If you have very small children or need to introduce young kids to the joy of hiking and the outdoors, it would help to start with hikes or walks that are short and easy. Here are a few of our favourite short walks for families.
There are various hiking trails around Sabie that cater for avid bird watchers, nature enthusiast, or families just wanting to spend time together while enjoying sparkling waterfalls or meandering streams.
1. Forest Falls Nature Walk (3.2km circular route)
This refreshing day trail starts and finishes at the picnic spot, 15km from Sabie on the R532 to Graskop. The walk takes you through fragrant pine forests to the Forest Falls. Enjoy a wonderful swim in the falls to cool you down before the walk back. There are toilet facilities available at the picnic spot and nice braai facilities to use after the hike. You will need a permit for this walk.
2. Loerie Trail (10.2km circular route)
One of the most popular day walks in the Sabie area, the Loerie Trail is an easy and level trail along the Sabie river. You can start at the Ceylon Forest Station, or at the Castle Rock Municipal Caravan Park and enjoy indigenous forest, spectacular Sabie valley scenery, pine and blue gum plantations, waterfalls and pools. Due to the distance and slightly challenging rating, it would be best suited to older children. I included it because it’s one of my favourites from my own childhood. You will need a permit for this walk.
3. Secretary Bird Walk (3km circular route)
The trail starts and finishes at the Mac Mac Pools, 13km from Sabie on the R532 road to Graskop. The route starts and ends here and passes through open grassveld (with little shade) and pristine indigenous forest. Precaution against sunburn is advised. The Mac Mac Pools picnic spot has naturally formed swimming pools, lovely shady areas, toilets and braai facilities. You don’t need a permit for this walk, but an entrance fee of R20/person is payable at the entrance gate to Mac Mac Pools.
Permits for day walks cost R20/person/walk and are available from the Forestry Museum, Merry Pebbles Holiday Resort or Blue Sky Outdoor in Sabie.
GARDEN ROUTE, WESTERN CAPE
4. Cape Clawless Otter Trail, Sedgefield (6.5km out-and-back)
The trail passes through fascinating forests of indigenous milkwood trees and along the shores of the beautiful Groenvlei Lake in the Goukamma Nature Reserve. Keep an eye out, you might be lucky enough to spot an otter!
If you want to do a longer walk, you can start early and do both the Cape Clawless Otter and Blombos Trails (20km in total).
Permits may be purchased for R40 per adult and R20 per child at the reserve office or through CapeNature Central Reservations.
5. Jubilee Creek Forest Walk, Knysna (3.6km, out-and-back)
The Jubilee Creek picnic site is situated on the banks of Millwood Creek, deep in the Goudveld Forest near Knysna. The beautiful picnic area is clean and offers benches, barbeque facilities, bins and toilets. Take swim wear for the kids as they will love to play in the stream while you relax on your blanket in the shade. The hour-long walking trail starts and ends at the picnic site, passes through indigenous forest alongside the creek that leads past old gold-mine dug-outs. There is a beautiful pool at the end of the hike to swim in.
Permits are obtainable from the Goudveld entrance gate at Bibby’s Hoek and cost R17 per adult and R9 per child under 13 years.
6. Garden of Eden Forest Walk, Plettenberg Bay (two loops of about 500m or one big loop of about 1km)
Next to the N2, about halfway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, you’ll find the The Garden of Eden Forest Walk. Technically not really a hiking trail, I’ve included it because it’s a lovely walk for toddlers and the elderly, and is also wheelchair friendly. While travelling on the N2 it’s also a great spot to stop and stretch your legs.
More than a kilometre of wooden board walks and bridges will take you through the forest and across streams. Along the trail, there are wooden benches and tables to sit and enjoy the scenery and the sounds of the forest, while having a picnic. There are ablution facilities near the entrance but no braai / barbecue facilities.
Permits can be obtained at the small entrance office and cost R12 per adult and R7 per child. Outside office hours you are allowed to enter without a permit.
CAPE TOWN, WESTERN CAPE
7. Cape of Good Hope Trail, Cape Point Nature Reserve (±3.5km, out-and-back)
The short walks throughout the reserve offer panoramic ocean and mountain views, access to unspoilt beaches, and the opportunity to spot rare wildlife.
Popular for its accessibility and breathtaking views, the Cape of Good Hope Trail takes you along a well-maintained boardwalk towards the famous Cape of Good Hope sign. Enjoy the unsurpassed views over the pristine Diaz Beach and rugged western shoreline. At the very end of the trail you’ll have reached the most South Western corner of Africa.
Depart from the Cape Point main parking area and follow the signs towards the Cape of Good Hope.
Entry fees are R70 per child (2 – 11 years) and R135 per adult.
8. Elephants Eye Cave, Silvermine, Table Mountain National Park (7.33km, out-and-back)
Situated high up on the Constantiaberg mountain, the Elephant’s Eye cave has wonderful views over the southern suburbs. It’s name is derived from the fact that the mountain looks like the shape of an elephant’s head and the cave is located where the eye would be.
The easiest route to the cave is from the Silvermine reservoir. You need to pay a conservation fee and start at the Silvermine reservoir car park. The reservoir is surrounded by pine trees and is a nice place to start and end with a picnic and swim.
The hike is mostly along gravel road with breathtaking view points en route. You will pass clusters of pine trees, the Prinzkasteel Stream and a fire lookout stone hut for the foresters. When you are almost at the cave, you pass the Tokai Lookout, which offers great views of the Constantia valley and Cape Flats.
The cave is also a great spot for your picnic. From this mystical vantage point you can relax and enjoy the amazing views. On weekends the trail can get quite busy so an early start is recommended.
9. Muizenberg Catwalk, Muizenberg to Kalk Bay (2km one way)
Treat the kids to a train ride from Cape Town station and make a day of it. The path starts from the seaside of Muizenberg Station, so if you don’t feel like doing the train ride from Cape Town, you can park at the trailhead.
It’s an easy walk, but you may prefer doing it at low tide. At high tide you could encounter a bit of sea spray but all of the excitement only adds to the walk. The long concrete sidewalk stays on the seaward side of the railway line and offers excellent whale and dolphin watching opportunities as well as lovely rock pools for the kids to explore.
Near the end of the walkway there is a tidal swimming pool framed with a row of Victorian-style beach huts. The walkway then ends at the sandy beach just beyond St James’ railway station.
You can either walk back the same way, take the train back to the start or walk back along the main road, where you can spot a few of the area’s historical sites: passing by Rhodes Cottage, the Posthuys, and the “˜Millionaire’s Mile’.
DURBAN, KWA-ZULU NATAL
10. Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Trail (guided walk)
Half an hour’s drive north of Durban, the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve takes visitors on a fascinating discovery of the region’s natural and age old forests. The trail can be found at the end of the O’Connor Promenade in Umhlanga.
Enjoy a relaxing hour-and-a-half ramble along a clearly marked boardwalk through the indigenous coastal forest and over the Ohlanga River. The leafy canopy is home to vervet monkeys, impala, red duiker, blue duiker, a colourful array of butterflies and more than 300 bird species. The trail also provides access to the beach and the lagoon and there is a small picnic site situated at the entrance gate.
Bookings must be made a day in advance by calling the Breakers Resort front desk on
+27 31 561 2271. Walks take place at 9am and 11am. Price per person is R30 (R15 for children under 12).
The entrance gates are opposite the Breakers Hotel on Lagoon Drive.
11 – 14. Krantzkloof Nature Reserve
The Krantzkloof Nature Reserve is the spectacular meeting place of two river gorges, the Molweni and Nkutu. Most of the reserve is covered by dense forest offers spectacular views across the gorge cut by the Molweni River. Look out for zebra, bushbuck, blue, red and grey duiker, vervet monkey, rock hyrax, mongoose, water monitor and genet.
Starting at the Interpretative Centre at Kloof Falls picnic site, the Black Trail (Ipithi Trail) will take you on a circular route to the Ipithi Falls. There is some moderate uphill climbing but nothing serious.
The first part of the Blue Trail (Longshadows Trail) is common with the Black trail. The trail follows the Molweni River and wanders through very dense forest.
The Red Trail (Nkutu Falls Trail) starts across from the Valley Drive picnic site and will take you to the base of the waterfall just below the picnic site. Follow the trail to the forest where it turns sharply to the right and follow it to the bottom of the gorge. This trail leads to below the waterfall and back.
The Green Trail (Ntombeni Trail) trail will take you to a spot called “The Crack”, which offers spectacular vistas of the lower gorge.
Entry fees are R25 per adult and R15 per child under 12 years.
A few things to remember when hiking with kids:
- Take plenty of snacks.
- Walk at the slowest child’s pace.
- If your child is an only child, consider letting him/her invite a friend along.
- Make it fun: play games or look for treasure.
- Stop often to let kids have a snack and a drink.
Have you done a hike that your kids enjoyed? Please share your experience in the comments section below.