Tsitsikamma Trail advice needed

After getting some good advice from Ghaznavid on the Giants Cup last week, I have decided that maybe that should not be our maiden hike. Seeing that my two older kids are really disappointed that we are not going on the hike, I am trying to get a replacement. I see that the Tsitsikamma has a number of options, and was wondering if anyone could share some ideas on which of the 2 or 3 day hikes would be worth looking at. As mentioned, this would be our first hike as a family. We are all active people, but thought the Giants cup might be a bit too intense for a start.

Where are you based and are you a member of any hiking clubs? Consider talking to your local MCSA Section. Most sections have regular hikes that are lead by experienced leaders. Some sections have meets aimed at families - I know Worcester Section has an active plan to get more kids into hiking.

Most sections require you to join on 2 or 3 meets before you qualify to join the club, so you can try it out and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to join.

The thing with hiking is that there are a lot of common mistakes everyone makes when they start. These vary from not eating/drinking enough, eating the wrong foods, knowing which rivers to full up from, when to carry lots of water vs not needing a lot, managing pack weight, picking a camping spot, choosing the right equipment etc. You can read a lot of good advice online, but there’s no substitute for experience.

One of my favourite quotes: good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgement.

Not sure of how they structure it but the sections Blouwkranz to Keurbos and most especially Keurbos to Heuningbos are best.

Just be aware many people use these trails and thus the quality of your experience can also be determined by the quality of people you may end up sharing a hut with. After doing a few some years back I’ve pretty much resigned ‘Hut Hiking’ to the compost heap. I am quite picky though.

Point being, if you find yourself sharing with unsavoury characters make sure you don’t ‘rush towards the hut’, linger on the trail.

There’re a series of pools you’ll encounter towards the last third or so of the Keurbos to Heuningbos section that are spectacular, worthy of a full hang-out session.

Hi Div. We did a hike with a group of kids aged 6 to 12 , we went to pillar cave. This area in my opinion is a particularly beautiful part of the little berg. It is a very doable hike for kids, and there is water all along the trail, and close to the cave. We spent two nights in the cave, so the second day we spent exploring. We walked a pass close to that area, and went up to lesotho with the two youngest! 6 year olds, they each received an official certificate from the garden castle office when we got back to the start of the hike.
I can really recommend this, you just have to book the cave, and if you book its full people capacity you can be sure not to have to share it with another hiking group. Otherwise, if you book it out of holiday time or long weekend, there won’t be much demand.
If you live in kzn it makes sense to explore the drakensberg.

To add, this hike was the perfect balance for the kids between challenging themselves and loving it. For the adults, no need to carry a tent, or loads of water, so packs are fine. My boy is now 22 and is an avid hiker, he was a 6 year old who made it to lesotho. Apparently the youngest to ever do it.

Hi Div
I have done parts of the Tsitsikamma. Most recently Keurbos to Heuningbos via Rushes Pass which was stunning. I haven’t done the Giants Cup, but I’ll hopefully do it this year. From what I’ve read the Giants Cup follows the contours of the mountains, so there’s not as much climbing. The Tsitsikamma will have much more elevation gain and loss. Our long day hiking between the huts took us 8 hours and up and down 3 mountains and through 3 river crossings.

I will add that they have refurbished the huts and added a new cabin at each overnight hut. The new cabins have more glass and amazing views. MTO have also added three small timber A frame 2 sleeper huts. I loved them - I can imagine kids would love them too! Like little wooden tents. They have also updated the Lapa areas with pots, pans, kettles and 2 plate gas stoves, with LPG gas. There are wood burning donkeys for hot showers at every hut too. And plenty of wood. This is next level hiking accommodation!

These huts can sleep 30 now which is the same as Giants Cup.

Pillar Cave is a great spot, plenty of people take their kids there - I’ve even seen 2 year olds at the cave before. My first overnight hike was Rhino Peak via Mashai Pass, it’s probably the most hiked route to the top in the Southern Drakensberg. Being only 5km each way to Pillar Cave, its also not very threatening - if something goes wrong, you can be back at your car within an hour.

To clarify my point above - there are tons of Drakensberg hikes one can take children on, assuming sufficient fitness, such as Marble Baths at Injisuthi, Slab Cave at Bushman’s Nek etc - but just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand, and consider going with a group put together by an experienced leader.

I think its great that you are doing a hike like this as a family, I wish more people would do what Elizabeth did in exposing their kids to the outdoors from a young age.

It most certainly doesn’t feel like that when you’re doing it, but arguably yes. It is 60km with 2km elevation gain over 5 days, so you only average 400m gain per day. But its not equal each day, so day 2 only includes a small hill with about 250m gain, and day 5 includes over 500m gain in the space of 4km when you go from the Mzimude River to the top of the ridge above Langalibalele Cave. When you do the Giants Cup in a day, that last hill is a real killer! Aside from day 1, each day only has one uphill, so the vertical is always concentrated into a small part of the day. Days 2 and 4 you get all the uphill right at the start, so its out the way early - but the main uphills on days 1 and 5 are past halfway for the day. Day 3 includes the “bonus” windmill hill near the end, which is trivial, but does surprise people at the end of the day - I got a lot of complaints when I took a large team to do the route over 5 days and didn’t mention that it was coming!

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I concur - Bloukrans to Heuningbos is the best section. If time is not limited, start from the forest station at the top of Bloukrans Pass, do the 5km+ access route to Bloukrans hut and stay overnight. It has the best views and is worth it. Bloukrans to Keurbos and Keurbos to Heuningbos are two full days, but the escape route from Heuningbos to the parking at Boskor is an easy, mostly-flat(ish) 5km if you need to exit on the third day. That said, Heuningbos is the second-best hut location and also worth spending a night.

If you want a longer first day, the group can be dropped at where the second day’s trail (Kalander to Bloukrans) crosses the R102 near Covie - giving you a ± 10km walk through more forest and via the Staircase Falls to Bloukrans Hut.