hiking experiences.

First up Elizabeth Meyer, Assistant winemaker at Meerlust Wine, shares with us her Top 5 Stellenbosch hikes with some very useful tips and tricks.

1. Waterfall day hike, Jonkershoek
This is a moderate hike, I would recommend booking in advance with Cape Nature Reserve to be able to drive into the reserve and start the hike from the trail instead of the entrance gate – approximately 10km hike, including some elevation but no steep edges. Beautiful day hike, I suggest going early September when you could take advantage of the waterfall. Beautiful views of the Jonkershoek valley and a great spot to chill with friends.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Meyer

2. Waterfall hike, Eden Forest, Paradyskloof
This is an easy short hike starting at the Paradyskloof entrance of Eden Forest. The hike takes you along some overgrown paths, wearing long sleaves and tights would definitely be to your advantage. It is 5km walk with a few steep bits but no dangerous edges. Beautiful views of the Stellenbosch and surrounds and shouldn’t take longer than 1.5 hours to complete. A lovely midday hike would recommend going after some heavy rain to get the best of the waterfall. For a more advanced hike, you could continue past the waterfall to the top of the mountain, this trail is not very clear and taking a different route down would be recommended. This is a great date idea.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Meyer

3. Simonsberg – via Tokara
The road leading to the foot of the trail is quite long and boring but is made worth it once you start the climb. This is a difficult hike and requires some climbing. With the trail covered in fynbos I would recommend wearing tights. The clay soils become extremely slippery – it would be best to go on a dry summer’s day. Beautiful views of Stellenbosch!

Photo credit: Elizabeth Meyer

4. West peak Helderberg, via protea trial (Helderberg nature reserve)
This hike starts in the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset west, but has made it onto my top five Stellenbosch hikes due to its unexpected stunning views of Stellenbosch and its surrounds. For the 6km assent you have views of the Helderberg behind you, and a treacherous, steep hike ahead of you but once you reach the top the rockface gives way to stunning views.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Meyer

5. ‘Stonehenge Stellenbosch’ Stellenbosch Mountain
This is my favourite Stellenbosch hike – the views on this hike are unmatched. Starting from the Paradyskloof entrance to Eden Forest and finishing at the Coetzenburg Athletic stadium this hike is approximately 15km long and should take around 5 hours to complete – including breaks. It is a moderate to hard walk, depending on your fitness level and comfort with climbing. There are interesting rock fall formations along the way and views from Stellenbosch and surrounds can be enjoyed on the way up. looking down into the Jonkershoek valley once you reach the top is magical. Finding the Stonehenge structure is a bit tricky but worth it.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Meyer

Each hike has its own ‘personality trait’. Starting out, choose short easy hikes until you become comfortable before challenging yourself with more intense hikes and climbs. To me, hiking is not just about the destination but also about the journey, take time to immerse yourself with your surroundings. Enjoy the views, sounds and the fresh air that Stellenbosch has to offer. I enjoy hiking as a form of exercise and therapy – it really gives great perspective!

Next up is Nora Thiel, Director at Delheim Wines.
I’ve always been inspired by our range of Stellenbosch mountains. Table mountain sandstone and the Boland granite fynbos – they make for great family upbringing, active outings, educational experiences, and feeling small in comparison to the majestic beauty of nature.

Photo Credit: Nora and Erhardt Thiel

Stellenbosch has magical mountains, some easy to walk on well-laid out paths, and some that are for more adventurous hikers. The only limiting factor is the weather. My advice is to do some planning and set foot with a good attitude. Be prepared for sudden weather changes and always carry enough water.

Photo Credit: Nora and Erhardt Thiel

I don’t have a favourite hike – all the mountains around Stellenbosch have their own special charm all year round. What is more beautiful than fynbos during the flowering season, or when new flowers flourish after a wildfire!

Photo Credit: Nora and Erhardt Thiel

Nora’s Stellenbosch hikes to date and some very useful tips:
Simonsberg Peak – experience needed – special permission needed
Stellenbosch Peak – long hike but well worth it – you need to be fit and carry water
Botmaskop – easy but be on the lookout for attackers….
Twin Peaks – off the beaten track need to go with mountain club
Cathedral Peak – off the beaten track need to go with mountain club
Victoria Peak – off the beaten track need to go with mountain club
Panorama Route – long but relatively easy except Kurktrekker. Need to carry water
Swartboskloof – Kurktrekker: long but easy except Kurktrekker
Klapmutskop – full moon hikes – very easy

Photo Credit: Nora and Erhardt Thiel

For more information or recommendations, do not hesitate to contact the Visit Stellenbosch Information Centre at 021 886 4310.

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