So, I must tell you. I discovered the joys of hiking during this lockdown. 2020 may have brought with it several lows, insecurities and hassles, but it gave me a few good gifts as well. The biggest one being the gift of the beautiful outdoors. One I never really had the time nor a real inclination for. One, if I care to admit, I never really appreciated quite as I do now after spending weeks on end cooped up indoors.
now that I have discovered the true joys of hiking in South Africa, or should I
say, hiking near Johannesburg to be OCD specific, I am ready to widen my
horizons and take up hiking and exploring even outside these local, regional or
country boundaries. It has truly aroused the gypsy-spirit in me.
So, if I were to recommend the exact three hiking trails in and around Johannesburg that completely blew my mind with their challenge and their beauty, it would be the three listed below. Though these three hiking trails offer several long and short hiking options, I took the longer trails that truly are some of the best half-day hikes near Johannesburg both with and without social distancing, for when COVID ends (and it will end eventually, right?!)
Psst.. two of these three trails is a pet-friendly hiking trail. So go on, invite your dog over for a fun half-day of hiking too.
Milorho Hiking Trail
Milorho hiking trail in Rustenburg tops my list of favourite hikes near Johannesburg and it tops the list by a long shot. The trail offers stunning views, incredible landscapes, challenging terrain and captivating locations for photo-ops. That’s especially important for Instagram-lovers like me, and if you’re not, which rock have you been living under, really? Go hiking in the Magaliesberg mountains and you’ll soon have your Instagram profile, I almost guarantee it!
Jokes apart though, the Milorho hiking trail is a veritable treasure when it comes to experiencing local flora and fauna at its finest, no matter the season. The trail is so incredibly beautiful even during the dry winters that I just cannot wait to try it out during the gloriously green summers.
The geology is unique too. Exciting rock formations that invite you to climb them, yawning gorges that you wish you had the heart to look down into (I didn’t, gosh some were scary), cascading waterfalls and refreshing rock pools hit you (stun you would be more appropriate here) with intermittent awe as you walk up and down and down and up in a series of semi-challenging manoeuvrers.
I wouldn’t call this a beginner’s hiking trail exactly for it is long and tiring, and some tiny bits require climbing over. But then, I wouldn’t exactly call it difficult either. Especially not when a currently-overweight fat cow like myself managed to do them with good time too. Of course, I wouldn’t exactly drag along my 5-year old either you know. But you know what I mean. These hikes are doable by almost everyone that is reasonably fit.
Now to give you some actually useful information about the Milorho Hiking trail near information. I mean I could go on and on singing praises, for I really did love the longer, green trail, but then again, I was told by my blogging guru, that my blog needs to offer some value to my readers. So, with a slightly less elated heart, here goes:
Milorho Hiking Trails begin at Milorho Lodge and need to be pre-booked. The trails are open for hikers from Monday through to Sunday between 7:30AM and 4:30PM.
There are two hiking trails to choose from. The shorter, brown trail is of 5kms and takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete. Charges are R100 per adult and R50 per child under 12. The green hiking trail on the other hand is 12.5kms if you stick to the pathways. (Yeah, well, we wandered off and made it about 15). This path is slightly challenging and requires about 6 hours to complete, more if you intend to spend time by the rock pools or if you take a sudden fancy to an occasional tempting and climb-worthy rock! The charges for the green trail are the same as those for the brown one.
There are blue and green signboards along the path. But to be honest, they are not always there where you want them to be. I did get lost a slight bit and that contributed to my 12.5km walk going up to almost 15 too!
Since the entrance to the trails is through the Milhoro Lodge property, you will need to call in from the main gate for someone from the lodge to open the gates for you. There is ample parking and maps are given out at the lodge reception. A quaint little coffee shop and a woodworking studio are the surprises that await you at the reception.
The long walk is tiring, make no mistake, no matter how fit you consider yourself to be. There are some tricky bits where you are walking along a narrow cliff part with a small stream on one side and the rockface on the other (right near the end). There are also bits where the walk is boring where you feel like you are just walking round and round to make up for the kilometres. But keep your eyes and ears open and there is no much to enjoy. Lizards and salamanders darting out here and there, traditional (and endangered) aloe peglarae in full glory, and caves and crevices that are ideal for the most novel photos.
Slather on the sunscreen. No matter how many times you slather it on, if you are not well dressed, prepare to be sunburnt. Despite the sunscreen, I had a sunburn, I had the itching and peeling that followed and I had the pain, so be forewarned. Of course, hiking shoes and water are a must too.
Start early. The trail gets more tedious as the sun shines brighter and the day progresses. Start early and aim to finish by 2PM or so to get the best joy out of your trail hike.
The rockpools are by far the best part of this hike. You’ll be tempted to spend a lot of time enjoying one that comes on top of the hill less than halfway into the hike. But you can take it easy. Just before the last leg of the trail are a series of lovely (and slightly shallow) pools that you can take a break (or enjoy a picnic) at. Don’t cool down for too long though, otherwise, the very last uphill climb from the rock pools to the parking lot feels like it is never going to end! Just take my word for it, will you?
Pets are not allowed on these trails. The trails are open for day visitors but you can also book a stay at the lodge is you wish to convert a day hike into a short staycation instead.
Milorho Hiking Trail map available here. https://milorholodge.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Milorho-Lodge-Hiking-Map.pdf
De Wildt Hiking Trail
Another super hike near Johannesburg is the De Wildt hiking, walking and jogging trail. This pet-friendly adventure trail has several things going for it:
Overall, De Wildt offers something for the whole family, for the adults, kids and pets alike.
To tell you the truth, I went on a father daughters’ hike to De Wildt. It was with my dad, of course, and my sister. So it could be that I had one added dimension to enjoy this hike more. That said, we combined the 4.6kms Kiepersol trail and the 7km Peglarae trail to make a day of it.
The Kiepersol is super easy, and I intend to take my 5-year old with me the next time I go. Yeah, that easy! The Peglarae is tougher and the first 2 odd kilometers are steep enough incline to get you huffing and puffing.
I am compelled to tell you just how glorious the rock features and streams on this trail are. There is one patch that walks you right through an entire rock mountainside, right through a trickling waterfall. Mind you, I went in peak winter. After the summer rains, the trickle could easily be a gushing mountain stream.
Ensure that you wear good shoes because there are several tricky bits on this trail that will have you thanking the gods that your shoes have a good grip. Though the trail is marked at most points, it is still easy to miss a market and get lost. My sister did just fine but I had to trudge through the nettles and an unexpected forest when I got lost halfway up the climb.
Enough of the experiential bit, let’s get down to some real information now.
De Wildt adventure trails are about 30 minutes away from Johannesburg and approximately 45 minutes from Pretoria. Start early so you get up to the top without bearing the brunt of the hot sun. Yeah, those of you who have been to South Africa, you know how bad the sun is here.
Not all trails allow pets. So before you book a hike for yourself and your dog, be sure to ensure that your dog is actually allowed on the trail you have chosen. On some trails, there are also restrictions on the size of the dog. Since some trails have precarious footing, large dogs are not allowed. Be sure to check in advance.
De Wildt trails are open from Wednesday to Sunday from 7AM to 3PM, Mondays and Tuesdays are off.
Different trails have different entry fees. For example, it is R60 for adults, R30 for kids between 2 and 10 years of age and R15 for infants on the Kiepersol trail. They have recently even launched a wonderful campaign where kids who complete the Kiepersol trail are given a trekker medal.
I went on the unguided Peglarae 7km trail and the price was R100 per adult with the Kiepersol trail added in for no extra cost. The 12.5km Groenklip trail costs R120 per adult and requires prebooking since it is a guided tour.
The Nek to Nek Historic Hike is for groups of minimum 20 people only. Pre-booking is a must for this guided tour and the cost is R150 per person.
Once you reach the top of the hill and get the views of one side of the mountain, don’t forget to walk to the other side and take in the views there. You get great visuals of Hartbeespoort dam and the other slopes of the Magaliesberg mountains.
Shelter Rock is a beautiful and challenging hiking trail, also in the Magaliesberg. It is named after a huge boulder that dislodged itself from the mountain approximately 10,000 years ago. The huge yellow rock now sits on one of the cliffs and is quite the landmark when viewed from several kilometers away. It is great fun to climb the rock (and it is scary on the way down), but it is most definitely not the end of the Shelter Rock hiking trail. The trail goes on and on, further, highers till you reach the actual top of the mountain.
The start of the hike is through a forest-y area and this lulls you into thinking that the trail is easy. It is most definitely not, at least not one the inclines start. I would rate it to be moderately difficult. As you near the end, you really struggle if the sun’s beating down on you. I had several moments where I thought I’d reached the top, only for the trail markers to continue further and further ahead.
The visuals from the top of the mountain are unreal on a clear day. You have several photo opportunities throughout the trail thanks to glorious, natural rock formations and clear open skies. Though I really didn’t see it, many say that on clear days you can even catch glimpses of the mountains of Sun City from here.
Shelter rock, just by the way, is not only for hikers. It caters to school outings, picnics and even adventure activities such as abseiling and team building. There is also a golf course in the vicinity if you are a golfing enthusiast. In addition, there is a camp, mountain lodge, restaurant and coffee shop if you’d like to convert your day hike into a vacation.Did I forget to mention the most important point before? Shelter Rock is a pet-friendly hike near Johannesburg. For hikers and day visitors, the rates per person are R80 for adults, R40 for children between 6 and 16, and R40 for dogs on a leash. Kids under 5 are free. Shelter Rock is open to hikers on Saturdays, Sundays and all public holidays. On weekdays, bookings must be made and paid for in advance.
So, while this time is here, while this time is now, try substituting the cinemas and malls with hikes. You need no specialized gear other than a good pair of shoes and walking sticks (if you are particular and must have those). Just that and a healthy desire to get started should do the trick and get you hooked on walks and hikes in Johannesburg and beyond.
P.S This blog has been written as a part of Blogchatter's My Friend Alexa Campaign.
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