Mama Cat hiked the Outeniqua trail over the Easter Weekend and was pleasantly surprised! This trail, and other forest trails are known for their sections of pine plantations that punctuate the indigenous forest, but almost every single pine tree has been removed and the fynbos has taken over! One of the (much) more affordable trails in South Africa, it should be on every hiker's bucket list.
The trail shows up on Maps.Me. When you want to calculate your distance it takes you on the Jeep Tracks so make sure you follow the trail marked Outeniqua Trail.
Time of Year: We hiked over the Easter Weekend in April, but as this is hike has so much forest it would be great to do in summer. There are plenty of swimming spots to cool you down.
Management & Bookings:
We emailed Grace Valela from SANParks.
044 302 5600
We drove from Cape Town to Knysna the day before we started hiking, and then stayed overnight in a cottage. If you are hiking from Goudveld Gate to the first hut, you could do the drive and first days hike in one day.
All people hiking need to sign in at Goudveld Gate / Harkerville Hut, we had to fill out a couple of forms and were given a map (one per group).
We left our cars at the Harkerville Hut, which has a SANParks office. We got a shuttle to the Goudveld Gate where one could also leave cars if you wanted to avoid using a shuttle.
Shuttle Driver: Benny | 083 728 5181 | R980 (can seat 12-14 people)
Each hut has plenty of beds with 3-6 rooms in each hut. The first four huts have at least two sets of showers and toilets. The last hut only has toilets and no showers. Some huts have sinks to wash your dishes, some have lights in the bathrooms, the first and second last huts have places to charge your phones / devices. Only one hut had a couple hooks to hang things on. All huts have outdoor & indoor or undercover fireplaces with firewood. There are trash cans at each hut, no recycling.
R661 per person for all 4 nights, including conservation fees.
5 days, four nights. There use to be an 8 day option, but at the time of writing this blog there were only 5 days open.
68.5km. If you start at Platbos Hut on Day 1 instead of Goudveld gate then you will add another 7-8km to your first day.
The area is prone to healthy rainfall. We only had rain on the first day, we got completely drenched (except the woman in our group wearing a First Ascent backpack poncho - not a brand plug, I have since gone out and got my own because being dry is wonderful!). You spend half your days in the forest and half in the fynbos, so a good mix of being able to cool down and warm up.
There is plenty of water along the way, just make sure you fill up when you can as you do do long stretches up the mountains where you won’t have any until you return to the forest.
Medium. This hike was challenging, but we always made it to the huts before 3pm and we had long breaks and enjoyed swimming in the forest.
Day One: 8.5km | 230m Goudveld Gate to Millwood Hut
We were advised by Grace from SANParks to start at the Goudveld Gate where we got our group map and started the trail. This day was all on Jeep Track, but as it was bucketing down we didn’t mind as we were soaking wet and were beelining it for the hut. Despite the Jeep Track you are walking through indigenous forest and we could see across the valleys and mountains as we neared the top and the weather cleared. We arrived at the hut for lunch and immediately lit a fire in the indoor fireplace to warm up and dry our clothes. This hut has warm showers which was a wonderful surprise.
On the menu:
Breakfast: We had a vegan fry up at the cottage we stayed in. Tomatoes, mushrooms, baby spinach and toast.
Lunch: A hodgepodge of shared meals and snacks.
Dinner: My new favourite mixed veg recipe! Brown rice noodle sticks (Soyjoy off Kloof St, in Cape Town), coconut milk (tetra pack from Food Lovers), Yellow Curry Paste, Mama Alles Mixed Veg Pack, leftover mushrooms and spinach from breakfast.
Day Two: 14km | 461m | Millwood Hut to Rondebossie Hut
The SANParks rangers drove up to the hut to warn us about the previous days rains and advise us to take the alternative route. This route is marked by two yellow painted feet, so we followed the advice and had another day of Jeep Tracks. Again, while it wasn’t great to be on the Jeep Track, we were still in pristine nature, had some beautiful swims and really enjoyed the fynbos and the flowers. We spotted a Rhombic Night Adder towards the end of the Jeep Track which was very exciting. We arrived at the hut in time for lunch and another afternoon of reading our books in the warmth of the indoor fireplace. At this hut you can walk down to the river (the beginning of the next days route) and follow the river up to a little swim spot where you can actually swim a few strokes. Even though it was cold in the evening we plucked up the courage and enjoyed our swim and chats by the water.
On the menu:
Day Three: 15.7km | 988m Rondebossie Hut to Diepwalle Hut
We gained some great elevation on this day. It was a long and steady uphill, starting in the forest and then opening out into the fynbos covered slopes. We followed a series of ridge-lines until we submitted. We were able to see all the way to the Knysna Heads which was glorious. Make sure you are paying attention to the route on this day, there are plenty of opportunities to take a wrong turn, especially at the beginning as you come out of the forest. After the summit we headed back down into the forest, cooling off and filling our water bottles. The rest of the day was spent in the forest before we ascended to Diepwalle Hut. There is a Tea House here where you can order from a relatively basic menu. I had hot chips (the second last portion, so make sure you call to order ahead - Grace has the number - or order as soon as you arrive). We had a lovely afternoon, did some yoga, read and enjoyed our Easter Egg as it was Easter!
On the menu:
Day Four: 18.7km | 647m | Diepwalle Hut to Fisantehoek Hut
Most of Day 4 is spent in the forest, take the time to stop and admire the mushrooms, flowers and ferns. As this day was the longest, it was the first time we stopped and had lunch in the forest. We descended to a small river which was a great lunch spot. We could swim, and there were a few spots where the sun penetrated the canopy and reached down to the forest floor to warm us up. We reached the cabin in the afternoon, and had a nap. There are no showers at this cabin, one bath with no plug. We enjoyed the views, the sunset, the moonrise and the thought of the burgers we would eat the following day.
On the menu:
Day Five: 11.6km | 352m | Fisantehoek Hut to Harkerville Hut
The last day is also spent almost entirely in the forest. Always hard to pace yourself on the last day as you know you have a long drive ahead of you but you also want to enjoy every moment on the trail. We got into a good rhythm and hiked in silence a lot of the way, soaking up as much forest energy as we could. After crossing the N2, a slightly rude awakening of the modern world, we still had about 5/6km left in the forest, we had a short snack break and then continued on to Harkerville. There are showers at the end for you to freshen up before you head off.
On the menu:
Breakfast: Harissa Hummus, cherry tomatoes and cucumber on wraps.
Lunch: Burgers in Knysna.
What a fantastic hike! I can highly recommend it to everyone, while challenging it was beautiful and rewarding. You can go in a large group or a small group as there is plenty of space, but also enough rooms to have your own space. We were in a group of 5, with a group of 10 hiking alongside us! Shout out to the other crew who were wonderful. As ever, don’t hesitate to reach out via Instagram / email if you have any questions about the hike.