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Top Hiking Trails in the Garden Route

Fresh air and nature inspire fitness – nowhere is this more true than in South Africa’s beloved Garden Route, abundant in rich natural assets comprising of lush green forests, stunning coastal passes and exquisite nature and game reserves. Under tall trees and through unique fynbos and stunning fauna and flora, past rivers, under waterfalls and along the coastline of the Indian Ocean, a world of magic awaits.

Whether you simply want to reconnect with the gentle spirit of the great outdoors or are searching for a challenging adventure with twists and turns along the way, there are a variety of choices for hiking routes in the Garden Route that will prove inspirational. For holiday goers that are travelling with children, many of these Garden Route hiking locations have family-friendly options that are more about fun than exercise. Let Hello Garden Route, Your Friendly Experts in Garden Route Getaways help you find the perfect accommodation in your preferred destination, the first step to enjoy hiking adventures in and around the Garden Route.

Before taking on any hike, be sure to enquire about what you need to take with you, also any permits or costs involved. Bring your camera along, keep hydrated and wear comfortable walking shoes. Although hiking can be enjoyed alone, it is safer to embark with friends/family.

Top Garden Route Hiking Trails

St. Blaize Hiking Trail in Mossel Bay | Distance: 13.5 KMs one way | Difficulty: Medium | Permit: None

This stunning Mossel Bay trail is said to be suitable for beginners but does stretch over a long distance and presents a few exciting challenges such as steep climbs as well as the occasional rocky and technical sections. If you are looking to break a sweat and get a workout whilst on vacation, then the St. Blaize Trail is well worth the time and very rewarding. Those embarking on this adventure will bear witness to remarkable views of the ocean over jagged cliffs and will also come across unique fauna and flora during their adventure.

Ruiterbos Forest Hiking Trail in Mossel Bay | Distance: Various options | Difficulty: Easy | Permit: Self-issued permit

There are various trails to choose from that all embark from the Eight Bells Mountain Inn grounds – ranging from the more challenging Ruitenbos Forest Walk (10.3 km’s/4 hours) to the Protea Hill Walk (5 km’s/2 hours) and a range of shorter walks that can be enjoyed by all. Trees along this walk are labelled with their national tree list numbers, while indigenous and pine forests are the highlight of this enchanting forest hike. Recommended accommodation is available at Eight Bells Mountain Inn, which can be booked here.

Dutton’s Cove Walk in Herolds Bay | Distance: 4 km | Difficulty: Easy | Permit: None

This walk is very easy and ideal for all, young and old, fit or unfit, as an outing planned for a nice day in the Garden Route’s picture perfect Herold’s Bay. More of a walking trail than a hiking trail; this excursion shouldn’t take more than a few hours to complete, offering incredible vistas across the vast Indian Ocean. Dutton’s Cove Walk begins at the parking area of Dutton’s Cove beach and stretches along the coast. Both the road and footpaths overlook the sea and the gentle sea breeze keeps hikers cool.

Doring Wilderness Trail in George | Distance: 15 km/50 km | Difficulty: Medium/Hard | Permit: Can we obtained from the Witfontein District office/Outeniqua Nature Reserve

The Doring Wilderness Trail can be found on route to Oudtshoorn, just outside of George. For serious hikers, the 50 km trail can take anywhere from 3 – 6 days depending on the pace of your hike, but will require overnight stops – pitch a tent, bring provisions (food, water, etc) and become one with nature and the surrounding beauty of the Waboomskraal Valley. The shorter and less intense circular route follows the Doring Valley River, cutting the time down to 15 km’s and taking between 6 and 7 hours to complete.  This route is very scenic, with incredible views across fynbos and of the Outeniqua Mountains. During these hikes, leopards, klipspringer and grey rhebuck could be sighted.

Pass to Pass Trail in George| Distance: 7.5 km | Difficulty: Medium | Permit: Can be obtained at Witfontein Forestry Station

This stunning trail can be done from either direction and is a very rewarding experience, starting at the top of either Montague Pass or Outeniqua Pass. About halfway through a detour can lead to Losberg for those seeking out incredible views of George and, on clearer days, Victoria Bay in the distance, and many choose to enjoy picnics here before continuing the hike. For those with the energy, walking back to the start is an option, while it is recommended to arrange a lift back from the end of your hike. Some section of this trail can prove tricky or slippery, especially after the rain, while in summer it gets very hot on the mountain slopes – be sure to wear a hat and apply sunscreen.

The Cradock & George Peak Trails in George | Distance: George Peak 17.5 km/ Cradock 19 Km | Difficulty: Difficult | Permit: Fill in logbook and obtain map/permit at Witfontein Forestry Station

Both trails are part of the same mountain massif, reachable for the most part by the same trail both starting at the Witfontein Forestry station in George. Cradock Peak is the highest peak in the Outeniqua Mountain range (1578m above sea level).  These hikes, though challenging, are very beautiful with surrounding forests, streams, a pine plantation and rocky climbs. Views from Cradock Peak are spectacular, with vistas all the way to Mossel bay, the Swartberg Mountains, George and Knysna. It is essential to pack warm clothes as the weather changes drastically in a matter of moments. Bring plenty of water and some snacks. Doing both peaks will amount to 21 km’s there and back, possible for fit hikers to accomplish in under 8 hours.

Giant Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness | Distance: 3.5 km | Difficulty: Medium | Permit: R20 conservation fee at Ebb & Flow (free for Wild Card members)

Named after the bird that frequents this area, the Giant Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness may start off tricky but becomes less challenging shortly in. This is easily one of the most popular Garden Route hiking trails, as it passes through stunning forest grounds and leads to a captivating waterfall where hikers can unwind, enjoy a picnic and even have a refreshing swim. The mostly shaded route offers hikers many spots to stop, relax and connect with nature through sight and sound. Keep an eye out for the Giant Kingfisher bird, as well as Blue Duikers and other little creatures that call this paradise home.

Goukamma Trails in Sedgefield | Distance: Varied distances, between 4km – 13.5 km | Difficulty: Medium | Permit: Hiking permit to be obtained on arrival at Goukamma Nature Reserve

There are a variety of day trails that can be embarked on at the beautiful Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area in Sedgefield. The Buffalo Bay Trail is the easiest trail at 4.2 km’s, with beautiful sea views and plenty of coastal vegetation. The Blombos Trail on the Groenvlei is ideal for bird viewing, with various other short and long routes available at the reserve.  The Porcupine Trail is one of the lengthier trails and can take up to 5 hours, stretching over vegetation dunes and requiring hikers to arrange transport back. It is recommended that hikers get an early start, to make the best of their adventure.

Milwood Mine Walk – Knysna | Distance: 5.6 km | Difficulty: Medium | Permit: hiking permit to be obtained at Goudeveld entrance gate

This popular trail has been described as otherworldly, filled with charm and mystique that lingers from the rich history of this area. Hikers will embark from Mother Holly’s Tea Room through a small gold mining museum, the scene of Knysna’s gold rush of the 18th century. Along the Milwood Mine Walk trail lays a waterfall that is great for picnic breaks. During this hike you will come across other small mines, so it is recommended to bring a torch and binoculars along for in-depth discoveries. The trail is circular and leads back to the beginning, while the hike is a half day length of between 4 and 5 hours.  Looking for more adventures in Knysna? Visit our blog post about the enchanting Knysna Forest.

Robberg Hiking Trail in Plettenberg Bay | Varied distances, from 2.2 KM – 9.2 KM | Difficulty: Difficult | Permit: Sign register and pay entrance fee at gate

This unique hike is best done in winter and is not suitable for unfit people or young children, with high climbs, rocky terrains and steep declines. During the hike, vistas across the oceanfront are breathtaking and whales and dolphins can be spotted at sea – also keep an eye out for bucks, cape clawless otters, mongooses, dassies and Cape fur seals and a wide variety of birdlife. The Robberg Hiking Trail in Plettenberg Bay is very scenic, with views of the bay and Tsitsikamma Mountains in the distance. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, as there is no water along the way.

The beautiful and alluring Garden Route Trail, in the heart of the Garden Route, is a thrilling 5 day coastal trail that stretches from Wilderness to the Goukamma Nature Reserve. The Garden Route is home to various exceptional Garden Route National Parks offering adventures such as hiking, mountain biking, fishing, scuba diving and more.

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