Classic Central Cederberg Hikes

One of the pools along the Disa Pools hike
The beautiful fynbos and grasses in the summers of the Cederberg with a clear sandy trail towards Apollo and Luna peaks

The Cederberg Mountains — the wild west of South Africa — is a wonderful range to explore.  These classic Cederberg hikes take you through the fascinating playground of flora and stone.  The skyline is constructed of blocky and jagged peaks.  A sandy dirt road curves through a canyon of high walls of deep oranges, reds, and blacks, and below a scattering of square boulders.   Rough bristly cedar trees sprout between the cracks, lending their name to this mountain range.  Along the rivers is a thick, lush oasis of reeds and palms.  Fields of citrus and mango trees, grape vines, olive groves, and rooibos tea fill the valleys, along with fynbos and succulents.  And the morning and evening sunlight cast the most epic glow on these magnificent mountains.

Walking through the citrus grove in Citrusdale, South Africa

The area of the Cederberg boasts over 2,500 rock art paintings, some dating back 6,000 years.  As you appreciate the incredible scenery, you are also walking through the San people’s history that is actively protected and recognized for its significance as a World Heritage Site.  

The Cederberg Mountain range spans 710 km and is both privately owned and governed by Cape Nature.  The arid land lends itself to certain types of agriculture, such as vineyards and olive groves, that thrive in harsh environments.   After enjoying any or all of these classic Cederberg hikes, you can relish knowing there will be a delicious bottle of wine or a refreshing beer after your adventures. 

These Cederberg hikes can link and can be done as a part of the unofficial Grand Cederberg Traverse, covering roughly 98km, starting at DePakuis pass in the north and ending in Citrusdal.  Because of a recent fire, areas of the Cederberg are off-limits to allow for the regrowth of the indigenous fynbos, which surprisingly thrive after fire.


Wolfberg Arch

Standing in front of the wolfberg arch during a sunshiny day.

Wolfberg Arch is one of the busiest and most well-known hikes in the Cederberg.  The famous landmark draws a lot of attention for the 15-meter-high arch that rises out of the flat mountain top. During the summer season, the weekends will have a number of groups that hike up and camp under the arch and stars.  It is accessible from both Sanddrif and Driehoek Guest Farms with permits issued in both Algeria and Sanddrif through Cape Nature. 

Approach: Sanddrif through the wider Wolfberg Cracks (moderate)

Sanddrif through the Wolfberg Cracks (technical moderate- difficult with overnight packs to squeeze through the narrow cracks)

Sanddrif along the Jeep Track (moderate but longer approach)

Driehoek Back Track to the Jeep Track and then to the Arch (moderate)

Altitude gained: 779m

Water access:  NO


Wolfberg Cracks

stretching upwards in the shady wolfberg cracks

The Wolfberg Cracks are a fun and playful way to the top. The deep crevices in the rock allow you to squeeze and scramble.  Recently ropes and blocks for assistance have been added. This hike can be done on its own, as a day hike from Sanddrif.  The approach is about 1.5 hours up on a marked path.  There is a wider gully, but to experience the cracks you want to traverse to the right of the large boulder and then up to the left. 

It stays cool in the shady cracks so make sure to allow some time for exploring.  When you get to the top, you have views of the arch and it’s another 2 hours hike to reach it.  For the descent, you can go through the larger cavern.  The wider crack is filled with trees and high red walls.  Permits are issued through Sanddrif with a code for the padlock. 

the bold red and orange rocks in the wide wolfberg cracks and the lush green trees that sprouted in the cavern- the colors of the cederberg

Approach: From Sanddrif through the padlocked gate (technical moderate)

Altitude gained:  529m

Water access: NO


Maltese Cross

The orange and grey Maltese cross rising from a small hill.  This tower

Maltese Cross is a large tower rock formation in the shape of a cross.  This is a fairly easy hike with a small elevation gain and is generally flat if you are approaching from the Observatory near Sanddrif.  It makes for an excellent running trail. This is one of the busiest trails in the Cederberg because of its undemanding technical level, however, you can extend this hike to loop around and drop to the Uitkykpas across from Driehook. Alternatively, you can approach this hike from the base of Sugarloaf in the west.  Permits are issued through Cape Nature Algeria office, Sanddrif, or Kromrivier. THIS IS CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR REGROWTH AFTER THE FIRE

burnt hiking sign at the base of Tafelberg from 2018 after the range had been burnt in the previous years.

Approach: Turn to Cederberg Astronomical Observatory and continue to the parking.  The path starts where the road ends. (easy and kid-friendly)

Elevation:  440m

Water Access:  NO unless continuing to Uitkykpas


Disa Pools

Disa Pools feature lovely rock pools named after the Disa flower that blooms in summer January – March.  The path runs along the Kromrivier and has a loop option to return via the plateau above with pretty views of the valley.  Along the way are several rock pools with moving water to relax in.  Disa Pools have a small waterfall and a larger pool to swim in at the end of the hike.  This path offers very little shade.  Permit issued at Kromrivier Guest Farm.

Approach: Along the jeep track from Kromrivier Guest Farm. Limited parking is available where path starts. (moderate — roughly 10km out and back).

Elevation:  307m plus 100m for the return loop on the plateau

Water access:  YES


Apollo and Luna Peaks

Apollo and Luna mountain peaks in the Cederberg Moutains.  Gray and black pocked stones with the dried fynobos and high grasses

The Apollo and Luna Peaks path take you along the plateau for the Disa Pool with a steady incline. When you reach the base of Apollo, you have a steep incline of about 500 meters.  On top are many goliath blocks, smoothed caves and curves, fairy chimneys, and a moonlike floor with cracks and crevices. It feels otherworldly, suiting the celestial names and overlooking the Observatory.   From here you have incredible views of Tafelberg to the east.  This can be an out-and-back trail, or you can continue along the ridge and down the Winterbach gulley (an extra 12km).  Depending on recent rains, there is a possibility of water in the gullies.  Permit available through Kromrivier.

The flat part of the traverse from Apollo to Winterbach peaks

Approach: From the jeep track and then up toward the plateau (Moderate)

Hike along the Disa Pool trail then turn up about 6km (moderate)

From Winterbach gully and peak along the ridge (difficult)

Elevation gained: 813m

Water access:  Possible, but be prepared


Sugarloaf

The pointy silhouette of Sugarloaf Mountain

Looking at a map of the Cederberg, you may find several Sugarloaf mountains, named for the perfect-looking conical shape.  It is not a particularly popular hike, but I have included it because of this mountain’s pointy silhouette that you can appreciate throughout this area.  This hike circles the base of Sugarloaf and you can scramble up the path to the top on the far side of the mountain. From here you can continue to Maltese Cross and Sneeuberg (access currently closed) or drop down to Disa Pools.  Permit issued through Kromrivier.

Approach:  Through the private reserve of Goonafontein next to Kromrivier (moderate because of the distance)

Elevation: 560m to the top

Water access:  NO


Truitjieskraal

Hiking through Truijieskraal on the way from rock climbing

Truitjieskraal is part of the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve and, as of 2014, is considered a World Heritage Site.  Several walking paths wind through the sandstone alleys, and plaques offer information about the flora, fauna, geology, and the San culture.  Rock art dating between 300 and 6,000 years is scattered through the site and protected under the National Monument Act.  This is less like a hike and more like a playground, the area is a well-known sport climbing destination in the Cederberg.  Permits are available at Kromrivier and are free for Wild Card Holders.

Approach: Parking at the first lot will guide you to the first placard (easy)

Elevation: 82m

Water access:  NO, but toilet facilities at the second parking area


Stadsaal Caves

admiring some of the rockart and paintings protected in the Stadsaal caves and explanations with signage on site

The Stadsaal Caves hike is a short walk as you wander through the impressive open, cavernous sandstone, smoothed over from thousands of years of water and wind erosion.  This is an easy walk with San and Khoi rock art.  This cave was considered a meeting place for politicians and named “Stadsaal,” which translates to “City Hall” in Afrikaans.  Here you can find signatures of political figures from the late 1800s.  Permits are available at Kromrivier and Algeria offices. Stadsaal is part the of the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve.

Approach: Paths begin at the parking lot (easy)

Elevation: 16m

Water access:  NO



Tafelberg & Spout Cave

golden hour on with the views of tafelberg frontal from Spout cave

Tafelberg is the OTHER Table Mountain.  Similar to the prominent Table Mountain of Cape Town, this Cederberg sister is a large flat mountain that sits above the Karoo and the Dwarsriver Valley.  This mountain boasts epic sunsets since its large frontal wall faces west and catches the last glow of the day. 

hiking up tafelberg at night during the summer to stay cool

The hike takes you through three different styles of the landscape.  The first part provides shade, moving you through woody thickets, protea shrubs, and shady overhangs, and running water.  You’ll reach a jeep track (the same one that connects to Sanddrif with access to Wolfberg arch). The second section (my least favorite) is loose, crumbly shale over rich red clay.  The path is pretty clearly marked and often takes you up water-eroded gullies.  You continue on a flat plateau with grand views of the 200m rock face and a scramble over the massive round boulders.  Approaching the saddle between Spout and Tafelberg, you find a series of caves. 

Spout Cave in situated on the right.  Around the corner to the left lies the descent gully. Scramble up the huge boulders and clamber up a heavy chain up to reach the top peaks of Tafelberg.  Above the chain you will find Sputnik, the spaceship-shaped rock as well as a crater-pocked surface.   On the weekends with nice weather, it is common to find climbers and hikers camping on top.  Permits through Cape Nature.

Approach: From the trees near Driehoek (difficult)

Elevation: 1106

Water access:  Seasonal


How to reach the central Cederberg:

Take the N7 from Cape Town through Malmesbury and Citrusdal.  Pass the Caltex Petrol station on your right and then in roughly 25km turn right toward Algeria and then right onto Uitkykpas.  This is a mostly dirt, sand, and rocky road with some corrugation.  A 4×4 isn’t necessary, but something with high clearance helps.  Take it slow to avoid tire punctures.  There is a dirt road leading all the way from Clanwilliam to Ceres with beautiful views throughout the Cederberg Mountain but it is much slower than the N7. 

Accommodation options:


Phone service in central cederberg:

Unless you are on the peaks of these mountains, it is highly unlikely you receive cell service.  However, each of the accommodation options offer Wifi.

EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS HERE


Food and Drinks in central cederberg:

The closest grocery stores are either in Clanwilliam or Citrusdal.  Kromrivier has a lovely restaurant and shop. Sanddrif, Driehoek, and Kromrivier all have small shops where you can purchase their wine, beer, frozen meats, braai wood, and some essentials.



Tips for Hiking in the Cederberg:

passing throught the smooth arches of stadsaal caves
  1. It is extremely dry and prone to fires.  Do not light your loo paper on fire, stomp out cigarettes in the fynbos, or discard ashes or hot coals anywhere that can catch.
  2. Double bag your loo paper in a Ziploc bag and carry it out with you.  Keep these mountains clean, especially in busy overnight areas such as Wolfberg and Tafelberg.
  3. Make sure to carry water.  Never rely on the mountain to have water in the summer and autumn.
  4. Sun protection.  Many of these hikes offer very little shade.  Wear a hat and sunscreen protection.
  5. Fauna of the area.  Many of these camping sites have baboon visitors, so lock up your food.  Other spectacular sightings have included otters, caracals, and the elusive leopard that roams these areas.
  6. Common snakes in the Cederberg are the berg adder, puff adder, and the mozambique spitting cobra.  Scorpions and Red Romans also enjoy living in these areas.
  7. Don’t pick the flowers.  Some very beautiful rare flowers grow in different times of the year – appreciate them while leaving them be.
  8. Stay on the paths and avoid building cairns or rock stacks.  It is easy to get turned around.  Be very cautious of skirting along the ledges.
  9. Respect the rock art. Some of these paintings are several thousands years old, don’t graffiti on them or touch them, so they can be appreciated for years to come.
protected rock paintings found in Rocklands but a good depiction of the paintings found throughout the cederberg

Packing for hiking in the Cederberg:

hiking and running cloths for the cederberg in the summer.
  1. Layers.  While the days can get up to 50?, the nights, especially on top of Tafelberg, can get extremely windy and cold.
  2. UV light.  Scorpions have a layer of shell glows when under the UV light. Shining it makes them easy to spot and avoid as well as cool to observe.
  3. Headtorch.  There is very little light pollution, making it an awesome place for stargazing.  However, not easy to navigate unless there is a full moon.
  4. Tire puncture kit.  Over the past 5 years, I have spent a fair amount of time in the Cederberg, this last time was the first time we had a puncture.  Be prepared.
  5. Food.  While there is some food available in the restaurant and shops, it is very expensive and mostly snacks and junk food.
  6. Bottle opener and a cup.  Some of the best wines and beers are made right in the heart of these hikes.  Make sure to enjoy.
  7. A camera.  The sun on the rocks in the Cederberg casts the most amazing light — the rock almost glows.  If you are into photography, it is worth capturing.
  8. A swimsuit.  There is nothing more refreshing than jumping into a clear, crisp rockpool at the end of a long climb. 

For more ideas on how to incorporate healthy habits into your travels check out:

31 Exciting Activities & Tips to Get Fit & Stay Healthy while Traveling.

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