Short version Fish River Canyon?

Dear all,

Me and a group of 10 friends in total decided to go to Namibia this September and one of the places that really drew us is the Fish River Canyon. One issue though is we only booked for 2 weeks and of course Sossusvlei, Skeleton Coast and Etosha can’t be missed either.

Nevertheless, we would love to spend 1 or 2 days hiking through the canyon, and are now looking for possibilities to do this. We heard one option is to take the first Emergency exit before Palm Springs. Does anyone have experience with this route, or do you have other options to take a good shortcut?

I know this is a stupid question. I now realise we should’ve booked a longer stay and made time for the full hike, but still we want to make the most out of the time we have.

Thanks in advance.

Kind regards,

Hi Arnout

I do not have experience using the emergency exits, but I have done the Fish River hike along the traditional route. I would definitely recommend finding out what the state of the emergency exit is before you attempt it, as I have heard that the emergency exits can be fairly technical terrain.

Hi Arnout,

The first emergency exit before Palm springs is one of two exits out of the canyon. You also need to factor in how long you will have to wait for somebody to come and pick you up here. Alternatively, simply walk into the canyon for a day, sleep over and then walk back the way you came in. Not sure if this is allowed, you would need to check.


If you are all tough and experienced hikers, able to put 3 full days aside for the hike, it can be done (Route via emergency exit not recommended, challenging terrain indeed; Day hikes into the canyon not allowed).
Suggested itinerary:
Day 1 - 16 km, sleep Sulphur springs
Day 2 - 26 km, sleep crossing before Three Sisters
Day 3 - 26 km to Ai-Ais (total distance these days incl. short cuts 68 km)
Also, September very late in the season with low water levels likely - conditions might be more suitable for a faster hike.

Hope it works out for you!

Hi Ruth,

Thanks for the suggestion. Will check it out. I was trying to find the route on the satellite images of google maps, and looking at those already gave me the feeling it would be tough.

Hi Riaang,

I think if we do spend a night inside the canyon, we will try to make it a nice round trip. Also, the people at Hobas advised against this since the entry rout would be too steep for the ascent.

Thanks nevertheless. And yeah, good to factor in either the wait for a ride, or the time needed to walk back to the cars (which would be about 2 hours according to google)

Hi AMrius,

That sounds good. I will check whether everyone would be up for that.

Hi Arnout,

The people at Hobas are talking nonsense. The drop down to the canyon floor is relatively easy, up or down. Definitely easier that a lot of the Drakensberg passes I’ve done. On our way down to the canyon floor we met an elderly, overweight gentleman going back up the pass as he realised he wasn’t fit enough to do the route. If he can do it, most hikers would be able to do it easily

As a general rule, going up is mostly easier than going down a pass. (technically speaking, I’m not referring to effort level required, which is the opposite). In any case, I’ve heard that the first emergency exit is not an easy escape route, but having never done it can’t vouch for the degree of difficulty. I think you should keep both options on the table.


Hi Riaang,

Thanks for the additional comment. Glad to hear some more optimism. I agree as well that, generally, up is easier than down.

Having two options does sound best. We can monitor our progress during the first half of the planned route and just turn around if we aren’t confident we’ll make it.

Thanks, we will!!

Hi all. Just another idea. When we did the Fish in 2016 there was a group doing a 2/3 day trip around the start of the canyon. I almost think they walked upstream and did a little loop. I also know of a guided hike thats a bit easier, also walking upstream.

Long story short, the rule-abiders will tell you otherwise, but its definitely possible to piece together some sort of shorter version. Although the people at the office have strict rules for good reason, its a bit of a wild west on the trail itself. I would say its a reasonable plan to do a 2 day trip, sleeping close to the Vespa for a night and walking back up the next day. This will be breathtaking in itself as the upper reaches of the canyon are the most impressive (at least to me).

I havent seen the Slingsby map, but maybe other areas upstream are also indicated on it. Please take my advice with a pinch of salt, and dont go too rambo if you arent comfortable navigating and being self-sufficient in the wilderness. That area doesnt have an MCSA rescue team just a phonecall away (as is the case in many parts of SA)

Hi Gerrienel,

Thanks for putting the rules in perspective, haha. I don’t think I’ll venture upstream in uncharted territory, but definitely good to know about the wide range of possibilities.

By the way, what do think about the need for a tent for a 2 day trip? I’ve seen some people suggesting you don’t one, but am interested in your view.

Tents are probably not a necessity, but it depends on the individual. You can argue that its only 1 night so you can sleep outside, or you can can argue its only 1 night so you may aswell carry heavier and be cleaner / more comfortable :joy:

I did the fish once, we slept outside and it was great. We were however lucky with the weather. A tent might be nice if its very windy (sandstorm). I would probably say take the tent with, check the weather the day before and then make the call. (theres a report for “fish river canyon” and for “hobas” which is the campsite close to the start). If its not windy, i would say rather leave then tent but take a groundsheet which makes life a lot cleaner (even a painters drop sheet would work).

I did the canyon in the middle of winter last year and we just took large (but light) groundsheets along. This worked very well for us and the night sky in the canyon is just amazing. But the weather report is a very good idea. If a strong cold front hits the Cape it might bring some light rain (and wind) to the southern parts of Namibia.

Hi. We did the slack pack version of the Visrivier in the Northern section of the canyon. They collect you at the Roadhouse. Biggest bargain ever @R2000pp for 4 days
One walks in the canyon and late afternoon your cold drinks and stuff awaits you. They pack the food that you bring in crates and keep stuff frozen. Basic sleeping huts, 2 people per hut. I very highly recommend. It is part of the Namibian Gondwana collection. Called the Klipspringer trail. Do it!

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I would suggest not planning shorter versions around the emergency exits, because these are not a walk in a park. When you’ve reached the top of the canyon on the emergency exits, you’ll still be in the middle of nowhere with a large distance to cover. It would be better to hike back to the start, because one could at least get a lift from there.