Johannesburg

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

11 Sep 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.

Adventure Zone Cullinan

13km drive east of Cullinan in the scenic Muningi Gorge, Adventure Zone Cullinan offers high-octane ziplining and abseiling activities, and also has three interesting hiking routes that plot their way up and down through the wooded gorge. There are three hikes to tackle, a 2km, 4.5km and 8km, each of which involves some moderate scrambling up and down over boulders as you make your way along the riverbed of this scenic gorge. The 8km route should take around three to four hours to complete with some moderate uphills as you climb up a pass in the gorge before looping back around the top. For post-hike refreshments there's a small deck overlooking the dam at the top of the gorge serving drinks and snacks.
BOOKING: All activities, including hiking, should be booked online in advance at www.azcullinan.co.za.
Muningi Gorge, 13km east of Cullinan
Adventure Zone Cullinan

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.
BOOKING: There is no need to book in advance to enjoy Cradle Moon's cycling, running, hiking and swimming activities, pay for all activities at the activities centre on arrival (you will need to show your proof of payment to exit afterwards).
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.
BOOKING: The trails are open strictly by prior appointment only. 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.
BOOKING: The reserve is open for hiking, mountain biking, trail running and self-drive excursions. The reserve is open on Saturdays and Sundays and you must book your entrance permits in advance as only 50 entrance permits (one permit per car) will be issued per day. 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.
BOOKING: There is no need to book in advance to visit Hennops Hiking Trail. Note the last entrance to the trails is at 13:00.
Entrance off the R511 (10km south of the R105 junction). Find out more here.
 
Photo by Hennops Hiking Trail

Kings Kloof Trails

40 minutes drive from Joburg in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind, this rugged reserve offers a range of hiking and mountain biking trails that meander through a range of interesting landscape included wooded valleys, rocky outcrops and scenic river crossings. Set off very early with plenty of supplies to tackle the most challenging route, the 20km Black Route, which includes some steep inclines is best tackled by experienced hikers. Easier hikes include the largely flat 7km Blue Route and the 14km Green Route.
BOOKING: Open Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. No prior booking is required although it can get busy so arrive as early as you can. Find out more here.
N14 (extension of Hendrik Potigieter, 18.40 km, Muldersdrift

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.
BOOKINGS: The Klipriviersberg nature reserve reopens to the public from August 1, 2020. This is a public nature reserve and no prior booking is required.
Entrance at Silent Pools, Frandaph Dr, Mondeor. Find out more here.

Melville Koppies 

 
Melville Koppies, photo by Mark Straw

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.
BOOKINGS: The Central Melville Koppies will be opened on Sunday mornings from August 9 for pre-booked hikes only. Organised by the Friends of the Melville Koppies, due to coronavirus restrictions the hikes will be led in small groups only and prior booking and payment is absolutely essential. The walks start at 8am (until 11:30). Email fomk@mk.org.za for booking details.
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.
BOOKINGS: All hiking and cycling trails are open daily for exercise and the Fourways Farmers Market is also open on weekends. There is no need to book although the reserve may close to extra visitors if it gets too full, so we recommend getting there early. 
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.
BOOKINGS:​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​Advanced booking is required to ensure a safe number of hikers on the trails. You must book your hike beforehand online here on the Rustig website.
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.
BOOKING:​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​The trails are open daily from 07:00 to 17:00 and there is no need to book in advance. However, it is worth calling ahead to check if 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 (currently closed)

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).
BOOKINGS: Unfortunately due to issues with water scarcity within the reserve, Suikerbosrand is currently closed to visitors.
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, Heidelberg Road, R550 off N3, Nigel. Find out more here.​​​​​​​

Photo by Friends of Suikerbosrand

Tswaing Meteor Crater (currently closed)

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. 
BOOKINGS: Tswaing Meteor Crater is closed to the public until further notice.
Soutpan Rd (M35), Soshanguve. 

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

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.
BOOKINGS: The Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens is managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute​​​​​​​ (SANBI) and reopens to the public from Monday August 3, 2020. There is no need to book in advance to visit the gardens.
Malcolm Rd, Roodepoort. Find out more here.​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, Photo by Mark Straw

Windy Brow Game Reserve Adventure Trails

There are three designated walking and trail running trails to choose from; the 4.5km Archaeology route, 3.3km Geology route and the 5km Ecology route, all of which trace an easy-going path through the gently rolling hills of this game reserve on the outskirts of Cullinan, east of Pretoria. The views across the plains towards Pretoria, the diamond mine and the distant Magaliesberg mountains are perhaps not as impressive as at other reserves, but the abundant game, including giraffes and zebras, more than make up for it. 
Bookings: Open Saturday and Sunday from 07:00 (no need to book in advance). You can also visit during the week by prior arrangement. Find out more here.
Windy Brow Nature Reserve, Portion 2 Elandsfontein No 85, Cullinan

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