Cape Town and its surrounding areas are renowned for their immense natural beauty, beguiling vistas, and seemingly limitless opportunities to explore the outdoors. Towering cliffs along the coastline rise up from the ocean for dramatic scenery, driving routes and whale watching from the shore. The city itself gathers around the base of Table Mountain which is home to more diverse plant life than the entire British Isles. Travelling into the winelands, manicured gardens melt into vineyards which contour the landscape and foothills of majestic mountain ranges. The Cape Winelands is home to bountiful indigenous flora and birdlife, while offering some of the most arresting vantage points in the country.
Centrally located within the heart of South Africa’s Cape Winelands is Paarl. A dream destination for avid hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, nature lovers, outriders, and bird watchers. Here, just outside of town, lies Brookdale Estate, with captivating views of the Drakenstein Mountain Range and easy access to some of the best hikes in Paarl. Exploring the mountains is best left to the cooler season from May – October, as summer temperatures can reach upwards of 35°C (95°F). A later sunrise means a later start time, and more time for a sleep-in, ideal when on holiday!
We are sharing our top 3 hikes within 15 minutes of Brookdale Estate to explore during your stay. While these hikes can be self-guided and are well signposted, we recommend booking a private guide who can tell you about the flora, fauna, history of the region, and show you lesser-known trails as well (speak to us about a private guide when booking your stay).
The Lion’s Head hike of the winelands … Standing sentry over the town of Paarl, Paarl Rock is a cluster of 3 locally famous granite outcrops which offer spectacular winelands views. It is these rocks which gave Paarl their name, meaning ‘pearl’ in Dutch as their rounded domes glitter in the sun after heavy rainfall.
A dirt road leads you to the entrance of the Nature Reserve where route maps can be purchased. There are a few route options departing from the entrance kiosk ranging from a family-friendly 2.5km loop (.5 hour) to a longer 11km route (3 hours). Possibly our favourite route begins at Meulwater Botanical Garden for a stunning 10km loop. The terrain is fairly easy to walk or run, the difficulty lies in scaling the rocks themselves (and for this reason, we recommend dry weather or it can be slippery). An entry fee for the vehicle and each person is required. Speak to us about this trail and we can recommend the best start point for your hike, as well as the latest entry fees.
WALK & TALK
TAAL MONUMENT | 7.7km, 2.5 hours, moderate
The iconic Taal Monument in Paarl, South Africa is located on a hill that gazes out over the Paarl Valley. Taal, meaning ‘language’, was built in October 1975 to commemorate Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa, separate from Dutch.
Considered to be a moderately challenging route, this hike begins at the Volksmond Coffee Shop and takes you through the Taal Monument, up into the Reserve following the contour of the mountain to Xmas Camp before looping back. An entry fee is required and you need to collect a key to the reserve gate before you depart (a deposit is required and repaid on the key’s return). The hike is well signposted along the route, and maps of the reserve are available for purchase. This hike is a similar terrain and view to Paarl Rock, and the two can in fact be combined for more time outdoors enjoying the fresh mountain air.
NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED
Italian Cross | 7.5km, 4.5hrs, hard
The Miaspoort Trail is an out-and-back route located just before Du Toitskloof which leads to an incredible summit vista and the Italian Cross which was erected in February 1945 by Italian prisoners-of-war who built the Du Toitskloof pass. A challenging hike, there are steep sections and loose rocks which test one’s patience, but it’s worth the work – just go slow. In winter, the summit offers breath-taking views of snow-capped peaks on clear days after snowfall.
For such a short trail, it offers incredible diversity in vistas, route challenges and flora. From boulders to single track, rock scramble and waterfalls, the trail keeps hold of your attention throughout. The initial ascent is steep and challenging (trekking poles are advised), however it eases slightly midway up. The route is fairly well marked with cairns and or yellow painted footprints on rocks, however a guide is advised for those new to the area. There is one water crossing, so this hike is not recommended immediately after heavy rains. A permit is required, and we recommend you take plenty of water, snacks and a pen to complete the visitors’ book at the top. Start this hike early as it can be a long, but immensely rewarding day!
SPECIAL OFFER | 19 APRIL – 30 SEPTEMBER 2022
Stay for 3 nights at Brookdale Manor House this winter, and only pay for 2. The perfect way to explore the Cape Winelands. Or, speak to our team about special offers for SADC residents.