Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail
Garden Route, Western Cape
The Tsitsikamma Trail is a southern Cape hiking paradise, journeying through extensive indigenous afromontane forest and mountain fynbos. Ancient river gorges and abundantrivers and streams remind us of the creative power of water and the origins of the word Tsitsikamma.
This is an enchanted world where echoes of past giants such as elephant and buffalo can still be felt. Some of the finest specimens of South Africa’s national tree, the Outeniqua yellowwood, keep sentinel over the forest canopy while hikers clamber over their enormous roots beneath.
Beginning in Nature’s Valley and ending 62.3km further at either the Storms River Bridge or Village, this six day, unidirectional trail takes hikers through the heart of the Tsitsikamma Mountains. Shorter variations (2,3,4 or 5 days) are possible as each of the five overnight huts has its own unique access route with safe parking at the start.
Optional equipment porterage (slackpacking) now provides hikers with the chance of having their equipment transported between overnight huts (30kg per hiker per day), allowing the luxury of carrying only daypacks on each day’s journey. This makes the trail accessible to a wider range of people and provides all with more time for swimming, photography, birding and other activities usually limited by time or weight constraints. Field guides and binoculars are definitely recommended along this exciting and unpredictable journey.
Many of the forest giants are labeled with their tree names and hikers can have much fun with guessing and identification games along the route.
The trail’s starting point is in the Devasselot Restcamp of Tsitsikamma National Park which is situated in Nature’s Valley. This can be easily found by traveling along the R102, – follow the clearly marked signposts to Nature’s Valley from the N2. If approaching from the west (Plettenberg Bay side), the Nature’s Valley turn-off will be to your right a short distance after the Kurland Estate entrance in the Crags area. If approaching from the east (Storms River Village), the Nature’s valley turn-off will be to the left immediately after going through the N2 toll-gate. The Devasselot Restcamp is situated adjacent to the R102 and is clearly marked with large green and yellow signage. For additional directions to any of the other four trail starting points, send us an email.
Accommodation and Facilities
The trail’s overnight accommodation facilities have been upgraded to an excellent standard with truly magnificent views. Relaxation in comfort can be enjoyed at each of the five overnight huts.
Each location has 3 two sleeper rooms, and 3 six sleeper rooms with bunk beds and mattresses (24 people max).
Enjoy the views from the spacious undercover patios with wooden table and chair. Cooking supplies incl: braai grids, kettles, 2 cast iron pots, pan and washing-up basin. Undercover and outside braai area at each lapa. Firewood is supplied at overnight huts. Each hut has a wash basin, 2 showers and 2 flush toilets. Hot water donkey system in place for warm water.
Clean fresh water is collected from the nearby streams and readily available through the basins.
Additional firewood be prearranged at an additional cost at overnight huts. (There is sufficient firewood in place for cooking and showering at each hut, this request refers to additional wood for other reasons).
PLEASE NOT THE KALANDER HUT CONSIST OF ONLY 1 LARGE HUT SHARED BY 12 BUNK BEDS AND THAT WE CAN NOT SUPPLY WOOD DUE TO THE LACK OF ACCESS. ALL WOOD AND SUPPLIES TO BE CARRIED TO THIS LOCATION.
Route Description and Distances
Along the route little contact is made with the outside world, except for the odd forestry activity here and there.
Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Largespotted Genet, Bushpig and Bushbuck are often encountered along the route and at overnight huts. Leopard, Caracal, Honey Badger and Blue Duiker also occur, but are seldom seen. The forests provide ideal habitat for lesser seen bird species, such as Rameron Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Sombre Bulbul, Forest Buzzard, and colourful Sunbirds and Flycatchers. The fynbos harbours elusive endemics such as Victorin’s Warbler, Protea Canary and the Cape Siskin.
Nature’s Valley – Kalander Hut
Distance: 3.4km / Approximately: 1 hour 30 mins
The first day follows the eastern bank of the Groot River lagoon. Sounds from the plentiful birdlife and the Indian Ocean at Nature’s Valley accompany you through tall, dry indigenous coastal forest to the Kalander hut. The hut is nestled in the dune forest at the base of the spectacular Douwurmkop. The Ocean and lagoon are a mere stroll away.
- Tall Dry Coastal Forest
- Nature’s Valley Beach and Groot River Mouth
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON THE DAY 1 TRAIL
Please note that the access road used on the first day to kalander hut has a bridge which has washed away. The new route takes hikers around this bridge making it possible to use the original day one trail as indicated above. A small river in the forest needs to be crossed should hikers make use of the original route. Please be very cautious when descending into the river and during the actual crossing. There is an alternative route to kalander Hut via the western bank of the groot river which follows the main roads around the lagoon to the main beach. Follow the lagoon eacg and crossing the shallow river mouth left of the beach beacon to an access path to the first hut. This route is approximately two kilometres hike.
Kalander Hut – Bloukrans Hut
Distance: 14.7km / Approximately: 7 hours
The day begins with a climb up the escarpment. Panoramic views and changing vegetation herald the arrival of the plateau and its wealth of fynbos. Most of the day’s hike, however, will take you through indigenous afromontane forest as you venture inland towards the foothills of the Tsitsikamma Mountains. The Bloukrans hut is situated on the verge of a cliff and offers incredible views of the river gorges below and Peak Formosa and the Tsitsikamma Mountains to the north.
A couple of hundred metres beneath the balcony a coca-cola coloured waterfall tumble away. Here private rock pools and falls provide an awesome swimming experience. A large spotted genet pair and bushpig male are regular overnight visitors as well.
- Viewpoints from Apiesrug
- Medium-Moist Plateau Forest
- Staircase Waterfall
- Views of the Bloukrans River Gorge
- Rock pools just below the Bloukrans hut
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON THE DAY 2 TRAIL
Please be careful when crossing the main road at covie, ensure you have enough water. The first water location is at approximately 9km at staircase falls.
Bloukrans Hut – Keurbos Hut
Distance: 13.4km / Approximately: 6 hours
Day three takes one deep into the Tsitsikamma Mountains and forest. This is a wetter and more remote world where a true sense of isolation begins to take hold. Buffelsbos is where the last buffalo of the Tsitsikamma was shot and killed in 1886.
In this eerie and enchanted patch of indigenous forest the trail begins its eastward course through the mountains. The crossing of the Bloukrans River at Waterwitelsgat is always exciting and provides a wonderful swimming and resting place. The rest of the day follows predominantly flat terrain through flower-rich fynbos and relic forest. Shortly before reaching Keurbos hut there are rockpools resembling natural jacuzis at the twintubs. The hut is situated in the wetter Keurbos forest. Here both red and white alder are plentiful and the narina trogon’s plaintiff call is sometimes heard.
- The Twin Tubs
- Keurbos Forest
Keurbos Hut – Heuningbos Hut
Distance: 13.4km / Approximately: 6 hours
Day four passes through very diverse habitat types and has a number of exciting river crossings. After an approximate 1,5km gradual descent from Keurbos hut through very tall fynbos the Lottering River is reached. Hikers should proceed slowly up Rushes Pass, pausing regularly to appreciate the majestic views. Once over the saddle, large pockets of untouched indigenous forest become visible in remote mountain regions. The path then descends for a similar distance to follow the western bank of the Elandsbos River for almost a kilometre before reaching the Elandsbos River crossing point.
Heuningbos indigenous forest has many hidden secrets awaiting hikers further ahead. After the final descent towards the hut, you will cross the Kleinbos River twice before reaching the Heuningbos Hut. A very pleasant swimming pool lies within rolling distance away.
- Lottering River
- Views from Rushes Pass
- Elandsbos River
- Heuningbos Forest
- Kleinbos River – very close to Heuningbos Hut
- Keurbos Forest
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON THE DAY 4 TRAIL
Please be careful when crossing the elandsbos river. During heavy rainfall the river flows extremely strong.
Heuningbos Hut – Sleepkloof Hut
Distance: 14.2km / Approximately: 7 hours
The longest day of the trail will see hikers negotiate two saddles on route to Sleepkloof hut. Most of the day passes through pristine mountain fynbos where many interesting species occur. Splendid Pass is such an example, named after the beautiful Mimetes splendidus. The wet indigenous forest
at Mostertsbos is a stark contrast from the open mountain slopes. The crossing of the Witteklip River marks the day’s half-way point and the second saddle’s ascent begins shortly thereafter. The view from the top of Nademaalsnek is a just reward. The spectacular Storms River gorge, Sleepkloof hut and the final two-kilometre indigenous forest stretch are not visible from that point. Sleepkloof hut nestles on the slopes of a densely forested gorge where wood was dragged out during the woodcutter era. The hut has magnificent views of the Tsitsikamma mountains lurking in the distance.
- Views from Splendid Pass & Mostertshoogte
- Witteklip River
- Views from Nademaalsnek
- Indigenous Forest close to Sleepkloof Hut
Sleepkloof Hut – Paul Sauer Bridge
Distance: 14.7km / Approximately: 7 hours
The final day provides hikers with the option of either finishing At Paul Sauer Bridge or Storms River Village. Both route’s Share the first kilometre’s walk-through dense forest pioneer Vegetation. The shorter route to Paul Sauer Bridge is a very Easy two-kilometre descent through forest pioneer species And fynbos. The slightly longer walk to Storms River Village Takes one through tall indigenous forest. This second option Forms part of the Plaatbos Forest and joins up with other Existing day walks in the area.
- Plaatbos Indigenous Forest
- Storms River Village or Storms River Bridge (Petroport)
Starting and ending points
- The Full hike Starts at Natures Valley Rest Camp (Dewasselot rest camp) and finishes at the Paul Sauer bridge (Stormsriver bridge)
- Kalander Hut is the trail’s first overnight hut and Sleepkloof Hut the trail’s last overnight hut.
- Should any hikers wish to walk shortened variations of the trail, i.e- 2 – 5 days, then the starting point will not be the previous overnight hut, but the beginning point of the escape route/ forestry access route for the hiker party’s first overnight hut.
Alternative entrance points are as follows
- Bloukrans Hut, – There are two entrance points available. The shorter access point starts/ends at Bloukrans Forestry Station. (aprox. 6km) or alternatively start at De Vasselot Rest camp and hike past the Kalander hut (aprox: 18 km) end at Bloukrans Forestry station.
- Keurbos Hut, – access route begins/ ends at Lottering Forestry Station. (aprox. 12 km).
- Heuningbos Hut, – access route begins/ ends at Boskor Sawmill. (aprox. 5,5km).
- Sleepkloof hut, – Access route begins/ends at Paul Sauer bridge (Stormsriver bridge) behind the Petroport fuel station.
Fire prevention and precautions
- Smoking is strictly prohibited in plantation and fynbos areas. Smoking is only permitted at overnight huts provided that extreme caution is always exercised.
- Please ensure that cigarette-butts are completely extinguished, – water can be used in this regard.
- You may only make fires in the designated fire-making areas at the lapa area.
- NEVER leave fires unattended in the lapa area, – especially applicable when the wind is blowing.
- Please make sure that all fires are completely extinguished before leaving the hut’s lapa area.
- Never discard hot or warm ash into the dirt-bins, – rather throw water over coals and leave the ash in the fire-making area.
- Familiarise yourself with the working mechanisms of the fire extinguisher. In the event of an uncontrolled fire, – make use of the fire extinguisher found inside the overnight hut.
- Please use wood sparingly and with consideration for the hiker group to follow.
Rainfall impact on trail hikers
- Please note that your hike on the Tsitsikamma Trail may be disrupted due to heavy rainfall.
- It is not possible to reach all overnight huts in the event of heavy rainfall and you may need to spend more than one night in the same overnight hut.
- You may also have to exit/ leave the trail in the event of very heavy rainfall.
- This information is of pertinence to groups making use of equipment porterage as well as groups carrying their own equipment.
- We will do our best to accommodate all hikers, – but please bear in mind that trail logistics play a major role in this regard.
- PLEASE READ THE HIKER SAFETY ADVICE DOCUMENT THAT WILL BE EMAILED TO YOU ON CONFIRMATION OF YOUR RESERVATION. THIS HAS VERY IMPORTANT LOGISTICAL INFORMATION DURING TIMES OF HEAVY RAINFALL.
- Please note that we do have to close the trail on short notice during times of heavy rainfall. All hikers then must exit the trail via escape routes.
PLEASE CONTACT THE MTO TRAILS OFFICE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR FOR EMERGENCY SITUATIONS CONTACT TRAIL ASSISTANCE NUMBER.
Porterage now provides hikers with the chance of having their equipment and food transported between overnight huts, allowing the luxury of carrying only daypacks on each day’s journey.
MTO Trails also provides refrigeration and freezer storage capacity at central depo giving guests the option to bring variety of meats, vegetables, cheeses, and drinks to make the trail experience more enjoyable.
Each of the clients’ goods will be collected from the previous night’s hut and transported to the next hut along with the refrigerated or frozen goods for that specific day.
- We request that each hiker bring only one unit per person. A backpack, suitcase, or kitbag.
- Hiker groups are allowed cooler boxes or containers additional to the above-mentioned items for food, cooking, cutlery and beverage transportation, but please bear in mind that only one standard bakkie transports these items.
- Please place the different food/drink items for each different night in separate containers/ cooler boxes before handing the items over to us.
- Please ensure that each container is clearly marked with the particular day and hut it needs to arrive at. Templates for tags are emailed prior to the hike to ensure baggage and food stored is clearly labelled.
- Please try to limit the number of loose items, – not only does this assist us with general loading and transport, but it also decreases the chance of any items going missing.
- Each person will be limited to 30kg for both bags and food storage Remember that each hiker should carry a daypack containing food and drink for the day’s walk. Warm, waterproof gear should also be in the daypack. Binoculars, field guides and cameras can be carried by stronger group members and are recommended.
- Due to time constraints the transport vehicle can only ferry equipment between huts once per group, and we therefore request that you plan in advance the amount of gear.
- Your luggage will be delivered to your hut no later than 16h00 for the duration of the trail, unless there are unforeseen circumstances. (Remember that your luggage will arrive every day a little bit later at the hut than the previous day, because a circular route is followed – so always keep your lunch in your daypack).
- Your luggage will be treated with care, by the MTO Trails Team but cannot be held responsible for damage caused by inadequate packing.
- Ensure that you insulate fragile items.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE PORTERAGE OPTION IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST NIGHT (KALANDER HUT) AS THERE IS NO VEHICULAR ACCESS TO THE HUTS.
HIKERS ARE REQUESTED TO CARRY EMERGENCY RATIONS AND WARM, WATERPROOF PROTECTIVE GEAR, IN CASE AN UNFORESEEN EMERGENCY ARISES (THESE RATIONS SHOULD BE FOR A MINIMUM OF TWO DAYS).
Hikers are requested to leave their backpacks inside the overnight hut and to ensure that all doors and windows are closed on departure.
Backpacks will be placed inside overnight huts on drop-off by MTO Trails staff. Hikers must make sure all their portage are marked correctly. Date & Hut’s name are important (also specify if its fridge or freezer).
Please ensure that your backpack has a rain-proof cover/ black plastic bag to provide waterproofing during heavy rainfall (We have waterproof covers for the vehicles but need to ferry the equipment short distances between vehicles and overnight huts on foot, – therefore this is merely an extra precaution against a little extra dampness).
The collection time for equipment and backpacks will be between 07:30 and 14:30. Backpacks and equipment must be locked inside the overnight huts. Baboons will investigate otherwise.
Arrive before 15:00 at the Devasselot Restcamp or any other trail starting point. Not only is it preferential to hike during daylight hours, – sufficient time is also required for a preparation talk; loading and sorting of equipment and transport of equipment to overnight huts (Groups hiking to Keurbos Hut must arrive before 12:00 on the starting day).
Cellular /mobile phone reception
- Signal is sporadic; you will get signal mainly on the higher parts of the mountain, on the hard dunes and along the coast.
- Be on the lookout for piled up stones, marked by previous hikers indicating where there might be different signal spots.
- It is recommended that all hikers take their mobile phones with them, in case of emergency. Keep the main contact cell phone of group leader on in case we need to get hold of you.
Emergencies and injuries
- In case of an injury, the injured hiker will be removed from the trail, regardless of how minor the injury. Hikers will not be transported from hut to hut and are not allowed to request/take a lift with the cleaning team. Should this be requested, it would be assumed that you are unfit to complete the Tsitsikamma Trail and will therefore be removed from the trail.
- We are unable to house injured hiker(s) removed from the trail. Hikers can find suitable accommodation within the region or adjacent reserves.
- 6 Days / 5 Nights
- 5 Days / 4 Nights
- 4 Days / 3 Nights
- 3 Days / 2 nights
- 2 Days / 1 Night
- R265.00 – pp.pn
- R50.00 pp
- R925.00 per hut for the first 5 people
- R185.00 per person thereafter
- Max hikers of 24
- R55.00 once off per reservation
Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail