Most people would never in a million years associate Johannesburg with hiking. The urban centre is well known for its fast-paced life and being a city of dreamers and hustlers. What happens after all is said and done? Hiking has become a way of life for many Joburg residents. Residents and visitors alike escape the city centre to chase mountain peaks. (Hi, My Name is Noxolo Kapela and I am one of those people.)
As much as there are no mountains, but hills, some of these hikes are not less than ten kilometres and will take you more than two hours to complete. There are also shorter and easier hikes available. Come prepared for some game sightings, bird watchers also thrive in most of these trails as they are blessed with a variety of bird species, big and small. From the chippers with great melody to the mischievous ones that would rather play the chasing game with you – ostriches.
Having been to all of them, I thought I should compile a list of “not to be missed” hiking trails. With beautiful game and birds, picnic spots and a peak into South African history, among other things, these sites offer more than just a hike.
Hennops Hiking Trail
This is by far the most interesting hike of the lot because of its unique features. This trail has two river crossings – a suspension bridge and a cable car. Take a look into South African history and see an old cave hospital used in the Anglo-Boer War. Hennops can be mistaken as an easy hike until you have climbed the endless number of hills that seemingly pop up out of nowhere. When you are done, enjoy a picnic and a break by the poolside. It an ideal spot for families, lovers and friends. It is open from 7am to 6pm all seasons and is located near Hartbeespoort/Pretoria. R72 will get you in.
Groenkloof Nature Reserve
The home of hiking competitions has well marked trails and caters for people of all endurance levels, ranging from casual hikers to those who prefer more challenging trails. Adventure lovers are well catered for with horse trails, mountain bike trails, 4×4 route and a picnic area. Groenkloof also has a very healthy bird life and an array of interesting game and a spotting is guaranteed; my favourite being the giraffe. It is open from 6am in summer (and 7am in winter) to 5pm. It is located in Pretoria and entry is R44.
Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve
The Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve is conveniently situated ten kilometres from the centre of Johannesburg. This 700 hectare nature reserve is home to 650 species of indigenous plants and trees, 230 bird species and a surprising diversity of large game. However, hiking is the main activity in the reserve. It boasts a network of criss-crossing trails that will take you from a short 2.5 kilometre to a 16 kilometre long hike. The latter is one of the longest hikes around so you might need to check your fitness levels for this one. The reserve is open from 7am to 5:30pm all year round, it is located in Mondeor and you can leave your wallet at home for this one.
Modderfontein Nature Reserve
Would you like a fun hike with friends with a delightful ending? Then this is the hike for you. This reserve has a beautiful picnic and braai area by the dam. Modderfontein is famous for great pictures; sunrises and sunsets are the most beautiful. It boasts a varied landscape, tranquil dams and savannahs that stretch far into the distance. This makes it the habitat of choice for a number of wildlife and it is loved by off-road cyclists. The reserve is open from 7am to 5pm daily and is located in Modderfontein and admission is R30.
Melville Koppies Nature Reserve
Melville Koppies is a heritage site in the heart of Johannesburg, offering great views of the city. The vegetation here is entirely indigenous and provides an excellent richness of Highveld grasses, flowers, and trees. The Friends of Melville Koppies leads three hour guided hikes (ten kilometres) on Sundays bi-monthly from 08:00 – 15:00, no booking required. The hike costs R80.Check the Melville Koppies website for the full schedule.
Though the trails mentioned here are clearly marked, patrons are advised to be vigilant and take note of the landmarks. These hikes are best enjoyed in a group though they are also therapeutic for those looking to spend quality time alone. They can be wrapped up with a picnic afterwards or a yoga session, depending on the occasion and activities of the day. I would highly recommend that you squeeze one or two on your next visit to the City of Gold. See you on one of the trails in the not so distant future!