Skip to content

Out And About This Summer: Hiking South Africa’s National Botanical Gardens

  • LIFESTYLE
  • 4 min read

As we head into summer – and the festive season – it’s the ideal time to get outdoors into our wild places and appreciate South Africa’s extraordinary natural world.

Hiking does all this – and much more. It’s great for your fitness, health and happiness, you can make new friends by joining a hiking group, and you can explore somewhere new, especially South Africa’s magnificent national botanical gardens around the country.

Take a look at some of these wonderful hikes you can enjoy in South Africa’s national botanical gardens. Members of the Botanical Society of South Africa enjoy free entry into these gardens.  

Hike at Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden

Located near Krugersdorp in Gauteng, Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is truly one of Johannesburg’s natural escapes. Try the Walter Sisulu NBG Geological Trail, which is rated as having a moderate level of difficulty and is a 3.9 km circular route. The trail takes around 2.5 hours to complete and showcases the varied and fascinating geology of the Witwatersrand, with interpretation provided by the Geological Society of South Africa.

After you have enjoyed your hike, why not complete your visit with a picnic? There are many beautiful shady spots to enjoy and relax in the gardens in the summer heat.

Hike at Pretoria National Botanical Garden

If you’re looking for an easy and relaxing summer stroll to enjoy with the whole family, then why not consider a visit to Pretoria National Botanical Garden? You can hike a circular paved route exploring the gardens of just under 3 km. You’ll see South Africa’s indigenous wildflowers in full bloom here, celebrating the flora of the savanna and forest biomes. More than half of South Africa’s tree species can be seen in this urban oasis.

Hike at Lowveld National Botanical Garden

This botanical garden is located outside the town of Mbombela. Wander from the main entrance down to the viewpoints over the spectacular cascades at the confluence of the Crocodile and Nels Rivers. Explore the aerial boardwalk that will lead you through trees and plants found in the African rainforest. Slow down and enjoy the diversity of birdlife that call these gardens home.

Hike at Harold Porter National Botanical Garden

Harold Porter National Botanical Garden is framed within a spectacular mountain landscape. The garden offers a number of different hiking routes of varying lengths. You can take a gentle stroll up to the Disa Gorge waterfall viewpoint, through shaded afrotemperate forest. In January visitors can enjoy the Red Disas (Disa uniflora) in bloom high on the cliffs above. More energetic hikers can tackle the Leopards Kloof trail that leads up a series of scrambles and ladders through the fynbos and forest to spectacular mountain waterfalls.

Hike at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Cape Town’s magnificent Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden sits at the foot of the iconic Table Mountain. Here you can take a gentle stroll around the gardens or enjoy more energetic hikes in the afrotemperate forest above and upwards onto the higher level mountain trails. A favourite with hiking enthusiasts is the classic Skeleton Gorge hike, which will lead you up a series of steps, ladders and a fun waterfall scramble through afrotemperate forest to the shores of the Hely-Hutchinson dam on the Table Mountain plateau.

Become a BotSoc member, and you can enjoy access to these wonderful South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) national botanical gardens – and their hiking trails – free of charge. Just show your BotSoc card, or your membership barcode on your cell phone at the entrance gate at any of these gardens, and you’re in.

For more, visit: www.botanicalsociety.org.za