Independent Hiking


My girlfriend and I are coming from the US this fall. We are used to showing up at a trailhead with a tent and a backpack full of food and hiking for several days. Many of the trails we are finding in South Africa look amazing, but also seem to require slackpacking and guides and porters and staying in huts and things like that. Are there places where we are able to safely just go out with a tent and do a circuit hike on our own for four or five nights?

So far, we have found the Cederberg Wilderness. Are we even allowed to go out hiking as just two people? Any and all advice is really appreciated!

Hey @MJC66, glad you found the forum. The Cederberg is ideal for what you want to do! The general minimum group size for hikers in the Cederberg (and most other areas) is 3, but you are able to sign a waiver form, when applying for your permit, stating that you are aware of the potential risk of hiking with less than 3 in a group and that you take full responsibility. Please note that making fire is not allowed in any of our wilderness areas.

That being said, our hutted trails are not to be missed :wink::+1:

Hi, in the Mpumalanga area we have routes that do not require guides etc they are however hutted. Options Fanie Botha, Komatiland (me and my wife did the Kapschehoop trail alone) you can also maybe check on the Kruger National Park but this require guides, as you would be walking in the park with the Big 5 and tents are also needed. You can also maybe look at the Drakensberg area. Hope this help.

Definitely check out hiking in the Drakensberg if of the beaten track is what you are looking for.

Definitely agreed on the Drakensberg, but please note that this is a real wilderness area with zero facilities. Potentially dangerous in bad weather (heavy rain or snowfall) but very rewarding. Having a good understanding of the terrain, routes (a lot of it contains no footpaths - I did mention that it is a wilderness area :grin:) and shelters (mainly caves) will assist in a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. Go loom on vertical endevour, it is a real gold mine of information on all things Drakensberg related.

Hi US Couple
The short answer is NO!
It is definitely not safe or wise to go hiking in a wilderness area as a couple.
I live and hike in the Eastern Cape and often hike in the Drakensberg as well.
Rather find the different hiking clubs and join up with them for some hikes

Hey guys! I can second the Cederberg - and one of the few wilderness areas where I’d say you will be safe as a couple. I have solo-hiked in the Drakensberg (and so do many others), but unfortunately there safety-in-numbers is advisable. I will really recommend looking into the Amatola and Outeniqua trails as well - hutted but remote and unlikely to have many other hikers at any given point in time.
Here’s the low-down on the Cederberg:

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The Swellendam 5day trail is also a great option (Marloth Nature reserve). You can enjoy a bit of sight seeing from Cape Town via the route 62 and the hike itself is very picturesque. It’s not as wild as some of the above mentioned, but very beautiful and the surrounding towns are worth the visit. I think there might be a minimum booking of 3 people, but maybe you could get around that. There are huts, but very basic and you can still just pitch your tent if you prefer.

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Thanks for all the responses!

We are looking at the Cederberg for a few days because it looks amazing. To check with, as people have talked about safety - we are experienced with natural hazards - rain/wind/snakes/cliffs, etc. How is the personal safety in terms of crime in the Cederberg?

Also, would you recommend basing out of Algeria campsite first? How has the fire damage been?

The Amatola looks great too, but it seems like there was a pretty bad incident a few years ago on it. Anyone know how it is today?

Thanks again, your responses and this whole website have been really helpful.

To my knowledge there’s been no incidences of serious crime relating to hikers in the Cederberg.
The main hiking areas around Algeria is still closed and I would recommend rather exploring the northern sections of the Cederberg - from Kliphuis campsite around Rocklands to Heuningvlei, Krakadouw Peak and Boontjieskloof. Amazing hiking in that part of the world!

The Amatola incident was an isolated one - nothing happened for years before that or since then (Dec 2015). It is however advisable to go in a bigger group, and the wonderful people at Away with the Fairies backpackers can help facilitate joining other groups.

Hi MJC66

The Cederberg area is sparsely populated and thus the likelihood of seeing any other persons besides fellow hikers is minimal, and even that is relatively rare. Crime has therefore not been an issue. Currently the large portion encompassing the Wolfberg arch and Cracks and Tafelberg is closed. The northern and south western areas are still open, however.

For topographical maps of the area (including water sources, campsites, routes and landmarks), follow this link to Slingsby Maps for digital copies (DAH04 Digital Hike the Cederberg #4 - 2021 – Slingsby Maps). You can also buy hard copies at that sight or at Algeria, numerous other tourist outlets, outdoor shops, etc in the Western Cape, but given you aren’t familiar with the area it may be good to plan your route some time in advance. I can vouch that they really are worth it, as there are no route markers (other than cairns) of any kind on trail.

This blog has brief descriptions and some photo’s of many of the places named in these maps (Cederberg Names: Place Names in the Cederberg) for further reference.

Just in terms of the weather, it can snow in the Cederberg and reach sub-zero temperatures. Coming from the USA I’m sure you’ve dealt with this before, but don’t leave your warmer gear at home because you’re coming to sunny South Africa. These cold fronts can arrive and leave quickly, so forecasts longer than a week in advance aren’t always trustworthy.I’ve found Cedarberg Weather Forecast (2026m) to be resonably accurate for our local ranges.

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I can vouch for the trails in the Kruger National Park, AMAZING!!! The backpack trails especially.
My favorite is the Mphongolo Backpack Trail, 150000ha wilderness area. Max 8 people and 2 Trail Rangers. :cowboy_hat_face::south_africa:

Hi MJC66

The Cederberg is definitely amazing and safe, provided you are mountain wise and very experienced! In which case they even allow you in as 2 man team. If all fails check out it’s an unusual trail shaped like a triskelion. Totally wild and remote yet only 2 1/2 h from Cape Town - you will not see any people while hiking camping is the recommended form of accommodation while staying at the centre base camp: Simonskloof. Transport form to and from the trail heads might be a tricky problem to solve.