Difficulty (fitness): 6.5/10
Technical rating of trail: Contains short sections of steep inclines and declines, and long days.
Duration: 2-4 Days
Kaapschehoop Hiking Trail lies in the hidden village of Kaapschehoop on the way to Nelspruit in Mpumalanga. It is a quaint village, reminiscent of towns like Pilgrim’s Rest, and one could be forgiven for driving right passed it without realising. However, should you enter and visit, you will surely not regret it.
The Hiking Trail consists of 4 different huts, all with basic amenities including flush toilets, showers – some of which can be fuelled by a donkey boiler for a rare hot shower – and a lapa/braai area. One of the ‘huts’ is an old, deserted train and makes for a unique night on a trail.
Day 1: Kaapschehoop Hut to Florence Hill Hut (+-17kms):
Once we arrived in Kaapschehoop we found our way to the Kaapschehoop Hut and began the day’s hike. It begins by climbing a mountainous little path and ascends for some time.
We did this hike in winter and the rocks were ice cold with morning dew, so a pair of hiking gloves would have been ideal! However, once you make it to the top you are treated to a view of the entire De Kaap Valley. Here you can see the beauty of this relatively unknown area and it’s a great spot for the first pictures and snack break!
The trail continues along the escarpment before going more inland, while passing some interesting natural formations along the way. About halfway through the day, we entered some pine plantation as well as a stream which we decided to fill up from and then had lunch.
The rest of the day was spent hiking along the escarpment, with exquisite views of the valleys below. We passed through a few more patches of pine plantation before finally ascending to Florence Hill hut – positioned high with some beautiful views.
The day had become freezing as it happened to be the first day of a cold front, so the immediate fire after arriving was most inviting! And yet the most exquisite part of the day was still in front of us – the absolutely glorious spectre of the night sky. It literally seemed as if we were viewing the Milky Way from space itself and I have still never seen a night sky like that. What a day!
Day 2: Florence Hill Hut to Barrets Coaches (+-15kms):
The day begins by going up and down some pine plantation before rising into forestry areas. But be careful – the second time we did this hike we battled to find trail markers and ultimately became very lost… Apparently, management had just been harvesting some pine throughout the whole day’s trail, so the marking was woeful, and few and far between – so be on the lookout!
Suffice to say we had to pick a path and got completely lost – eventually finding a nearby backpackers and getting a lift back to the trail. However, when completing this trail prior, the path had taken us into the forest and to a picnic bench overlooking a fantastic viewpoint.
A couple of small but steep descents and ascents followed, after which we found ourselves on the side of a gorge with some more fantastic views. About halfway through the day we crossed a stream which was a welcome sight to refill our bottles. From here, it is a loooong ascent to Barrets Coaches.
It is quite a unique ‘hut’ since it is an old train, but it has hot showers and even electricity. People are able to drive directly to Barret’s Coaches and so we encountered other nature lovers who had not been hiking with us. However, there are ample rooms and braai facilities, etc.
Day 3: Barret’s Coaches to Wattles Hut (+-16kms):
One of the most remarkable aspects of this trail is the roaming wild horses that can be seen throughout the trail – an incredible and beautiful sight! We had come across a few of them on the days prior but began the day by seeing many as we made our way towards a ravine through some indigenous forest.
From here we crossed a couple of streams until we began rising, through some valleys and then emerged at the top of the cliff. The views from here are stunning as the day’s hike continues all along the escarpment for most of the day.
Eventually we came to the top of a beautiful waterfall that flowed all the way to the valley below. This is a perfect lunch/break spot and we sat here for quite some time taking it all in.
From the falls, the trail turns inland, through some pine and then into some wetlands next to a small but quaint little dam. We walked around the wetlands until we arrived at Wattles Hut.
It also has a donkey boiler for hot showers, a beautiful view of the valley below and a great fireroom area within the hut where we all decided to move our mattresses and slept amongst the warmth of the fire.
Day 4: Wattles Hut to Kaapschehoop Hut (+-14kms):
On the last day we left Wattles Hut from the opposite side and began rising on an old, tarred road where we got to see an early morning sunrise. From here one goes to the top of a cliff where the land becomes a 360° panorama consisting of grassy planes and various rock formations which made the next few kilometres seem utterly remote.
Eventually we found ourselves hiking along the escarpment, which once again brought magnificent views of the valleys below. Most of the day continued along this escarpment, through a few patches of pine before we began to see the Kaapschehoop town we had left from on day 1.
The trail bypasses the local cemetery which lies amongst the forest and pines and then crosses the highway, back to this quaint little town.
From here we slowly made our way back to Kaapschehoop hut where our cars were, but we did not leave before trying a well-deserved pancake at the “Pan en Koek” little eatery on the way out.
Kaapschehoop is a beautiful little trail which highlights some magnificent geology and contains exquisite panoramic views along the way. There are many species of birds and flora, and due to the 4 huts, a trail can be made anywhere from 1-4 days to suit your needs.
While not quite as beautiful as other trails this country has on offer, that is only because we are so spoiled and a visit to the area is worthwhile for the history, wild horses and spectacular viewpoints alone.
For bookings and information, contact SAFCOL:
Tel: 013 754 2724