For a city as gritty as Johannesburg, you might be surprised to find out just how many fab hiking spots there are in and around it. My friend, American expat Becci Monge has kindly written a guest post with her top local hiking picks.
Becci got hooked on hiking last year when she decided (and by the way successfully succeeded – enormous kudos to you Becci and the rest of the Jo’burg based She-Trek team) to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. In preparation for Kili, the She-Trekkers explored (and continue to explore) the best hiking spots on offer in our local area.
Over to Becci:
I’ll be pressing send on this write-up and I’ll be just where I want to be…. hiking again. I don’t care what the experts, my Fitbit, or my nutritionist say about hiking (and it’s all good!) ….. I just want to be out with my trekki friends putting one foot in front of the other and breathing in the often hot and sometimes cool South African Air. I know what my mind, my body, and my soul says about hiking in this area – it is breath-taking and tends to make living here great.
Most of the hikes are at around 1700-1800 metres above sea level and completely majestic. Because of the altitude, hiking in and around Johannesburg is excellent training for major hikes. Unlike people who train for massive hikes at sea level, we had a real advantage preparing to climb Kilimanjaro as we were already partly acclimatised to a higher altitude.
Many people ask, “Is it safe to be out hiking here?” I can answer affirmatively that it is, although here in South Africa it is always suggested to hike in groups of at least 3, carry very little cash, hide your key on your person and not in your bag, and never wear valuables. I would recommend at least a week to know what forms you have to fill in and also consider EFT transfers. You must ensure that you have made your reservations well in advance. Most hikes are private and cost approximately R50.
If you are just starting out or hiking as a family, a nice hike to start with is the Zebra Trail at Hennops Hiking Trails. It is about 20 minutes away from the Fourways area and is a great 5.5km hike. One of the peculiarities that make this hike so much fun is the Hennops River pulley system that helps you navigate across the water.
Below I’ve listed some of the best hikes in our local area. I wish I had been given this list when I came to South Africa – it is a gift. There is not a bad hike on this list…. just remember to follow your map and keep your eyes out for trail markers. These treks are marked South African style… minimally. Remember to bring your sense of humour and some patience for yourself when you are hiking because at some point in time with these markers- you’re gonna miss one!! (Ask any one of us from our Hiking Group!)
- –Mountain Sanctuary
- –Heia Safari
- –Sugar Bush
- –Frogs Trail
- –Hennops Hiking Trail
- –Summit Route
- –The Westcliff Steps
Further from home there are quite a few places that are phenomenal to hike in South Africa, such as The Drakensberg, Golden Gate National Park and Otter Trail.
I belong to a group called the World Wide Hikers Group that meets for hikes every Tuesday. We usually meet at 8:30am and head to one of the above spots to trek for the morning, which often runs into the afternoon. If anyone is interested in joining us, please contact our Hiking Facebook Group.
Our hiking group is open to anyone (men or women) who are adequately fit to hike. A good gauge is to ask yourself, “Can I hike 6kms in 1 hour and still be ready to do the same in the next 1 hour time period?” If the answer is yes, you are ready to hike with us.
We’ve had several people in their 70s join us– now that is motivation to stay fit. Some people hike with us every single week and others once every two months– no matter, this is why we created the group- there’s always someone there for a hike, and it has never been the same group twice in the last year. Lots of people bring their visitors too, and that makes it fun because we get to hear about other people’s hikes in Scotland, Thailand, Chile…. its really neat, and that is why we call ourselves “Around The World Hikers”.
We are always hiking a different spot. Last week our hike was in Pretoria and this week it is near the back of the Cradle of Humankind called “Shelter Rock”. This hike is my favourite because it is practically all up hill for the first 7kms and then you get this panoramic view of being in the middle of South Africa and it literally takes your breath away.
When people are inquisitive about hikes and hiking, I only have one question for them…. “What are they waiting for?” So….. “What are YOU waiting for?” Try it while you’re here in SA, you will be all the better for it.
Thank you so much Becci for sharing your passion and local knowledge with us. I’m sure it will inspire a few of us to dig out some sensible footwear and get some fresh air, some exercise and to visit some of the wonderful beauty spots on our collective doorstep. I’m also sure your list will be helpful and encouraging for any aspiring Kilimanjaro climbers who may be reading this, what a great advantage to have the benefit of acclimatisation at a higher altitude.
So, as Becci says, what – are – you – waiting – for? Go on, take a hike.
p.s. Becci is an incredibly happy, positive and friendly person who I’m confident would be extremely welcoming to new hiking companions, so please don’t be shy and DO drop her a line if you are interested.
*All photo credits in this post go to Becci Monge.