Beauty: 4.5 (of 5)
Difficulty (fitness): 8/10
Technical rating of trail: Contains short sections of steep inclines and declines and rocky coastline which needs to be carefully navigated.
Duration: 2 days
The Harkeville Hiking Trail is a magnificent 2 day trail which goes through indigenous forest and along some incredible coast. It is situated near Plett and Knysna and its 28km length includes some rugged coastline that rivals even the Otter Trail. The trail begins at the end of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail and so the Harkeville can easily be added as an extra few days onto that trail which is an absolute must.
*NOTICE* This review was written based on hiking the trail in 2014. After the more recent fire, the coastal section of the hike has been rerouted and the Knysna Lakes office number doesn’t seem to work. It would be best to check all these details with SANParks directly: +27124289111
Day 1: Harkeville Hut to Sinclair Hut (+-15kms)
The Harkeville Trail officially begins at the Harkeville Hut – which is the final hut on the epic Outeniqua 7 day hiking trail. Harkeville is so beautiful that we combined it onto the end of the Outeniqua Trail and instead missed the first day of Outeniqua – creating a 6 day Outeniqua Trail plus the 2 day Harkeville. While it can be tiring towards the end, we wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way, such was the beauty of these final 2 days.
The trail leaves Harkeville Hut and takes you straight through indigenous forest (much like the previous few days on Outeniqua). You are immediately transported into a world of forest sounds, moss covered trees, cicada beetles and plenty of diverse flora. The trail continues for approximately 10kms through this blissful environment until eventually reaching a cliff top overlooking an incredible piece of ocean and coast.
The first glimpse of this is truly a sight for sore eyes and from here we descended onto the rugged coastline we just viewed from above. The sight and smell of the ocean mixed with pebble shorelines make for an incredible experience as we began climbing and clamouring amongst the rocky shoreline. However, the truly adventurous part is yet to come as this stretch includes a harrowing little section where one has to climb around a rock face jutting out above the swirling ocean below – but thankfully there is a metal chain to assist and even though it is only a few metres, the adrenaline was certainly pumping!
Once this exciting yet terrifying part has been conquered, the trail continues along the ocean for +-4km. It takes much longer to do these few kilometres than expected, but we did not mind as we took our time appreciating the incredible beauty and cooling off in as many rock pools as we could.
Eventually the trail begins to ascend back to the cliff top, and from here it is only about 1km of hiking, through some picturesque fynbos, before we arrived at Sinclair Hut.
Day 2: Sinclair Hut to Harkeville Hut (+-13kms)
The trail begins on the opposite side of where we approached Sinclair Hut from the previous day and soon begins to descend. After the first corner you already have a view of the sea while still being high amongst the majestic mountains.
Once descended, we had to wade through a crystal-clear pool forming part of the Grooteiland river mouth before once again finding ourselves on the pebble shorelines of this incredible coast.
For the next couple of kilometres, we hiked along this coast with every corner bringing another magical view of the ocean waves crashing – much like the Otter. There are also a few wooden stairs, chain ladders and more chains! But do not be put off – these are all relatively easy – especially in comparison to the day before, and adds to the adventure!
The sights of each corner and each little climb is truly worth every effort and you would not wish you were anywhere else. Overall it is quite a tough stretch on the coastline but none of us wanted this to end and we continued climbing over rocks and ladders and literally feeling the crash of the waves before us.
Eventually you come across a signpost where the path begins to leave the coast. After a tough climb, we emerged at an open grass area at the top of the cliff where you can view the incredible ocean below that you have just explored. Another perfect spot for a break!
The path from here goes back to the indigenous forest which brought us to this magical place and the final +-8kms backtracks on the forest path until we once again reached the Harkeville Hut.
The Harkeville is an incredible trail, albeit only 2 days. This is why it is highly recommended to add this exquisite trail onto the end of the Outeniqua trail, dependent on time constraints. These extra few days will no doubt test the muscles, but all will be thoroughly worth it! It rivals the most beautiful hikes this country has to offer and should definitely be a feature on any hiker’s bucket list.
Booking & Info
Trail bookings are made through SANParks: firstname.lastname@example.org / +27124289111