March 26, 2019

BY: Jacques Marais (for Hi-Tec)

South Africa’s Garden Route is a place of unequalled natural beauty and as an outdoor space, it rates as one of the best wild playgrounds in South Africa in which to hit those trails. It doesn’t matter whether you are an endurance trail runner, a multi-day hiking hero, or just a weekend ambler out for a leisurely stroll … this is undoubtedly the place you want to boot up in.

At HI-TEC, we love our trails. And we make shoes and boots suited to just about any type of trail terrain. We’ve been going at it for more than 45 years, too, so we know a thing or two, not only about footwear, but also about the best places in which to test them to their limits.

This is part of the reason we’ve decided to sponsor the annual GARDEN ROUTE WALKING FESTIVAL, the only gathering of its kind here in the Rainbow Nation. And with no less than 52 walks to choose from – most of them FREE, nogal – this coming Easter Weekend will offer you a perfect reason to get outside with the family.

For more information and to register, go check out www.walkingfestival.co.za … it covers all the trails, from Mossel Bay, Wilderness and George, to Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Most importantly, spend it with friends and family. 

The dates are set for 19 – 22 April, so get ready to boot up!

In the meantime, here’s a few pieces of irresistible ‘Trail Candy’ to make you fall in love with your outdoor gear all over again! The good news is, you can hike or run most these routes on your own, at any time of the year, or join one of our group of like-minded outdoor folk during #GRWF!

Your TOP 5 Must-Do Garden Route Trails …

There are a few trails – like the legendary OTTER – that everyone knows about, but then you’d have to book half lifetime ahead to get a space on it, right? Here are a few lesser-known and shorter options, but with wall-to-wall views and incredible stoke to boot…

The Salt River Trail, Nature’s Valley

Nature’s Valley slumbers within the emerald heart of the Tsitsikamma forest, and berms with liana vines, bearded moss dangling from trees, a beautiful lagoon surrounded by mountains and forest, and miles of unspoiled hite beaches. The 5km Salt River Hiking Trail traverses a combo of coastal forest, a river estuary, and shoreline, boasting steep and scenic single-track, sand- and pebble beaches and some scrambling along rocky outcrops. The best time to walk this route is at low tide. A free map and permit are obtainable at De Vasselot Camp Site – www.sanparks.org 

The Goukamma Traverse, Sedgefield

Sedgefield is an ideal family destination in which to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. This quaint coastal village nestles within the heart of SA’s very own ‘Lake District’, with abundant estuaries, lagoons, lakes and four splendid beaches on which to bliss out. The trail is along single-track for the most part, with short sections of jeep track and 3km of tar to the finish. 90% of the route runs along ridges and through ancient dune systems, so the substrate is mostly compact dune sand, potentially soft in places. The terrain is varied; steep climbs, flat winding; sections of trail; shady milkwood forests; eye-popping ocean vistas, all highlighted with flourishes of fynbos. Some tracks are stabilised with ‘log steps’ – www.slowfestival.co.za 

The Outeniqua Hiking Trail, George

This is a 7-day trail with 8x overnight huts; however hikers do not have to hike the full 7 days, with a number of 2-3x day options on the cards. The trail is only done in one direction, from West to East along a total distance is 108km, and the terrain varies from easy to extreme. Tramp off from the Beervlei Hut, where vehicles may be parked. Clear route markers (black signs with white boot prints) makes it easy enough to navigate but get your permit first from the SANparks office in Knysna. A maximum of 24 hikers are allowed on the trail, but trail runners can run sections of the route if they have a Wild Card. The George #MUT takes place annually along the route in June – www.georgetrailrun.co.za 

Cape St Blaize Hiking Trail, Mossel Bay

This is a moderately challenging, 13.5km (expect to take 6hrs or so) hike following a contour path atop the sea cliffs westward from the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse. The route is not recommended for children or the elderly. Start from the cave below the lighthouse and follow the clear path all the way to Dana Bay; it can also be done in reverse. Trail markers are shaped like oystercatcher birds are well spaced, the sea views are breath-taking, and dolphins are frequently spotted – www.mosselbay.co.za 

Robberg Nature Reserve, Plettenberg Bay

Get ready for an extremely popular and scenic circular trail along the Robberg Peninsula. There are three circular routes of increasing distance in difficulty to choose from, with the round trip via The Point totalling 11km (this is not recommended for young children). The path ascends along a steep and rocky slope with a danger of unstable sand on the northern side, with splendid views of Cape fur seals, whales, dolphins and even killer whales. This is a birding paradise, with numerous marine and aquatic species – permits are available from CapeNature – www.capenature.co.za

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