UPDATE: The Franschhoek Pass is once again open as of 6th September 2019.
We are faced with a dilemma dear fellow hikers. Our beloved Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve with the best hiking trails and stunning views is not accessible from the Franschhoek side and requires a two hour trip to the other side of the mountain going the looonnggg way round to get there and another two hours back. The Franschhoek Pass is closed potentially till the end of September for major repairs after some huge rock and mud slides. We had a huge 7 day fire in the area at the end of February which burnt all the vegetation above the pass right up to the road, and then with the heavy rains we experienced in June and July, there was nothing to hold the rock and mud up so down it came in a big way. One unlucky person had his vehicle hit but he was super lucky and survived to tell the tail with very minor injuries. However, it naturally resulted in the pass being closed. Reconstruction work has now begun and we are not allowed to even bike ride up there as while they work, rock and mud will be coming down all the time.
So what to do now!
Well fear not. We have many mountains surrounding us and we have a couple of other great hiking trails to keep us going.
The Berg River Dam conservancy area at the back of the dam is where you will find the Snake Alley Hiking Trail as well as a few others. This mountainous area is the source of the Berg River which flows another 270km north to the town of Velddrift where it eventually enters the Altantic Ocean. The Snake Alley trail is relatively easy to do but the walk to and from the start of the 7km hike is an additional 5km's. We park outside the gate to the area and walk along a wide dirt road past the Berg River Dam itself, and then start our hike. If you can manage 12km's of flat walking with a short uphill climb to the first contour line which takes us along the trail, you will be fine. The trail has great mountain views and lots of lovely Fynbos. In winter the trail is very wet but in summer it dries out nicely. You can book a guided hike here with us.
Topiary Wine Estate just outside of Franschhoek on the Wemmershoek Road has just opened up the Franschhoek Fan Aloe Trail. This is a brand new trail and is about an hours hiking. What makes this trail spectacular is the fact that the two plant species unique to our mountains are found in abundance here and you will see plenty of Blushing Bride Proteas and Fan Aloes while we walk. Both plants are currently (August 2019) flowering and it is a very special sight as you will not find them easily anywhere else. The trail will be expanded over time to the north of the current area but for now, the views of the Simonsberg mountains are fabulous and its fun to explore the various koppies (rocky outcrops) we pass on the trail. At time of writing a small section of the trail is not yet completed and a little bundu-bashing is required but it is easy going. So, if you are able to walk for an hour on a rocky trail with some uphill sections and a bit of vegetation clambering, you'll do fine on this lovely trail. Be one of the first to do so soon and book here for your guided tour. Currently the trail is not open for solo hiking, it must be guided until the trail is 100% complete.
La Motte Wine Estate also has a really cool hike on their section of the Wemmershoek Mountain which is only open in Spring and Summer. It is about 5km's long and can be a little steep at sections but very doable. It has a lovely shaded lapa where you can rest and have a little picnic and the the views of the mountains opposite are awesome. Full of our endemic Fynbos flowers, it is an amateur botanist's dream. The trail only opens at 9am so perhaps not advisable on the hottest days of the year when we try to get on the mountain before 8am to avoid the hottest time of day. You can book your guided La Motte Hike here with us.
If you'd like to try some hiking in Stellenbosch, the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is a great place to be. Run by Cape Nature, it is a large reserve and has a couple of different hikes. The most popular is the Waterfall Trail but this has some downfalls as it is generally closed in winter when it is falling at its best due to the rocks being too steep and slippery when so wet. During summer, the waterfall is not flowing (we are a winter rainfall area) so probably the best time to hike would be spring when it is still flowing a bit but not so wet. There is a lovely pool to take a dip in so bring your cozzies. There are other trails that are equally awesome to hike but without the waterfall. The most popular one is 7km's long and there is another much longer trail of about 18km's. The whole reserve is covered in Proteas. Remember to bring your sunhat and sunscreen as we do not have trees in our vegetation and it gets hot! You can book your Jonkershoek hike with us here. Transport from Franschhoek is included.