It still blows my mind just how many incredible hiking spots there are around Johannesburg, and the best thing about so many of them is that they’re relatively unknown so you have the chance to really connect with the outdoors without having to shove past other people to get a look at the view. I’m so so SO amped to be collaborating with Hi-Tec over the coming months to document and share some of South Africa’s incredible hiking trails. Hiking has become a love of mine over the past couple of years and just the idea of sharing the routes with you makes me really happy!
Castle Gorge is the perfect hike if you’re just getting into hiking or you’re just looking to spend a day outdoors, what really makes Castle Gorge special is that there is a beautiful waterfall and rock pools half way, the water is crystal crystal clear and rocks are pretty flat in some spaces…all that’s missing is someone serving cold beers when you get there!
You’ll need a permit to hike Castle Gorge so don’t make the mistake of just pitching up! Your permit will also have a gate code on it so you won’t be able to get in if you don’t have it. Permits are R60 per person, pretty inexpensive for a day out right? You can get your permit by mailing the Johannesburg Hiking club : firstname.lastname@example.org . The start of the hike is really easy to get to, we just use our phone’s GPS and type in Castle Gorge Parking and the lot will show up.
The lock on the gate can be a little tricky, some hard jiggling usually does the trick!
Okay, here’s the thing about hiking Castle Gorge, the beginning is about as exciting as watching Verimark adverts. You start off along a narrow footpath that opens to a red clay road that goes on for a bit. Only once you turn towards the mountains do things get exciting. Castle Gorge only recently put up new signs directing you towards the hiking path, if you’re in doubt, just stick to the left until you see a sign saying Castle Gorge.
The initial climb is the hardest part of the hike but it’s all worth it once you reach the top, and then it’s all pretty flat until you reach the rock pools. The hill climb is pretty rocky and tiring so make sure you’re wearing proper shoes and paying attention! I’ve slipped a couple times and had a few bruises on my bum to show for it!
The Rock Pools
The path to the rock pools winds along a beautiful ridge and then through fields of grass, it really is quite beautiful! While you don’t have to worry about a lion jumping out onto the path there are quite a few monkeys, baboons and smaller animals. I’ve seen a few buck droppings but never any buck but they’re definitely there!
Every time I hike Castle Gorge I bring a proper packed lunch to eat at the pools and I suggest you do the same, it really is the highlight of the hike! The pools stretch for quite a way and there are loads of flat spaces and smaller ponds filled with frogs and little fish to keep you busy. I love that the pools are crystal clear, I have a bit of a fear of swimming when I can’t see the bottom of something. Castle Gorge also has an unbelievable waterfall with really deep pools just down from the smaller rock pools… which I only found out after my last visit so I’ll definitely be back for a waterfall mission!
What To Bring With
The first time I hiked Castle Gorge was on one of my first dates with Craig, we didn’t pack nearly enough water and both ended up with some pretty serious sunstroke! On my most recent hike there, in my excitement I forgot to put on sunscreen…let’s just say I officially have the worst tan for summer! Moral of the story? Don’t be an idiot! It gets hot out there and you’re pretty exposed to the elements for most of the hike. You’ll need at least 2l of water per person and enough sunscreen to bath in.
When I did the Otter Trail I really discovered how much of a difference having proper shoes makes when you’re hiking. I’m really not the world’s most experienced hiker, the Otter Trail was done on a whim more than anything else and I’d always just used whatever was in my cupboard. If you are thinking of hiking more regularly I’d seriously recommend investing in a pair of trail shoes. My go to trail shoes are the Hi Tec Badwaters, they’ve seen me up and down quite a few mountains over the past years. I’ve been trying out the Sierras recently too, you can check them out here, they’re also the one’s I hike the gorge in, they’re a lot more stable than the Badwaters so great for rocky terrain.
I’ve put together a list together for you to make it a little easier:
- 2l water
- Proper hiking shoes/trainers
- Swimming Costume
Thanks to Craig, Star, Wernie and Jay for a fun morning!