Outeniqua Nature Reserve's Tierkloofpad trail

The Tierkloofpad hiking trail in the Outeniqua Nature Reserve is a moderately challenging hike, but the views are truly spectacular and well worth the effort!

It was the 29th January 2024 and Bryan and I were heading off on a three-night road trip. We had decided to kick off our mini-holiday with a hike in the Outeniqua Mountains. The Outeniqua Nature Reserve is part of Cape Nature and is located beside the Witfontein Forest at the beginning of the Montagu Pass just outside George. 

By the time we had watered the plants, packed our bags and the car, then filled up with fuel and driven to the Outeniqua Nature Reserve it was 11am. It also happened to be probably the hotest day of the summer so far! This was going to be a tough one!

Outeniqua Nature Reserve’s Tierkloofpad trailWe had chosen the Tierkloofpad Trail, a 6.5km, 2-hour hike which I had read is described as moderately strenuous.

When we entered through the gates of the Outeniqua Nature Reserve, we drove under the boom (after registering our entry) and up the road to the office / reception on the right-hand side. Here there was some shady parking outside the building and to start the trail, we just headed back to the main driveway and started following the signs for the start of the Cradock, Peak and Cradock Pass Trails. 

There is a stunning old building a little further up the driveway, which we took a little detour to, for a quick peak. It has a date on the top of the building of 1904, and it is a beautiful old building. Anyway, I digress, back to the hike.

Craddock Pass and Craddock Peak hiking trailsThe route starts in the forest (a word of advice here: make sure you lather yourself in sun lotion and mosquito repellent before heading through the forest), we had a few of the blighters having a little snack on us.

The first 1.5kms of the Tierkloofpad trail (which is actually the Cradock Peak and Cradock Pass hikes as well), is pretty steep.

First the hiking trail climbs sharply through the forest, and then there is a steep descent down. We felt like we were walking down a gorge to the river below.

The river is gorgeous! Bubbling rock pools, swirling water and it certainly looked very inviting, but we were only at the beginning, so we resisted the urge to have a splash around and continued following the hiking trail.

Rock pools on the Tierkloofpad hiking trail in Outeniqua Nature Reserve Forest pathway at the start of the Tierkloofpad trail Gorgeous river view in the Outeniqua Nature Reserve

The trail crosses the river and then follows it up a little way. We had to scramble over a few boulders, but nothing too tricky. Next the hiking trail heads what felt like vertically upwards again.

Stunning Outeniqua Mountain viewsFortunately, the majority of this section, from the start to heading back out of the gorge, is in shade, but after that, the hiking trail is all out in the open.

As we climbed out of the river gorge, the trail reaches a sort of plateau and it levels off and then the mountain vista opens up. We were greeted with absolutely spectacular scenery an views.

The Outeniqua Mountains rise in all their full glory in front of you and either side of the trail is glorious fynbos, with flowers of all different colours, proteas trees in abundance and several different shades of green. It is truly magnificent.

Forest pathway at the start of the Tierkloofpad trailBryan and I have hiked a couple of hiking trails in the Outeniqua Mountains now and I am still taken aback at their beauty and amazed that despite being next to a bustling city like George, you feel like you are a million miles from anything and everything.

As we continued on the trail, it started a slow and steady ascent. There are a few sign posts on the route, which we continued to follow until we came to a fork in the trail.

Left is sign-posted Cradock Pass Trail, and right is signposted George and Cradock Peak Trail. At this point, you need to take the right-hand fork, but don’t worry, we are not going to lead you up Cradock Peak!

At this point, if you look to your left, you also have a great view of the Old Toll House and the Outeniqua Pass (which we would be heading off on later).

George Town from the Tierkloofpad hiking trail in Outeniqua Nature ReserveFollowing the signs to George and Cradock Peak Trail, we continued on our slow and steady incline and I have to say, it was tough. It was so incredibly hot and there is no shade at all. Thanks goodness for our hats and water supply and the slight breeze that was beginning to pick up.

After about 4.5kms, there is another fork in the pathway. The exact route is not 100% clear, so we were following a map shown in All Trails and we were pleased to be doing so, because at the fork where we needed to go right, there is no signage, only the sign pointing to the left to Cradock Peak.

Unusual flora in the Outeniqua Mountains We took the right-hand fork and this pathway started heading downwards, so we realised that we were being taken back down to the river again. The pathway, still provided stunning views and different flora, with more ferns and unusual succulents showing themselves.

The pathway zigzags down the hillside and takes you to another river crossing, where here you feel like you are entering a tropical rainforest. The trickling water is a delight, if not somewhat of a tease, as by this point, we would have happily taken a plunge into some cool waters.

Anyway, we continued following the hiking route and eventually joined a jeep trail through the forestry area and the remaining 1.5kms was on this pathway through the Witfontain Forest.

It is not the most scenic section, as you are also seeing more of George spread in front of you, but to be honest, it was flatter and shady and my legs were very happy to not be climbing or descending anymore.

Outeniqua Mountains reflected in the damAs we turned a corner along the jeep track, we came across a beautiful pond / dam, with the most exquisite view and reflections of the Outeniqua Mountains and this seemed like a fitting end to our hike.

The car was parked only another 0.5kms from here. We arrived back at the car hot, thirsty and sweaty, but we had really enjoyed the trail and the splendour of the Outeniqua Mountains we had just experienced.

Now it was time for a well-earned ice-cold beer and a bite to eat!

Article & photographs by Garden Route Unearthed.

Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/P84grkvcnQxXUmtw7


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