The Cederberg Wilderness is one of the least trodden parts of South Africa – one of the many reasons it is so alluring as a hiking destination. Take the Gabriel Slackpacking Trail and stay in a series of tiny mountain villages with local families for an experience as authentic as the local rooibos tea.

Did you know?

The Cederberg is named (and misspelled) after the rare Clanwilliam Cedar, only found in the higher parts of these mountains.

Only two hours’ drive north of Cape Town lies an utterly different world. Here you’ll find untamed beauty and unusual plant life among the weirdly shaped rock formations and mountains coloured by iron oxides and the setting sun.

The Cederberg Mountains fall within the Cape Floristic Kingdom so they are botanically remarkable. And not for nothing is this area usually referred to as a wilderness. The rugged terrain means that civilisation has never had much more than a tenuous hold here. The few roads demand respect and the settlements (mostly Moravian mission villages) are thinly populated and far apart.

There are hidden treasures to be found in the Cederberg – notably the rock art in overhangs. Walking is one of the best ways to appreciate the region’s breathtaking scenery, and slackpacking offers the ideal way to do that. As you walk with a small day pack, your heavy packs are transported via donkey cart or other means to your overnight stops.

The Cederberg’s Heritage Route’s Gabriel Slackpacking Trail takes you on a four-night experience through this remarkable wilderness, named for the highest pass you walk over.

They are among the outposts of the Moravian Mission Church at the larger Cederberg town of Wupperthal. Here people are involved in subsistence farming, with the main crops being sugar beans, potatoes, and rooibos tea.

The walks during the day vary in length and difficulty. Hikers need to be fairly fit, since some of the routes are steep and rocky, with the longest walk being 14km. A community trail guide accompanies the group, pointing out the paths and special scenic attractions.

The route ascends mountain passes, descends into gorges with spectacular waterfalls and goes via some of the incredible rock art in caves and overhangs. It also goes close to some of the Cederberg’s most iconic rock formations: the Maltese Cross; the Wolfberg Arch and Sneeuberg.

Travel tips & Planning info

Related articles