Some hikes are worth driving the length of the country for. Wherever you live, try to make the journey to these trails for their springtime carpets of colour. (If your travel plans are limited, check out these places to see the wild flowers in the Northern Cape or how to view flowers in the West Coast National Park.)
Only open in August and September when the West Coast is full of the joys of spring, the exceptional floral displays are the major drawcard but the empty beaches, magnificent granite boulders, plentiful plains game, birds of prey and bat-eared foxes are reason enough to lace up your boots. (See our guide to the West Coast National Park here.)
The Steenbok Trail starts at Tsaarsbank’s gate in the West Coast National Park and initially follows the route of the two-day Postberg Trail across the veld and then up a hill to a viewpoint overlooking the Langebaan Lagoon. When the trail splits at the top of this hill, you follow the Steenbok signboards towards the granite spires of Vingerklippe and down to Plankiesbaai. This stretch is the highlight of the trail and the plains are a mass of white, orange and purple wild flowers. The route then follows the rocky coastline before cutting inland back to Tsaarsbank.
Costs: R24 (free to Wild Card holders)
Distance: 4 km
Duration: 1 hour (but factor in a couple more for distractions)
Contact: Tel 027-672-1948, www.sanparks.org
Nieuwoudtville, the gateway to Namaqualand, is known for its spectacular spring flowers, and I challenge you to find more interesting floral hikes than those in the Hantam National Botanical Garden.
The trails near Nieuwoudtville opened a few years ago, but are still a well-kept secret. There are nine routes of varying difficulty ranging from the short, 450- metre Spiderweb Trail to the 8,2-kilometre Dolerite Trail. The garden comprises five parallel bands of different soil types, which support different vegetation types including Tillite Renosterveld, which is highly threatened due to agriculture. Other beauties that line the way include Geissorhiza splendidissima, called the Blue Pride of Nieuwoudtville by local farmers for its brilliant blue flowers. As with all wildflower gardens, the date of flowering depends on temperature and the timing and duration of winter rains, but the season usually continues until October.
Costs: R16 between August and October, otherwise free
Distance: 450 m to 8,2 km
Duration: 10 minutes to 2,5 hours
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Contact: Tel 027-218-1200, www.sanbi.org
During flower season the normally drab plains of the Skilpad Section of Namaqua National Park are swathed in bright orange.
World-renowned and arguably the best place in the country to view wild flowers, the area has an estimated 3 500 floral species. Exploring the reserve on foot is the best way to appreciate its diversity.
The four-kilometre Skilpad Trail, marked by signboards with a tortoise emblem, starts in front of the office and takes you past some photogenic windmills into the heart of the daisy-covered plains. A rough footpath leads past a small waterhole, Skilpad Grou Water, to a high point from where you’ll often see gemsbok and other buck. The route then circles back to the office.
Costs: R60, plus a conservation fee of R48 (unless you have a Wild Card)
Distance: 13,9 km
Difficulty level: Moderate
Need to know: Only 20 hikers a day are accommodated. Booking is essential.
Contact: Tel 022-707-9902, www.sanparks.org
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Tags: best spring hikes, Dolerite Trail, flower hikes, flower hiking trails, flower season hikes, Hantam National Botanical Garden, hiking, hiking trails, Namaqua National Park, namaqualand, Nieuwoudtville, Postberg Trail, Skilpad Trail, Spiderweb Trail, spring flower trails, spring hikes, Steenbok Trail, west coast, West Coast National Park