Crystal Pools Hike
The Crystal Pools Hike is a stunning hike in the Steenbras Nature Reserve (located a few minutes drive away from the Kogel Bay campsite, and an hour’s drive from Cape Town). The trail takes you along a path through indigenous fynbos, past the Steenbras River Mouth, across babbling brooks, and up towards three gorgeous freshwater mountain pools. The hike is about 8km in total up to the third pool and back. It is not too difficult with only a few steeper sections, making it accessible to entry-level hikers. At a moderate pace you will reach the first pool in about 45 minutes and the other two pools are a 5-10 minute walk apart from each other. You’ll be rewarded with three stunning swimming spots featuring cascading waterfalls and beautiful areas to sit and soak up the afternoon sunshine.
Start Location: Steenbras Nature Reserve on the R44 just after the Steenbras bridge
Duration: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy with a some steep sections. Path is easy to follow.
Conservation fee: R75 pp
The parking for the hike is located on the R44 on the right hand side just after you’ve crossed the Steenbras River Bridge (coming from Cape Town/Gordon’s Bay side). To get to the start of the trail you will cross the road to the mountain side and walk towards a little wooden hut. At the hut there is a gate which you can enter to start the hiking trail. You can then follow the footprint signs to make sure you’re on the right track.
The Three Crystal Pools
You will reach the first mountain pool after about 45 minutes of hiking. You’ll see a somewhat overgrown path to the right that will take you down towards the first pool. This first pool is big and has a short waterfall flowing into it. There is a flat rock where your hiking group can sit and enjoy the pool. If you started your hike early in the morning this pool will probably not have any sun yet. In this case you might want to push on towards the second pool to enjoy the sunshine and come back to the spend time at the first pool on your way back down.
The second pool is about a 5-10 minute walk up from the first pool. After following the main path for a bit you’ll see a steep path to your right through the trees interspersed with log steps which leads down towards the second pool. This one is the biggest of the three pools and was by far our favourite. It has lots of sitting spots under the shade of the trees, a big pool to swim in and a tall cascading waterfall. We spent many happy hours here, swimming and basking in the sunshine.
The third pool is up a steep rocky section of path and has a much smaller waterfall on the far bank. The entry into the water was a little more tricky with not much in the way of a seating area. Only a few members of our hiking group went all the way up to the top as the rest of us were very happy with everything the second pool had to offer.
The pools are delightful for swimming, relaxing and one could happily spend a day here. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a baboon problem in the area meaning that carrying food with you on the hike is not ideal. We didn’t see any baboons on our hike but they are known to be prolific here. Because of this warning we didn’t pack a picnic lunch which meant we were limited in our time and couldn’t just linger longer as our hungry tummies called us back to camp.
Getting a permit
The Crystal Pools hike requires a permit in order for you to be allowed on the trail. The permit costs R75 per person and needs to be organised WELL IN ADVANCE. Permits can only be organised for the months of November- April as the hiking trail is otherwise closed. The permits are to ensure that no more than 50 people are in the reserve each day. This means that the trails are much quieter and you’re able to have the beauty all to yourself and can enjoy the solitude of nature. Groups are not allowed to be bigger than 10 people and a permit needs to be obtained for the whole group with each person paying R75.
The first step would be to phone the Steenbras Nature Reserve on +27(0)214446927 to see if there is still space available for the day you want to hike. Next, the permit can be requested by emailing [email protected] with the number of people in your group and your proposed date. This needs to be done a minimum of 2 working days before your hike but I would recommend starting the process earlier as they can be a little slow and you really want to make sure you get the permit before your trip so you can print it out.
They will then send you a booking form that you will need to fill in and send on to the Steenbras Nature Reserve. Once they have approved your booking they will send you the banking details so you can EFT the full amount for the permits. Once they have received your proof of payment your permit will be sent through. You will need to print out your permit and sign it, making sure it’s on your person during the hike.
This was one of my favourite hikes I’ve done combining beautiful ocean views, with gorgeous fynbos and cool mountain swimming spots. I’d highly recommend it! And while getting the permit can be a bit of a mission I promise it’s well worth it!
Why not spend the night camping in Kogel Bay? It’s only a few minutes drive from the hike and is a beautiful beach camping spot!