The Cederberg Mountains are best-known for the classic hikes of the central Cederberg. But there are also plenty of great walking in the northern Cederberg, in the Pakhuis area close to Clanwilliam. A unique characteristic of the northern Cederberg is that you may easily not see another walker on a walking trail… for hours if at all. This is wilderness at its raw best.
Given that it is a mountainous area, some of the walks in the northern Cederberg involve some steep sections. As it is wilder, they can be over-grown in parts so wear long trousers if you don’t like getting the odd scratch on your legs. There are also a number of flatter walks on offer. Below I outline some favourites of mine….
Walks in the northern Cederberg – High temperatures in summer
It is extremely hot in the Cederberg in high summer. And we don’t recommend that you plan to do major walking during the months of December to February, However if you do walk in summer, you should start as early as possible i.e. 6.30am or 7am so that you return from your walk before the main heat of the day. You will need to take plenty of water with you, sunblock, a wide brimmed hat and a light weight long sleeved shirt to cover up if necessary.
Winter months can be very cold in the early mornings but pleasant daytime temperatures, ideal for walking throughout the day, unless it is raining. (The Cederberg is in the winter rainfall area though we get only a third of the rainfall of Cape Town).
Permits for the Cederberg Wilderness Reserve:
You need to buy a day permit to walk in the Cederberg Wilderness. You can buy the necessary permits from Clanwilliam Tourism Office in the Main Street of Clanwilliam (opposite the Old Gaol Museum), or at the Klein Kliphuis Cape Nature Office.
Ramskop Nature Reserve – 45 to 60 mins
There is a lovely walking trail through the Ramskop Nature Reserve. It starts in the flowering area of the reserve and then heads around the small hill with beautiful views of the Clanwilliam Dam. Easy trail.
Boskloof Valley – as far as you like, easy undulating
This is not actually a trail but a very quiet country road through beautiful scenery. We recommend that you drive part of the way and then simply walk along the road and back to your car. The Boskloof road has the Krakadouw mountains on one side and a beautiful valley and farmland on the other.
Heuningvlei Jeep Track – as far as you like
At the very top of the Pakhuis Pass, there is a small turnoff to the right. Turn off here and park your car in the car park. Take the trail from here through the gate and continue straight on. This is a well-marked trail through classic Cedarberg terrain with lovely views down to the Karoo on your left. You can walk as far as you want and then turn back. (Eventually you would come to the small community of Heuningvlei after about 12km). Cederberg Wilderness Permit needed.
Sevilla Rock Art Trail
The Sevilla Rock Art Trail is on Travellers Rest farm about 30 minutes drive from Clanwilliam over the Pakhuis Pass. (The trail can be easily combined with a visit to Wupperthal or to the Biedouw Valley during the flower season.)
The trail consists of 9 different rock art sites and will take about 2½ hours to complete. As it is a linear trail you can turn back at any time if you are tired but, because of this, the first four sites are less impressive than the second five as they have been visited by many more people over the years. If you are short of time, we would recommend walking past the first four sites to get to at least sites 5 to 7 and then visit the first 4 sites on the way back. (Sites 8 & 9 are also very good but a little further on). The walk is not difficult but does involve slightly uneven terrain so comfortable shoes are recommended. You may also want to purchase the very useful informative booklet on these paintings from the Clanwilliam Tourism Office in Clanwilliam beforehand.
Short Kliphuis Circular walk (1.5 hours)
Note: Last section is currently quite over-grown
This is a circular walk from the top of Pakhuis Pass (Park in the car park – see above). First take the Heuningvlei Jeep track as above. After approx 1km, you will see a small cairn and a single file track to the right. (Watch out for this as it’s easy to miss if you are chatting away. If you find yourself steadily climbing on the main track, then you have gone too far!) Take this track as it crosses the vlei and then goes gently uphill (after another 1km) on to a second plateau area. Look out for a not very clear four way intersection in the trail. Turn right at the intersection and start to descend.
It is rocky terrain here, but stunning views. Please be on the lookout for the stone cairns to guide you. You descend until you come close to the road. Look out for a larger cairn on your right hand side. Turn right and follow a smaller path back up to the car park. This last section has not been cleared recently and so it is quite over-grown. Follow the small cairns.
to the river/stream. In the winter months you may need to take off your shoes to wade through the stream but in summer, it will be dry. Walk along the other side of the stream to Kliphuis campsite where you will have left one vehicle. Alternatively walk up the road to the summit again to retrieve your parked car. Allow 3 hours for this walk at a leisurely pace (assuming you stop at Kliphuis). Cederberg Wilderness Permit required.
Note: Linear variation to end at Kliphuis (1.5-2 hours, need two cars)
This is a linear version of the above walk. So ideally you need two cars. (Or someone who is prepared to walk the additional 3km uphill to retrieve your car from Pakhuis Pass!)
Follow the walk as detailed above. However as you descend the rocky and scenic kloof at the end, you stay on the path. You descend until you come to the river/stream. In the winter months you may need to take off your shoes to wade through the stream but in summer, it will be dry. Walk along the other side of the stream to Kliphuis campsite where you will have left one vehicle. Alternatively walk up the road to the summit again to retrieve your parked car. Allow 2 hours for this walk at a leisurely pace. Cederberg Wilderness Permit required.
Longer Kliphuis Circular walk (3-4 hours)
Just before the Pakhuis pass, park your car outside the Kliphuis campsite. The walk is a 3 to 4 hour circular walk through pristine Cederberg fynbos. It is relatively gentle (as Cedarberg walks go!) The trail begins behind the old Forestry House and snakes up a steep kloof for approx 30 minutes. This is steep but it’s the only bit of steep walking. When you reach the top of the kloof, you come out onto a wide broad plateau with views to Kliphuis immediately on the right, the peaks of Faith, Hope and Charity on your far right hand side, and Ribbokberg immediately in front of you. The path veers around to the left. Most of the walk continues on this plateau with gradual ups and downs. The path is clearly marked in most places and there are stone cairns where the trail is over the open rock.
Later in the walk, you descend next to a river (Kliphuisrivier), dry in summer, which has lovely waterfalls in winter. At this point, there’s a very pretty view of Lion’s Head, an escarpment of small peaks looking like lions gazing over the plains. Shortly after this the path turns to the left and you round the hill to return to the original valley. After the descent there is a slow gentle uphill section (tiring at this stage in the walk) back to the car park at Kliphuis. This section can be a boggy in winter and also quite over-grown so I recommend long trousers, even in summer. Cederberg Wilderness Permit needed.
Pakhuis to Heuningvlei
This is not really a full day walk but it does take most of the day as you will need to return – either by donkey cart or by vehicle. At the top of the Pakhuis Pass, there is a small turnoff to the right. Park your car in the small car park. Take the trail from here through the gate and continue straight on. You walk to the small community of Heuningvlei. At Heuningvlei, you can either return the way you came (24km in total). Or arrange for one of your party to collect you by car. Or you can opt to book a lunch and donkey cart ride back to the Pakhuis Pass. Note: There is no shop at Heuningvlei so you will need to take provisions with you. Cederberg Wilderness Permit required.