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Kaapschehoop Hiking Trail

Kaapschehoop, Mpumalanga

Location
The Kaapschehoop Hiking Trail is located near Nelspruit in Mpumalanga.

How to get there
From Gauteng, take the N4 via Waterval Boven.  At the SAPPI Paper Mill on your left, take the Ngodwana turnoff on to the Kaapschehoop Road. Continue for about 12km to the town of Kaapschehoop where the Kaapschehoop hut is situated.

To reach the Barretts Coaches, drive past the town on your right, and carry on until you reach the Berlin Plantation signage. Turn left at the Berlin Plantation sign onto a tar road and continue on the tar road for about 6km, follow the signs hiking trail right

Hut facilities

There are four overnight huts on the trail that are ideally placed for you to explore the beauty of the area. The huts are equipped as follows:

  • The Kaapschehoop Hut has 16 bunk beds, a donkey for hot water (the donkey boiler will be lit for you), 2 showers and 2 toilets. There is a lovely braai area with a grid and firewood provided, but no electricity. Bring your own eating and cooking utensils.
  • The Barretts Coaches (two train coaches) have electricity, 24 bunk beds, 3 toilets, 2 showers, and a braai area with firewood provided. Bring your own eating and cooking utensils.
  • The Wattles Hut has 24 bunk beds, 3 toilets and 4 showers. A donkey boiler provides hot water (the donkey boiler will be lit for you). There is a fireplace and a braai area with grid and firewood provided. Bring your own eating and cooking utensils.
  • The Florence Hill Hut has 10 bunk beds, 2 toilets and 2 showers, a gas heater for hot water, a fireplace and a braai area with firewood provided. Bring your own eating and cooking utensils.

 Please note:   The nearest doctor and emergency services are in Nelspruit, which is approximately 32km from Kaapschehoop

 Main attractions

The tropical climate turns this area into an all-year-round paradise with a vast variety of flora, animals, fascinating rock formations, waterfalls and colourful birds.

  • There are over 200 species of birds, including the enigmatic blue swallow, an internationally endangered bird with iridescent blue-black feathering that breeds in this area.
    • Along the dams, rivers and wetlands, the following birds may occur: reed cormorant, darter, grey heron, blackheaded heron, greenbacked heron, little egret, white stork, black stork, Abdim’s stork, hadeda ibis, Egyptian goose, African black duck, African fish eagle, blue crane, redchested flufftail, crowned plover, blackwinged plover, wattled plover, wood sandpiper, diederik cuckoo, Burchell’s coucal, palm swift, giant kingfisher, halfcollared kingfisher, pygmy kingfisher, little bee-eater, brownthroated martin, Heuglin’s robin, African sedge warbler, broadtailed warbler, redfaced cisticola, African pied wagtail, longtailed wagtail, Cape wagtail, Cape weaver, masked weaver, red bishop, redshouldered widow, redcollared widow, common waxbill.
    • Along the mountains, rocky hillsides and in the grass, the following birds may occur: secretary bird, blackshouldered kite, longcrested eagle, steppe buzzard, hobby falcon, rock kestrel, Shelly’s francolin, Swainson’s francolin, harlequin quail, Kurrichane buttonquail, Stanley’s bustard, rock pigeon, grass owl, Cape eagle, black swift, flappet lark, blue swallow, rock martin, whitenecked raven, buffstreaked chat, familiar chat, Ayres’ cisticola, wailing cisticola, longbilled pipit, orangethroated longclaw, redwinged starling, Gurney’s sugarbird, malachite sunbird, buffspotted flufftail.
    • Along the woodlands and thorn veld the following birds may occur: yellowbilled kite, gymnogene, green pigeon, redchested cuckoo, spotted eagle owl, European bee-eater, hoopoe, blackcollared barbet, lesser honeyguide, cardinal woodpecker, blackheaded oriole, blackeyed bulbul, stonechat, yellowbreasted apalis, black flycatcher, fiscal shrike, blackcrowned tchagra, plumcoloured starling, black sunbird, pintailed whydah, lizard buzzard.
    • Along the forests and fringes the following birds may occur: African goshawk, buffspotted flufftail, rameron pigeon, black saw-wing swallow, grey cuckooshrike, olive thrush, Cape robin, dusky flycatcher, bluemantled flycatcher, olive bush shrike, greater doublecollared sunbird.
  • You may see the famous wild horses and other animals such as vervet monkey, baboon, hyrax, smaller cat, bushbuck, jackal, klipspringer, grey rhebuck, mountain reedbuck, bush pig, porcupine and possibly even leopards.
  • Yellowwood trees, aloes, endangered cycads and beautiful tree ferns may be seen, among others.

 Climate

Bring some warm clothing in any season. The summer day temperature is generally around 25 degrees, but at 1628m above sea level, winter evenings in the Drakensberg can be quite cold at night. The rainfall is reasonably high, and there is often mist.

Trail Options

2 Night Options

  • Battery Creek 2 Night Trail – total distance 23.5km
  • Blue Swallow 2 Night Trail – total distance 31.96km
  • Kaapschehoop 2 Night Trail -total distance 23.5km
  • Wattles 2 Night Trail – total distance 43.1km
  • Starvation Creek 2 Night Trail – total distance 24.7km

 

3 Night Options

  • Barretts Coaches 3 Night Trail – total distance 45.13km
  • Florencehill 3 Night Trail – total distance 45.13km
  • Wattles 3 Night Trail – total distance 60.23km
  • Kaapschehoop 3 Night trail – total distance 45.13km
  • Two Creeks 3 Night Trail – total distance 38.6km
  • Cave Creek 3 Night Trail – total distance 38.6km

 

4 Night Options

  • Florencehill 4 Night Trail – total distance 60.23km
  • The Creeks 4 Night Trail – total distance 60.23km
  • Blue Swallows 4 Night Trail – total distance 60.23 km

 

5 Night Options

  • Barretts Coaches 5 Night Trail – total distance 60.23km
  • Kaapschehoop 5 Night Trail – total distance 60.23km

 

 Barretts Coaches to Kaapschehoop Hut

Start your hike at Barretts Coaches. Shortly after passing the forest station, the trail takes you down into the first ravine, known as Jack’s Corner, before crossing a stream. Walk through the indigenous forest to the base of a cliff and follow the contour. Leave the forest through a gully at the edge of the cliff and continue until you get to a piece of land covered with pine trees. At this point, the path traces a historical wagon path, crosses the forestry road and enters more pine trees. This area is known as Bannister’s Gold Workings and was a major digging when the diggers used to live here.

The trail now follows a small plantation path through pine and gum trees before climbing over rocks that form part of the escarpment. Follow the path along the escarpment until you reach the viewpoint.

Follow the contour path through the various pine and fynbos patches until you reach a large forestry road. Continue on this road to a grassy slope. The grass covers the scree or loose rock that has formed at the cliff’s base over many years. Now the trail gradually rises over the grassy plain until it reaches the cliffs. From here, the trail follows the escarpment edge for a short distance, before winding through some of the rocky ledges onto a grassy plain. From the grassy plain, you will see fynbos, yellowwood trees, aloes and various other flowers.

Continue along a contour path that takes you along the edge of a deep valley to the cemetery. Follow the trail through the pine trees to the second cemetery and the Kaapschehoop village where you can study the Victorian architecture, browse through the fascinating arts and crafts shops or have a bite to eat at one of the tea gardens or pubs. Pass the cemetery where some of the town’s original inhabitants lie (perhaps not too peacefully), then walk through pine trees until you reach Battery Creek. Descend into the creek by way of a small gully where a little boulder hopping will bring you to the Battery Creek Falls. Follow the trail along the creek. The play of water and sunlight on the two slopes is visible at this point. The moist, cool northern side and the hot, dry southern side influences the vegetation on each slope. The trail joins a forestry path at a small weir and then goes through the pine trees to an old lookout. Follow the cliff edge until you enter a rocky plain. Once over the plain, the trail enters a patch of indigenous forest before climbing to a rocky outcrop that takes you to a forestry road and a dam. Barretts Coaches is only a few metres away. Near to the Kaapschehoop Hut, you will find the village square, known as Commissioner Square, with the commissioner’s house and the local jail.

Kaapschehoop Hut to Barretts Coaches

From the Kaapschehoop Hut, walk along the escarpment edge until you reach the Kaapschehoop lookout post. On clear days, it is possible to see as far as Barberton. The trail now takes you through rocky outcrops and a natural kraal until you reach a rocky maze. This rocky maze, which is often covered in fog, gave Kaapschehoop its original name of Duivelskantoor (Devil’s office).

Trail Options:

2 Night Trail Options:

Battery Creek 2 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park at the Berlin Plantation (Barretts Coaches).

Distances:

  • Barretts Coaches – Kaapschehoop – 14km
  • Kaapschehoop – Barretts Coaches – 9.5km
  • Difficulity: – Moderate

 

Blue Swallow 2 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park at the Kaapschehoop Hut

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florencehill – Kaapschehoop – 15.29km
  • Difficulity: – Moderate

 

Kaapschehoop 2 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park at the Kaapschehoop Hut

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop – Barretts Coaches – 9.5km
  • Barretts Coaches – Kaapschehoop – 14km
  • Difficulity: – Moderate

 

Wattles 2 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park at the Barretts Coaches and start hiking immediately to Wattle Hut

Distances:

  • Barretts Coaches – Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Wattles Hut – Kaapschehoop Hut – 13.8km
  • Kaapschehoop Hut – Barretts Coaches – 14km
  • Difficulity: – Moderate

 

Starvation Creek 2 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park at the Berlin Plantation (Barretts Coaches).

Distances:

  • Barretts Coaches to Wattles – 15.3km
  • Wattles to Barretts Coaches – 9.4km
  • Difficulity: – Moderate to difficult

 

3 Night Trail Options:

Barretts Coaches 3 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at the Berlin Plantation (Barretts Coaches)

Distances:

  • Barretts Coaches – Kaapschehoop – 15.3km
  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florenchill – Barretts Coaches – 14.46km
  • Difficulty: – Moderate – Difficult

 

Florencehill 3 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at Kaapschehoop Hut and start hiking immediately to Florenchill Hut

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florenchill – Barretts Coaches – 14.46km
  • Barretts Coaches – Kaapschehoop – 15.3km
  • Difficulty: – Moderate – Difficult

 

Wattles 3 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park at the Barretts Coaches and start hiking immediately to Wattle Hut

Distances:

  • Barretts Coaches – Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Wattles Hut – Kaapschehoop Hut – 13.8km
  • Kaapschehoop Hut – Florencehill Hut – 16.67km
  • Difficulity: – Moderate – Difficult

 

Kaapschehoop 3 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at Kaapschehoop Hut

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florenchill – Barretts Coaches – 14.46km
  • Barretts Coaches – Kaapschehoop – 15.3km
  • Difficulty – Moderate – Difficult

 

Two Creeks 3 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at the Berlin Plantation. (Barretts Coaches)

Distances:

  • Barretts Coaches to Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Wattles Hut to Kaapschehoop – 13.8km
  • Kaapschehoop Hut to Barretts Coaches – 9.8km
  • Difficulty: – Moderate – Difficult

 

Cave Creek 3 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at Kaapschehoop Hut

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop Hut to Barretts Coaches – 9.8km
  • Barretts Coaches to Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Wattles Hut to Kaapschehoop – 13.8km
  • Difficulty: – Moderate – Difficult

 

4 Night Trail Options:

Florencehill 4 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at Kaapschehoop Hut and start hiking immediately to Florencehill Hut

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florenchill – Barretts Coaches – 14.46km
  • Barretts Coaches – Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Difficulty: – Moderate – Difficult

 

The Creek 4 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at the Berlin Planation. (Barretts Coaches)

Distances:

  • Barretts Coaches – Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Wattles Hut to Kaapschehoop – 13.8km
  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florenchill – Barretts Coaches – 14.46km
  • Difficulty: – Difficult

 

Blue Swallows 4 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at Kaapschehoop

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florenchill – Barretts Coaches – 14.46km
  • Barretts Coaches – Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Difficulty: – Moderate – Difficult

 

5 Night Trail Options:

Barretts Coaches 5 Night Trail:

Parking:
Park your car at the Berlin Planation. (Barretts Coaches)

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florenchill – Barretts Coaches – 14.46km
  • Barretts Coaches – Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Wattles Hut – Kaapschehoop – 13.8km
  • Difficulty: – Difficult

 

Kaapschehoop 5 Night Trail

Parking:
Park your car Kaapschehoop

Distances:

  • Kaapschehoop – Florencehill – 16.67km
  • Florenchill – Barretts Coaches – 14.46km
  • Barretts Coaches – Wattles Hut – 15.3km
  • Wattles Hut – Kaapschehoop – 13.8km
  • Difficulty: – Difficult

 

Barretts Coaches to Wattles Hut

Start your hike at Barretts Coaches. Pass the Berlin Forest Station with its plantation offices, workshops and sheds. The trail then takes you down into the first ravine, known as Jack’s Corner, before crossing a stream. Take note of the difference in vegetation, the ‘singing’ of the pine trees in the plantation, and the indigenous forest. Walk through the indigenous forest to the base of a cliff along a contour. Continue along the short plantation path between two groups of pine trees and then descend into a valley.

The trail now leaves the indigenous forest and continues down into a valley. Notice the different forest vegetation, which is due to the amount of moisture available and the angle and depth of the soil. Leave the valley and follow along the cliff edge. Enjoy the magnificent view of the valley and notice the difference in the density of vegetation from the base of the cliff to the lower slopes. The loose rocks at the base of the cliffs provide protection against fire and allow the vegetation to grow more densely.

Along the cliffs, the trail descends through the rocks and starts to drop down into the Starvation Creek Nature Reserve. Along the historical bridle path, note the endangered Starvation Creek cycads (encephalartos iaevifolius). You now descend to a stream leading to the Starvation Creek Falls. Vegetation in this area ranges from dense forest, through open grassland to a plantation alongside a wetland. Sections of the trail wind through pine trees. The pine needles on the ground disguise many trenches made during the Kaapschehoop gold rush in the early 1880s.

The trail now takes you through a pine path to a small rocky ledge that leads to a stream surrounded by tree ferns. You cross a wetland before entering a patch of pine trees where the Wattles Hut is situated.

Wattles Hut to Barretts Coaches

Depart from the Wattles Hut through an avenue of pine trees and then enter a grassy plain. Cross the plain until you find a maze of rocks in the fine, white sand that can be seen along the trail. The high SABC broadcast tower, the big building on the right, and the smaller FM tower transmit television and radio signals to the Lowveld.

The geology of this area is interesting; the black reef quartzites, conglomerates and the calcareous dolomites of the Transvaal Supergroup are well exposed along the escarpment edge. Follow the escarpment edge, cross the watershed, cross a forestry road and enter a plantation of pine trees. At the plantation, you will find Bannister’s Gold Workings. Continue along a historical wagon path that goes through the pine forests to the escarpment edge on the other side of the Kaapschehoop plateau. The difference in height gives an indication of the angle at which the Black Reef dips to the west. Follow the escarpment edge to an indigenous forest all along the base of the cliff. Cross a stream and climb up through pine trees until you eventually reach the Berlin Forest Station.

Barretts Coaches to Wattles Hut

Start your hike at Barretts Coaches. Pass the Berlin Forest Station with its plantation offices, workshops and sheds. The trail then takes you down into the first ravine, Jack’s Corner, before crossing a stream. Take note of the difference in vegetation, the ‘sound’ of the pine trees in the plantation, and the indigenous forest. Walk through the indigenous forest to the base of a cliff, which follows a contour. Follow a short plantation path between two groups of pine trees and then descend into a valley. Hikers can fill their water bottles at the streams.

The trail now leaves the indigenous forest and continues through grassland to a valley. Notice the different forest vegetation, which is due to the amount of moisture available and  the angle and depth of the soil. Exit the valley and follow the cliff edge that gives a beautiful view down the valley. As you walk along the edge of the cliff, notice the difference in the density of vegetation from the base of the cliff to the lower slopes. The loose rocks at the base of the cliffs provide protection against fire and allow the vegetation to grow more densely.

Along the cliffs, the trail descends through the rocks and starts to drop down into the Starvation Creek Nature Reserve. Along the historical bridle path, you will see the endangered Starvation Creek cycads (Encephalartos iaevifolius). You now descend to a stream leading to the Starvation Creek Falls. Vegetation in this area ranges from dense forest to open grassland and to a plantation alongside a wetland. Sections of the trail wind through the pine trees. The needles of the pine trees disguise many trenches made during the Kaapschehoop gold rush in the early 1880s.

The trail now takes you through a pine path to a small rocky ledge that leads to a stream surrounded by tree ferns. You cross a wetland before entering a patch of pine trees where the Wattles Hut is situated.

Wattles Hut to Kaapschehoop

Walk through pine and gum trees, fynbos and grass ledges before climbing through a rocky ledge to the top of the cliff. If there is no mist in the area, you may be able to see the escarpment edge that lies to the north. The slope of the escarpment edge shows the formation of the gold-carrying Black Reef (at Kaapschehoop the reef is on the surface and dips to the west and, at Carletonville, where the deepest gold mines occur, the Black Reef is several kilometres underground). Follow the contour path through the various pine and fynbos patches until you reach a large forestry road. Continue on this road until you reach a grassy slope (the grass covers the scree or loose rock that has formed at the cliff’s base over many years). Now the trail gradually rises over the grassy plain until it reaches the cliffs. From here, follow the escarpment edge for a short distance before winding through some of the rocky ledges onto a grassy plain. Continue along a contour path that takes you through the top of a big valley to the cemetery. At the Kaapschehoop village there is an opportunity to study the Victorian architecture and to browse in the several shops that specialise in arts and crafts. While in the village, you may even encounter the Kaapschehoop wild horses, one of the few remaining herds of wild horses in South Africa.

 Kaapschehoop Hut to Barretts Coaches

From the Kaapschehoop Hut, walk along the escarpment edge until you reach the Kaapschehoop lookout post. On clear days, it is possible to see as far as Barberton. The trail now takes you through rocky outcrops and a natural kraal until you reach a rocky maze. This rocky maze, which is often covered in fog, gave Kaapschehoop its original name of Duivelskantoor (Devil’s office).

 Kaapschehoop to Florence Hill

The Florence Hill Hut has replaced the Coetzeestroom Hut on this brand new section of the trail. The trail starts at the Kaapschehoop Hut, follows all along the escarpment to Florence Hill and includes magnificent views of the De Kaap valley, lush indigenous forests, gorges, pine-scented plantations, streams and interesting structures from the De Kaap goldfields that are of historical interest. From the Florence Hill Hideaway, you have the option to either return to the Kaapschehoop Hut or to continue to the Barretts Coaches on the previous Coetzeestroom route.

Florence Hill to Kaapschehoop

The first section of the trail is through plantation that leads you all the way around a gorge to a picnic table with a spectacular view back to Florence Hill.  After a steep up and downhill you reach the Kaapschehoop / Barretts Coach split at the magasines.  Reaching the split you stay on the side of a gorge with spectacular view over the Coetzeestroom gorge.  Sappi Ngodwana paper mill can be seen from here and is the largest paper mill in the southern hemisphere.  Once you crossed the tar road you descent into Battery Creek.  Ascending through an indigenous forest and a short climb which pass a dam one reach Barretts Coaches.

Kaapschehoop to Florence Hill

The Florence Hill Hut has replaced the Coetzeestroom Hut on this brand new section of the trail. The trail starts at the Kaapschehoop Hut, follows all along the escarpment to Florence Hill and includes magnificent views of the De Kaap valley, lush indigenous forests, gorges, pine-scented plantations, streams and interesting structures from the De Kaap goldfields that are of historical interest. From the Florence Hill Hideaway, you have the option to either return to the Kaapschehoop Hut or to continue to the Barretts Coaches on the previous Coetzeestroom route.

Florence Hill to Barretts Coaches

The first section of the trail is through plantation that leads you all the way around a gorge to a picnic table with a spectacular view back to Florence Hill.  After a steep up and downhill you reach the Kaapschehoop / Barretts Coach split at the magasines.  Reaching the split you stay on the side of a gorge with spectacular view over the Coetzeestroom gorge.  Sappi Ngodwana paper mill can be seen from here and is the largest paper mill in the southern hemisphere.  Once you crossed the tar road you descent into Battery Creek.  Ascending through an indigenous forest and a short climb which pass a dam one reach Barretts Coaches.

 Barretts Coaches to Kaapschehoop

Start your hike at Barretts Coaches. Shortly after passing the forest station, the trail takes you down into the first ravine, known as Jack’s Corner, before crossing a stream. Walk through the indigenous forest to the base of a cliff and follow the contour. Leave the forest through a gully at the edge of the cliff and continue until you get to a piece of land covered with pine trees. At this point, the path traces a historical wagon path, crosses the forestry road and enters more pine trees. This area is known as Bannister’s Gold Workings and was a major digging when the diggers used to live here.

The trail now follows a small plantation path through pine and gum trees before climbing over rocks that form part of the escarpment. Follow the path along the escarpment until you reach the viewpoint.

Follow the contour path through the various pine and fynbos patches until you reach a large forestry road. Continue on this road to a grassy slope. The grass covers the scree or loose rock that has formed at the cliff’s base over many years. Now the trail gradually rises over the grassy plain until it reaches the cliffs. From here, the trail follows the escarpment edge for a short distance, before winding through some of the rocky ledges onto a grassy plain. From the grassy plain, you will see fynbos, yellowwood trees, aloes and various other flowers.

Continue along a contour path that takes you along the edge of a deep valley to the cemetery. Follow the trail through the pine trees to the second cemetery and the Kaapschehoop village where you can study the Victorian architecture, browse through the fascinating arts and crafts shops or have a bite to eat at one of the tea gardens or pubs. Pass the cemetery where some of the town’s original inhabitants lie (perhaps not too peacefully), then walk through pine trees until you reach Battery Creek. Descend into the creek by way of a small gully where a little boulder hopping will bring you to the Battery Creek Falls. Follow the trail along the creek. The play of water and sunlight on the two slopes is visible at this point. The moist, cool northern side and the hot, dry southern side influences the vegetation on each slope. The trail joins a forestry path at a small weir and then goes through the pine trees to an old lookout. Follow the cliff edge until you enter a rocky plain. Once over the plain, the trail enters a patch of indigenous forest before climbing to a rocky outcrop that takes you to a forestry road and a dam. Barretts Coaches is only a few meters away. Near to the Kaapschehoop Hut, you will find the village square, known as Commissioner Square, with the commissioner’s house and the local jail.

 Rates

  • R130.00 per person per day
  • R55.00 once off admin fee
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