Let’s be honest – we’re all following a handful of outdoor influencers on social media. They’re fit, toned, and beautiful, sporting the latest gear in trendy neutral tones; walking wistfully into waterfalls while someone holding the camera is presumably getting very damp. They’re living their best life, conquering mountain ranges on a Tuesday and sitting in streams while we’re sitting in traffic. And we’ve all had the same thought: Do these people not have jobs? How are they doing this? Don’t they have rent to pay?
We hear you. The way adventuring is portrayed online just isn’t realistic for many of us to achieve. We’d love to spend our days on the trails, but we’re also a fan of being able to buy groceries and have health insurance and try as we might; we can’t all be adventure influencers on the ‘gram!
Don’t sweat it, though. Not every adventure has to be an aesthetically pleasing 6-week van sabbatical across the entire coastline. We know you’re busy but still crave a taste of the outdoors, and we’ve got a solution: day hikes!
They’re manageable in a weekend, don’t require tons of gear or planning, won’t break the bank – and you don’t have to learn how to make viral Instagram Reels to make them a sustainable hobby. Day hikes take you out to the most beautiful parts of your area, and they’re often graded to be manageable for most fitness levels. The Camp Master team has scoured (and walked and eaten granola bars in) the country to find our favourite day hikes in each province. Now strap on those boots, and let’s go on an adventure!
Eastern Cape – Blue Duiker and Otter Trail Loop
Garden Route National Park
Nestled along the lush coastline of the Garden Route National Park, this trail is popular for walking, running and cycling, but can still offer some solitude during the quieter times of the day. The distance is intermediate, making it suitable for the whole family. Still, the paths may become slightly more challenging to navigate in the rainy season, so bear that in mind if you’re bringing along a hiker with dodgy ankles. The waterfall section is exceptionally breathtaking, so don’t forget to take some snacks to stop for lunch. Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed on this trail due to local wildlife, so the furry friends will need to stay at home.
Free State – Wodehouse Peak Trail
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Length: 9.0 km
This route is moderately challenging due to its elevation (653m), but an intermediate hiker should be able to finish off this locally beloved hike in approximately four hours. The route is busy, so be prepared to bump into loads of other hikers if you visit the area during tourist season. The most notable aspect of the trail is the view from the top, a breathtaking vista of the Drakensberg mountains. Don’t forget to take a camera to capture the remarkable rock formations that Golden Gate is famous for. Your friends might not believe you if you describe it to them!
Gauteng – Faerie Glen Nature Reserve Loop
Faerie Glen Nature Reserve
Don’t let the fact that this little reserve is in the middle of bustling Pretoria fool you: just a 3-minute drive from the business district, you can encounter zebra, buck and exotic birds and get lost in forests that make the urban space feel worlds away. This trail is dog-friendly if your animal is on a leash, so a great place to take your four-legged bestie if you’d like to bond in the bush.
It’s very popular, so we recommend going early in the morning if you want to run or hike fast. The route has one semi-challenging climb near the end, so it isn’t recommended for those who have an issue with elevation. Still, the city views of Pretoria’s purple Jacarandas from the top make the slight scramble worthwhile. For a slightly more involved Faerie Glen experience, join their monthly invasive plant hacks to keep the reserve pristine and indigenous.
KwaZulu-Natal – Nandi Falls Loop
Monks Cowl Nature Reserve
The Monks Cowl nature reserve is traditionally regarded as the starting point for many of the more significant Drakensberg summits, like Champagne Castle. However, the shorter day routes in the park make for magnificent “high-berg” experiences for those who might not be ready to go full mountaineer and scale the intimidating Berg peaks. Nandi Falls is a laid-back route that takes the hiker past multiple swimming spots and easy upwards gradients, ending in a misty, rainbow-lit waterfall that’s safe to drink from. The hike is physically moderate but incredibly magical if you’re a first-time berg hiker and appropriate for kids, too.
Limpopo – Tufa, Guinea Fowl, and Leopard Trail
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
A largely forested loop route that provides a moderate challenge due to its 350m elevation, this trail provides ample opportunities for swimming and chilling, so you’ll want to take it easy to soak up the scenery. This route boasts incredible fauna and flora, as well as three sheltered rondawels where you can stop to have lunch. It’s also a quieter reserve and if you want to experience some natural solitude, this is a good bet. The trail is even and well-marked, a great adventure if you’re just starting out with hiking and want to get the hang of following paths.
Mpumalanga – Forest Falls
Winding gently along the banks of the Mac Mac river, this easy day trail is the perfect beginners’ walk for those dipping their toes into the world of hiking for the first time. This route steers walkers through a serene pine forest and the area is generally tranquil. It’s perfect if you’re looking for solitude and reflection. Take along a swimming costume because the area can be warm and there are opportunities to swim. Don’t be discouraged by the initial climb at the start of the route – that soon evens out and the rest of the way is very moderately graded. Make sure you keep your map on you, though – the trails can get slightly confusing after the waterfall section but are easy to navigate when you have your directions in front of you.
Northern Cape – Oorlogskloof
This is a more challenging, untamed adventure for the more advanced day hiker. The area consists of a series of gorges, rivers, caves and plateaus that present some genuine hiking challenges that take creativity to figure out. This day route takes quite a sharp elevation over an impressive overhanging escarpment and necessitates some technical expertise and a little more preparation than a day amble; make sure you research about the right shoes and gear to tackle the kloof. Ensure you stay hydrated, too! The Northern Cape is notorious for scorching afternoons and dehydration midway through a long day hike, is not pleasant.
North West – Vergenoeg Hiking Trail
Vergenoeg Nature Reserve
This route starts off with a challengingly steep elevation to get you straight up onto the top of the Magaliesberg, but the initial push feels more than worth it the moment you get a glimpse of the view. From the highest point in this day hike, you can see from horizon to horizon on a clear day, and it offers you a whole different perspective on the area. Another exciting aspect of this hike is that it takes you directly past a “vulture restaurant,” which is an area where local farmers leave carrion to attract a colony of majestic cape vultures, who circle the area constantly throughout this trail. It’s a little ominous in a very cool way. This spot is a little tough to start but offers a whole new perspective on the Hartebeespoort area when you summit the mountain.
Western Cape – Cecilia Waterfall via Cecilia Forest
Table Mountain National Park
A different approach to Cape Town’s traditional set of Table Mountain day hikes, the focus of this route isn’t on the giant, impressive mountain ranges but rather on smaller details in beautiful indigenous fauna and flora and shady, winding paths. This hike can get very busy, but there are multiple routes to get to the falls, therefore it’s possible to avoid crowds if you plan your routes strategically. The waterfall is beautiful and a botanist’s paradise if you are interested in indigenous plant life. Try to go early in the morning to avoid the midday rush.
How do I get ready for a day hike?
Now you know where the prime hiking spots are in your province, you’re ready to set aside a day of your weekend and conquer the outdoors! One of the most critical rules of being an outdoor adventurer (second only to “don’t try pat snakes,”) is to “be prepared.” At Camp Master, our gear is crafted to be durable, high-quality and affordable for casual hikers, ensuring you don’t have to fork over your entire disposable income to enjoy the bush in comfort. Check out these hikers’ essentials you can bring along on the next big walk:
- Braided Rope
- Ultra-light single hammock
- 25 Piece Adventure First Aid Kit
- Ultralight Backpack
- Aluminium Bottle
- Hydro Bottle
- Large Picnic Blanket
- Seven piece survival kit
- D-Ring set 5 Piece
Happy hiking, Camp Master family! Don’t forget to tag us in your adventure snaps on @campmastersa!