Outeniqua Nature Reserve

Eagles, easy walks and epic hikes await visitors to the Outeniqua Nature Reserve

Located close to the Garden Route town of George and easily accessible from Mossel Bay, Knysna and Oudtshoorn, the Outeniqua Nature Reserve is about a five-hour drive from Cape Town. Spanning 38 000 hectares, the reserve encompasses the mountain ranges that fall between the coast and the semi-arid Klein Karoo. The primary attraction here is the opportunity to traverse the five mountain passes that fall within the reserve and explore the area’s rich diversity on the walking and hiking trails.

The name Outeniqua is believed to mean “those who bear honey” and is ascribed to the San and Khoi people who once inhabited the mountains. Their rock paintings are found throughout the reserve, depicting animals, hunters and honeycombs. The rugged mountains have long posed a barrier into the Klein Karoo and early settlers in the late 1600s used to follow herds of elephants to find easier ways through the area. The first pass, the Cradock Pass, was built in 1813, but was too steep for many to climb with ox-wagons. The Montagu Pass built in the mid-1800s eventually proved a safer and quicker option. This is a popular walking and hiking destination. Unfortunately there is no overnight accommodation.

How to get there

From Cape Town: Take the N2 highway towards George and travel for about 465km. Once in George, follow the signposts for the N12 towards Oudtshoorn. Travel for 4km along this road, then turn right towards Witfontein and right again into the Outeniqua Nature Reserve.

GPS: 33 56 08.0 S 22 25 38.4 E

General information

Office hours: 07:30–16:00

Tel: +27 (0)44 870 8323
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190

Activities

  • Hiking and Walking

    The reserve’s walking and hiking trails have a rich history and it is common to see the markers from early explorers and pioneer settlers carved onto rock faces along the route. Hiking trails The beautiful hiking trails on this reserve head through forests, up mountains and alongside dams. Help us protect nature No fires/no picking of flowers or collecting of seeds/no hunting/no litter/dogs allowed on leashes. Permits Outeniqua Nature Reserve operates on a self-permit basis. Please download the self-permit document here. Trail preparation
    • Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
    • Do not hike alone.
    • Carry enough food and water with you.
    • Make sure you know what the weather conditions are before you depart.
    • Take a warm jacket/raincoat in winter.
    • Make sure you have a relevant map of the area.
    • Take a field medical kit with you for emergencies.
    • Obey all signage.
    • Stay in a group and on the trails.
    Cradock & George Peak Day Walk Trail distance: 19km to Cradock Peak; 17.2km to George Peak Estimated time: 8 hours (Cradock Peak); 7 hours (George Peak); 9 hours combined This is a strenuous and steep walk, but well worth it for the fantastic views of the Swartberg Mountains and the Garden Route coastline. Pass-to-Pass Day Walk Trail distance: 7.3km (including 2.6km detour to Losberg) Estimated time: 3 hours Offering fabulous views of the Outeniqua Mountains and the town of George, this short walking trail connects the Montagu and Outeniqua passes. There are steep climbs along the way. Cradock Pass Day Walk Trail distance: 24.8km Estimated time: 8 hours The trail follows the Cradock Pass, one of the first routes across the mountains, and is quite strenuous. Cradock Peak Walk Trail distance: 17km Estimated time: 6 hours The trail heads to the summit of George Peak. The steep climb provides fantastic views! Forest Buzzard Walk Trail distance: 2.2km Estimated time: 1 hour This is an easy circular route that passes through pine plantations, indigenous forests and a beautiful waterfall. Witfontein Plantation Walks: Emerald Cuckoo Walk, Cross Walk, Burchell’s Coucal Walk, and Blackheaded Oriole Walk Trail duration: Between 8km and 11km Estimated time: Emerald Cuckoo Walk – 45 minutes, Cross Walk – 1.5 hours, Burchell’s Coucal Walk – 2 hours, Blackheaded Oriole Walk – 3 hours These shorter trails wander through the Witfontein Forestry Station’s pine plantations and indigenous forest.    
  • Bird watching

    Visitors are likely to see black eagles and tiny fynbos birds, such as the Cape sugarbird. It is recommended that visitors bring binoculars and a bird identification book.

Location

Conservation

Outeniqua Nature Reserve Conservation

The Outeniqua Nature Reserve is home to five stunning mountain passes, as well as a diversity of vegetation and wildlife. Set between a high rainfall coastal region and the semi-arid Klein Karoo, visitors will find mountain fynbos interspersed with indigenous forest. Snow falls on the highest peaks in the winter months, while the warm summers boast an average daily temperature of 25°C. The spring months of September and October are popular times to visit, as the proteas and ericas begin to flower and transform the landscape. By conserving wild habitats, the reserve gives visitors the opportunity to spot the majestic black eagle, the elusive leopard and the stunning, tiny fynbos birds, such as the Cape sugarbird. It is not only animal and plant life that is conserved here, but also water, as the reserve serves as a water catchment area for the entire region.

1 Reviews

Mr

Dipuo Ngcozela, Mar 22, 2016 - Outeniqua Nature Reserve

I love the wilderness of that area the whole year

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Bookings are processed through our Call Centre during office hours Monday to Friday 07h30 to 16h30 and Saturday 08h00 until 12h00 noon (CAT).

Our friendly tourism booking officers will take you through the booking process and answer all enquiries.