In the Western Cape’s Langeberg Mountains, just north of Heidelberg, are two wonderful fynbos reserves. Grootvadersbosch is known for its beautiful forest cabins, great campsite and giant trees. Venture into the kloofs above to explore the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area and you’ll likely have the breathtaking views all to yourself. Words and images by Chris Davies
Grootvadersbosch is one of my favourite reserves, a dinky postage stamp of forest in the magnificent foothills of the Langeberg Mountains. Its excellent mountain cabins were finished in late 2016 and there’s also a lovely little campsite, bird hides and day trails. It’s a gorgeous place to spend a few days, but it can also be used as a base for heading deeper into the mountains.
Also read: Forest fun in Grootvadersbosch
Bordering Grootvadersbosch to the north, the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area covers 142km² of pristine mountain fynbos, protected by UNESCO as part of the Cape Floral Region. Besides its rare erica species and elusive leopard, the region is home to some 184 species of birds. There’s little to no infrastructure beyond a small network of hiking trails and a couple of ancient stone overnight huts that make for a superb rustic sleepover.
The easiest access is through Grootvadersbosch itself – an ideal basecamp from which to explore. There are no facilities at all up in Boosmansbos so adding a day or two on either side in Grootvadersbosch is the best way to prepare, and to wind down again afterwards with a nice hot shower!
Up Loerklip to impressive views
64km of hiking trails wind through Boosmansbos, and hikers can camp wild anywhere provided they make no fires and leave no trace. The usual route leaves Grootvadersbosch up Loerklip, a tough initial ascent that gets the blood pumping right away.
From the top of Loerklip the climbing continues, but a little more gradually to a spectacular ridge line. At just over 1150m it’s an ideal lunch stop, with impressive views south across the Overberg to the distant Cape Infanta, and glimpses of Barrydale down the valley to the northwest.
You should reach the ridge after four or five hours of hiking, and from there it’s two to three hours to the Helderfontein huts. The huts themselves are also at about 1150m, but the final stretch of trail climbs another 100m before tapering off and gently sloping down.
Clear nights are a rarity up here and even in summer the evenings can be cold. The Langeberg region is one of the wettest in South Africa and rain can fall at any time of year. This does mean that there’s usually water along the trail and the small stream at the Helderfontein huts can generally be relied upon. Even so, it’s highly recommended to take plenty of water with you – if the stream is dry it’ll be a thirsty morning the next day.
The Helderfontein huts provide only the most basic shelter and if you do get a clear night then it’s glorious under the stars. There’s little to no chance of sharing with other hikers and in any case, there’s no rule about (carefully) pitching a tent anywhere.
Stop off for a swim
The standard route back is south down Saagkuilkloof or there’s a longer, tougher eastern loop with an overnight camping option on the Horingberg. Saagkuilkloof is by far the easier route, however, about three hours’ steep descent, eventually bottoming out at the Duiwenhoks River crossing. The Duiwenhoks River is almost always full enough for a swim, with a couple of big flat rocks that are ideal for sunbathing. After heavy rains the river can be too swollen to safely cross. If you do get caught in a storm in the mountains, then make your make back via Loerklip instead.
From the Duiwenhoks River it’s an easy hour and a half back to the Grootvadersbosch huts and if there’s still something in your legs then the redwoods road loop is not to be missed. Through a mix of lush Afromontane forest and towering Californian redwoods, this final 3km trail is home to curious bushbuck and a chorus of birds. Under these cool, towering trees you’ll find one of the most exquisite patches of forest anywhere in the Western Cape – a fantastic way to end a few magical days in the mountains.