New 7km hiking trail opened at Woodville Big Tree, Garden Route National Park.
In August 2023, I heard that SANPARKS had just opened a new 7km hiking trail at Woodville Big Tree in Hoekwil, which is part of the Garden Route National Park. Bryan and I were very keen to explore this new trail as we had previously enjoyed the shorter 2km hike through the forest.
To celebrate the official first day of Spring, we headed out to Hoekwil on Friday 1st September 2023. It was a bright and clear day, but there was a chilly wind blowing, so we took a few layers of clothing to make sure we were ready for any eventuality.
We have a Wild Card, so entry was free (but if you do not have one, there is a small entry fee to pay to enjoy these trails) and after just a few minutes filling in the hiking permit, we were on our way.
There is a sign board at the start of the hikes that shows both the 2km and the new 7km hiking routes and the elevation throughout both hiking trails. Follow the green footprint signs for the 2km trail and the blue footprint signs for the 7km trail. Both are very clearly marked.
All trails start heading on the same route towards the spectacular Big Tree, which is found about 200 metres along the trail.
The Big Tree is an 800+ year old Outeniqua Yellowwood tree. It really is a sight to behold and if you are passing through the area and only have a short amount of time, it is worth stopping by just to view this majesty of the Knysna Forest.
Once you have gasped in awe at the Big Tree, continue past and follow the blue footprint signs.
To start with the 2km and 7km hiking trails follow the same route through the indigenous forest. The pathway is either forest floor, or sympathetically laid log steps and wooden bridges to ensure a blending in with the forest environment.
After a short distance, you will see the two hiking trails split into opposite directions, at this point, you have to follw the footprint signs according to the direction the feet are pointing, as seen in this picture. I think this is quite a clever and fun way of directing us avid hikers.
So as I mentioned, the first couple of kms of the 7km hiking trail takes you through the indigenous forest. There are a wonderful variety of trees to see (many of which have name tags on them), there are several different fungi growing on logs and trees, which provide a wonderfully vibrant splash of colour amongst the different shades of green, and if you listen out, you will hear an abundance of bird song, including the fabulous call of the Knysna Lourie. It is a thoroughly delightful hike through the forest.
As you reach the 3km marker, the path exits the depth of the forest and opens into a cyprus tree and fern forest. The route becomes brighter and lighter as the closeness of the trees dwindles and more sunlight streams in. After a short distance the trail arrives at a jeep track and turns left, heading up a fairly steep and long incline.
Once you reach the top of the jeep track, the pathway levels off above the forest tree tops and you walk for about half a km along a ridge, below the peak of the hill. Here you are rewarded with the most spectacular views over the indigenous forest below, across the numerous farmlands of Hoekwil (which look like an over-sized golf course) and all the way to the Indian Ocean at Wilderness and Kleinkranz.
It is a truly breathtaking sight and there are a couple of picnic benches along the path for you to soak up the views and enjoy the peace and tranquility around you.
We were lucky to see a mongoose dart out of the bushes ahead of us and run along the track for a few metres, before disappearing again. We were also excited to hear the call of a couple of fish eagles soaring overhead. A real African sound track.
After about half a km, the path starts it’s descent back down towards the forest. It is fairly steep, so take your time and do not rush. There are a few loose rocks, so just watch your footing as you proceed. Some people may prefer to have a hiking pole with them for this section of the hike.
At the base of the slope, the path merges into the indigenous forest again for the remaining 1.5kms of the hike. The path takes you back past the Big Tree and on to the parking area.
Incidentally, there are several picnic tables by the parking area at the entrance to the Woodville Big Tree section of the Garden Route National Park, so if you are not in a rush, why not enjoy a snack here before you head off on your way.
It took Bryan and I about two hours to complete this 7km hiking trail, however we walk fairly quickly, so I would suggest at an easy stroll it would take about 2.5 – 3 hours.
In terms of difficulty, I would describe it is an easy to moderate level hike, with the only slightly strenuous part of the hike being the incline up the jeep track. However, there is no need to rush this section, just have a few stops on the way and you will manage it just fine. Plus when you reach the top of it, you can rest on the picnic benches, whilst lapping up the views.
In is a lovely and varied hike and definitely one I would recommend. It is a great new addition to all the Garden Route National Park has to offer its visitors and locals alike.
Article & photographs by Garden Route Unearthed.