Johannesburg

Hiking in and around Joburg - Gauteng's best hiking trails

14 Jul 2020
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
Joburg is among the world’s most treed cities with one of the biggest manmade forests covering large swathes of the northern suburbs. Within the city there is no shortage of scenic green spaces for enjoying long walks, and just a short drive out into the surrounding countryside you can find lots of private nature reserves crisscrossed by well-maintained hiking trails that promise plenty of interesting fauna and flora and wonderful views, all within easy reach.

Under Level 3 restrictions it is allowed to go hiking, so long as you do not leave the province and are on trails within the assigned exercise hours of 06:00 and 18:00 only. You may only hike with people from your own household and if you are not wearing a mask you will be refused access to trails. Hikers are asked to continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines and maintain good hygiene by washing hands regularly with sanitisers and coughing and sneezing into elbows or tissues.

Cradle Moon Lakeside Game Lodge

Just half an hour's drive from Sandton Central, this expansive lodge in the middle of a 160 hectare conservancy in the Cradle of Humankind is popular with mountain bikers, trail runners and open water swimmers. Head to the activities centre next to the car park to pick up maps and pay for activities. For mountain bikers, trail runners (and hikers looking for a gentle walk) there are over 30kms of trails crisscrossing the game reserve spread over three well-marked routes. For hikers the best route is the easy-going 10km route which traces a path around the Cradle Moon dam. There is abundant game including zebras, giraffes and springbok. A short walk from the Cradle Moon reception is the Cradle Moon Dam, a popular destination for open water swimmers - albeit very cold in winter! Open water swimmers can follow the buoys to plot a 1km swimming route around the circumference of the dam.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS: Cradle Moon's dam and trails are open at Level 3 for all cycling, running, hiking and swimming activities.
Plot 59 Beyers Naude Drive, Muldersdrift. Find out more here.
 
Circling the dam at Cradle Moon Lakeside Game Lodge

De Wildt Adventure Trails

Bordering Hartbeespoort Dam, about a 30 minute drive from Pretoria, this hilly hiking reserve which hugs the rocky​ foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains has an array of different trails to suit all ages and fitness levels. Families will enjoy the 4.6km Kiepersol Trail or the 1.8km Pensioners Trail, while for something more challenging there's the six to eight hour Groenklip Hiking Tour (you will want to set off at dawn to have plenty of time). The hike takes you right up to the top of the mountain via a small waterfall.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS: The trails are open at Level 3 strictly by prior appointment only, picnic sites remain closed. Hikers and trail runners must book and pay for their visit in advance by email at reservations@dewildttrails.co.za
R513 Yellow board no. 78E, Farm Schietfontein Portion 19, Schietfontein, De Wildt. Find out more here.
 
Photo by De Wildt Adventure Trails

Ezemvelo Nature Reserve 

Not to be confused with the network of safari reserves in KwaZulu Natal, this expansive nature reserve near Bronkhorstspruit east of Pretoria offers mountain biking, hiking, game drives, fishing and bird watching. There is an abundance of interesting game to watch out for including zebras, wildebeest and red hartebeests ​​​​​​and fantastic birdlife.

There are three different hiking trails to choose from which traverse a treed river valley looked over by rocky outcrops. The short Ochna Trail (4km) treads a path through grasslands and up a small koppie, the Protea Trail (14.6km) also covers much grassland and a small steep rocky hill, while the 21km Burkea Trail is a tough walk through grassland and over hills to the far side of the reserve and takes approximately 5 hours to complete.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS: The reserve is open for hiking, mountain biking, trail running and self drive excursions at Level 3. Only 50 entrance permits (one permit per car) will be issued per day and the reserve will only be open on Saturday and Sunday. Picnic areas, the shop and swimming pool remain closed. Permits will only be issued in advance! To book your visit email bookings@ezemvelo.co.za​​​​​​​.
Entrance on 493 Elandsfontein (105.30 km). Find out more here.
 
Photo by Ezemvelo Nature Reserve

Hennops Hiking Trail

A 45-minute drive north of Joburg, but more than worth the journey. Choose from three circular hiking routes – a short 2km walk, the 6km Zebra Route or the more challenging 11.3km Krokodilberg Route (4-5 hours for experienced hikers). All trails begin by crossing the Hennops River either by a suspension bridge or via a fun old-fashioned 'cable car' which works by a pulley system. The trails then meander through the surrounding hills with good views of the nearby Magaliesberg mountains.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS:​​​​​​​ Hennops Hiking Trail is open daily under Level 3. Note the last entrance to the trails is at 13:00. Picnic sites remain closed.
Entrance off the R511 (10km south of the R105 junction). Find out more here.​​​​​​​
 
Photo by Hennops Hiking Trail

Klipriviersberg

This extensive nature reserve covers more than 600 hectares and is a popular city escape in south Joburg. Blesbok, zebra and other game roam the hillsides of the ‘rock river mountain’ and there are various signposted hiking ranging from 3km to 9km. The circular 8km Dassie Trail starts at the Silent Pools entrance and winds its way to the top of the hill, or take the slightly shorter and flatter Bloubos trail that follows the river. Neighbouring the reserve is Thaba Trails (101 Klip River Dr, Mulbarton), a dedicated mountain biking area that opens on weekends with a 6km, 15km or 30km biking trail to choose from.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS: The Klipriviersberg nature reserve reopens to the public from August 1, 2020. The Thaba Trails section is open to the public.
Entrance at Silent Pools, Frandaph Dr, Mondeor. Find out more here.

Melville Koppies (closed at Level 3)​​​​​​​

A nature reserve and heritage site, the Melville Koppies boast archaeological remains of Stone Age and Iron Age settlements, and great views over the downtown skyline. The best way to visit is on one of the Sunday morning three-hour guided hikes, which alternate between a 4km guided walk and a more challenging 10km hike, which both take in the area’s unique fauna and geology.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS:​​​​​​​ Unfortunately the Melville Koppies is not open to the public at lockdown Level 3.
Cnr Judith Rd and Orange Rd, Melville. Find out more here.

Modderfontein Reserve

This peaceful, privately managed 275-hectare reserve is crisscrossed by relatively flat hiking and cycling trails that are very well-maintained and signposted. There are four specially designed mountain biking routes ranging from 10km to 40km, and an 8km hiking trail complemented by shorter walks that skirt around the reserve’s wetland areas.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS:​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​Picnic areas remain closed under Level 3 while all hiking and cycling trails are now open for exercise. 
Entrance on Arden Rd (off Ardeer Rd), Modderfontein. Find out more here.​​​​​​​
 
Modderfontein Nature Reserve. Photo by Heather Mason for Johannesburg In Your Pocket

Rustig Hiking Trails

This historic family farm sits right below the craggy foothills of the Magaliesberg mountain range and is popular with day visitors who come to hike the Rustig trails which climb their way up the crags to offer some spectacular views across northern Gauteng. There's a choice of easier trails ranging from three to five kilometres and a more challenging full day 13 kilometre trail which will take your right up to the top of the mountain. The trails pass through various terrain taking in grasslands, cave entrances and rocky outcrops with rewarding views down into the valley below.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS:​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​The trails are open to the public under Level 3.
Portian 91, Plaas Hartebeesfontein, Hekpoort. Find out more here.

Sable Ranch Hiking Trail

Spread across the lower slopes of the foothills of the Magaliesberg, this large game farm also offers game hunting and 4x4 trails. If you want to tackle the full 12km hike come on a Sunday as on other days there may be hunting taking place on the upper slopes meaning the top of the trail is closed to hikers and you will only manage a 6km loop. The trail starts by meandering through farmland (look out for the albino wildebeest) before making a steeper incline up a winding rocky path quickly revealing sweeping views. This is one of the few hiking trails that allows you to bring dogs (they must be on a lead). This is also a Park Run venue and you can join in a 5km park run trail on weekends.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS:​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​The trails are open to the public under Level 3. It is worth calling ahead to check if there hunting will be taking place on the day you plan to visit.
Sable Ranch, on the R96 just before Hekpoort. Find out more here.

Views on the Sable Ranch hiking trail

Suikerbosrand (closed at Level 3)

On the southern border of Gauteng Province, this vast 19,000 hectare nature reserve is also an important area of archaeological research with the remnants of an ancient pre-colonial Tswana city recently discovered in the area. Named after the sugarbush (suikerbos), the reserve hosts meandering hiking trails that snake over the Suikerbosrand mountain range as well as a 60km tarred self-drive / cycling route that traverses the rolling hills taking in several dams and birding hides.

Day hikers can choose from the 11km Bokmakiere trail (make sure to leave very early, the area gets very hot around midday), the easy 4.5km Cheetah trail or the wheelchair-accessible 1km Toktokkie trail. The reserve is also popular for its overnight and multiple day hiking trails which make use of remote hikers cottages scattered through the reserve. Overnight trails should be tackled in a group (maximum ten hikers).
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS: Unfortunately the reserve is currently closed to visitors under Level 3 restrictions.
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, Heidelberg Road, R550 off N3, Nigel. Find out more here.​​​​​​​

Photo by Friends of Suikerbosrand

Tswaing Meteor Crater (closed at Level 3)

1.8 kilometers​​​​​​​ wide, the Tswaing Crater north of Pretoria was formed more than 200,000 years ago when a meteor smashed into the earth. At the centre of the crater is a small lake and from the parking entrance a 7.5km trail will take you to the crater rim and down to the edge of the lake and back up again. 
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS: As a Distong Museum site, Tswaing Meteor Crater is closed at Level 3
Soutpan Rd (M35), Soshanguve. 

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens (closed at Level 3)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

One of Joburg’s most beautiful and well-maintained parks, head here for a wide variety of unusual flora, excellent birdwatching (look out for the black Verreaux’s eagles), a waterfall and other natural delights. There are various easy walking routes which wind their way through the gardens, the longest of which is a 3.5km nature trail which takes you up to the top of the Witpoortjie waterfall.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS: Sadly under Level 3 all South African National Biodiversity Institute​​​​​​​ (SANBI) parks are closed to the public including the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens.
Malcolm Rd, Roodepoort. Find out more here.​​​​​​​

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