The Boosmansbos Wilderness Area is located adjacent to the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve close to the Tradouw’s Pass and Barrydale in the Western Cape. It forms part of the Langeberg Mountains – one of the more mystical and underrated mountain ranges in the Western Cape.
Distance: 27km+ over 2 days
Difficulty (fitness): 7/10 (Difficult i.e. need to be fit/strong)
Technical rating of trail: Standard trail walking
Boosmansbos is unique, as it is a Wilderness Area (think Cederberg, Groot Winterhoek and the mighty Drakensberg). To borrow the parlance from the guide book by Mike Lundy, a wilderness is “…an undeveloped area, uninhabited by man. It should retain an intrinsically wild appearance and give visitors a feeling of isolation from the outside world”. There aren’t many trails in the Western Cape with this unique status. Of specific interest for the intrepid adventurer is that in a Wilderness Area you may sleep wherever you want, whether in a cave, in a bivvy bag under the stars or in a tent.
In August 2018 a group of 6 of us did the two-day overnight hike in Boosmansbos, overnighting at the Helderfontein Huts. There is also an option to do a 3-day hike, spending the second night at a recommended campsite.
The paths are very well graded, not too steep but certainly not level. The path on Day 1 winds its way in and around several very beautiful ridges and spurs, and the fynbos was already in bloom after the good rains that were had.
After a few hours of walking the path eventually works its way to what feels like the “top” – from here you can see Barrydale and the most unique cliffs, crags and rolling mountain terrain.
Another few kilometers later, the path reaches the huts – basic stone structures situated in a valley with a stream close by. The huts are basic, and you need to carry your own mattress etc. (#wilderness).
From the huts, it is possible to descend into a deep river gorge to a unique pocket of indigenous forest (also called Boosmansbos). From what we have heard this pocket of forest is one of the most pristine and well-preserved forests in the Western Cape, with all the well-known tree species in all their splendor (cypress, stinkwood, yellowwood, candlewood, alder, etc.). According to Mike Lundy it is possible to make it down into the forest in an hour, but an overgrowth of protea bushes and encroaching darkness made us turn around and solemnly promise to return for another full day of exploration in the future.
On day 2, most of the day you follow an old forestry jeep track, winding its way down the mountain, with the most beautiful mountain views imaginable. The sheer, folded crags are really something to behold. In the second half of day 2 the path crosses a river valley, where it is possible to have a swim in the cool mountain water. There are several tributaries to the main Duiwenhoks River, and these river gorges themselves warrant a whole weekend of adventuring.
We reached the end of the hike with the usual melancholy attached to a weekend in the mountains. And this time, more than ever, we vowed to come back to this magical place to explore not only the Boosmansbos forest that we couldn’t reach, but also all the shorter trails in the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve that could be explored as a day hike.
In summary, I firmly believe that this is one of the most unique hiking destinations in the Western Cape. Against contenders like the mighty Cederberg or the forests of the Tsitsikamma, this is a bold statement. But you pretty much have to see this place for yourself to believe it – rolling fynbos, deep pockets of forest, high peaks (the highest a respectable 1600m) and of course the deep lure of unfettered wilderness.
Contact and booking info
Reserve: Tel: +27 (0)28 722 2412
Accommodation and permit bookings:
Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190 / +27 (0)21 659 3500
 Weekend Trails in the Western Cape (7th edition). Tafelberg Publishers.