In April 2021, our founder, Mama Cat visited the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area. Below is her account of a 4 day hike in one of the Western Cape’s more remote wilderness reserves.
Grootwinterhoek is one of the most beautiful reserves in the Western Cape. With an abundance of water, there are plenty of pools to swim in, and of course the iconic Die Hel waterfall. I have not seen any (because I wasn’t looking) but there are also some extraordinary ancient rock paintings. The terrain is reasonably flat and is relatively easy to hike - great for all levels of fitness. We chose to do a 4-day hike, camping in our tents at each stop but there is the option for overnight hikers to stay in huts close to Die Hel.
Day 1: Car Park to Groot Kliphuis | 16km
We chose route 4 on the Cape Nature Map of the area. Our watches said it was only 11km, either way it was completely manageable. We stopped to have lunch on a series of rocks and our day's hike continued through these incredible rock formation forests. We camped under the very out of place large oak trees. While the map does not indicate a water spot, we found a stream at Grootkliphuis. We managed to bathe (not swim) and fill our water bottles. There is a giant rock formation behind the Oak Trees which we climbed up to watch the sunset.
On the menu:
Lunch: Harissa Hummus, avo, cucumber & tomato on wholewheat bread.
Dinner: Central African Peanut Stew
Day 2: Groot Kliphuis to De Tronk | 11km
We had a slow morning, enjoying being out in the middle of this beautiful valley. The hike led us up the side of a koppie and down along the Klein Kliphuis River. We stopped where we could take a dip and ate our breakfast. If you wanted to add an extra night you could head up to Perdevlei along this route, but we only had 4 days so we instead headed to De Tronk. We had stopped at a giant rock which was balancing carefully on two smaller rocks - a great playground for those into bouldering! We then went to set up camp near the stream at De Tronk, away from the Oak Trees and the main path leading to Die Hel.
On the menu:
Breakfast: Coffee & Rusks
Lunch: Hummus with cucumber & tomato on wholewheat bread.
Dinner: Moroccan Tagine with Rice (we can make a few of our meals gluten free if you request via email).
Day 3: De Tronk to Die Hel and back | 10km
We rose early to get to Die Hel so that we could spend the whole day enjoying the waterfall, kloofing and relaxing in the kloof. The hike is pretty easy going except for the last section which is a very steep descent down to the waterfall. We had a coffee break midway to enjoy the views from above. We did yoga, swam, went kloofing, had naps, a big picnic for lunch and then headed back up to our camp spot. I would highly recommend spending a whole day in the kloof if you have the time. One thing we missed was the cave paintings, I am not sure where they are located but definitely do some research and have a look for them when you are there. Make sure to pack a jumper, it can get very cold after a swim or if you are in the shade.
On the menu:
Dinner: Custom Mama Alles Meal
Day 4: De Tronk to the Car Park | 14km
The last day is an easy hike out of the reserve. You are on a steady incline the whole way but it's not particularly challenging. There are plenty of gorgeous swim spots along the way so make sure you allocate some time to have breakfast or coffee along the river.
On the menu:
Breakfast: Chia & Nectarine Oats, cinnamon macadamia Nut Butter, trail mix
Lunch: Piketberg Spur Burger
This nature reserve is in my top 5 places to hike in South Africa, one for the bucket list, and one that is accessible to hikers of any skill level / fitness level. There are plenty of long weekends throughout the year for everyone to take advantage of these trails.
*Please remember to respect the places you visit, take your trash home with you, do not graffiti on rocks, and definitely do not touch the rock paintings.