Gorgeous and gruelling, an overnight hike in Groot Winterhoek Nature Reserve needs to be on every South African hiker’s bucket list. This beautiful spot near Beaverlac is home to a gorgeous landscape of colourful fynbos, mountain vistas, waterfalls and lush mountain pools. Groot Winterhoek is a Wilderness Area which means you can wild camp within the reserve. Organising an overnight hike here is fairly simple and requires very little prior planning. Permits can be bought onsite on the day so this is an easy one to plan last minute.
Here is my guide with everything you need to know to plan a Groot Winterhoek overnight hike. We hiked to Die Hel and back which was 18km each way, spending the night camping in the Wilderness. There are a number of huts you can book to stay in at De Tronk (15km hike from reception) which will need to be booked in advance. You can book self-catering accommodation from R650 per day here. If you decide to wild camp you will need to bring everything you need for the two days with you including a tent, mattress, sleeping bag and cooking equipment. There is plenty of water along the way as the path follows the river so you do not need to carry too much water, just bottles to refill.
Start Location: Groot Winterhoek Nature Reserve Reception. This is located in the Porterville area, up the Dasklip Pass. This pass is narrow and very winding. The last few kilometres to get to the Groot Winterhoek reception follows a gravel road (which is very corragated) so be sure to take a car that can handle the dirt.
Distance: 36km (this is a two day hike so the trail is 18km each way)
Duration: 4.5 hours of pure hiking each day, you will be stopping lots along the way for swims, breaks and lunch so the day out on the trails will be around 7 hours each day.
Difficulty: Moderate. The trail is mostly flat and easy, it is just a lot of distance to cover which can be challenging with the weight of the overnight packs. The path is narrow with many scratchy bushes on either side so you may want to wear tights to protect your legs. The final section down to Die Hel is very steep and technical – proceed with caution here.
Conservation fee: R160 hiking permit pp + R60 overnight fee pp = R240 pp total. You do not need to book in advance and can arrive on the day and purchase your permits at reception. This needs to be paid by cash or EFT. There is no signal there though so bring cash if you are buying your permits on the day. The gates are open from 7:30-18:00 each day.
Once you have purchased your permits from reception you can park your car at the main parking. This is where all the trails start. You will begin by walking along the jeep track. Once you reach a cluster of houses (Bosdorp on the map) you will see a jeep track in front of you with chain across it. To the left is a narrow mountain path, you will take this path off the jeep track (the arrows on this sign were slightly confusing so just make sure you follow this instruction otherwise you will end up walking along a boring jeep track the whole way with very little water). Once you have turned left off the jeep track you will follow this mountain path for a number of kilometres over a ridge, through the veld and down until you reach the river (this should take you between 1-1.5 hours to get here).
The path then follows along the river for a number of kilometres with 3 different mountain pool spots that you can stop at for a swim or your lunch. I would advise having your lunch at one of these pools as after this there will be a long dry section without many water stops.
After the section of trail hugging the river, you will go through more of an inland rocky section of trail. The rock formations here are incredible! You will pass through a marshy wet section. Thankfully my Gortex-waterproof Salomon’s kept my feet dry but others were not so lucky. At the end of the mountain path you will reach a jeep track again, turn left following the signs to Die Hel. There is a low water bridge here that you will need to cross. Socks and shoes will need to come off to get across but this is a good opportunity to refill on water as it will be a while before your next water stop.
The next stretch follows a jeep track. You will pass over a second bridge which has gorgeous river views before you reach De Tronk. This is the area with all the overnight huts. There is also a lovely wild camping spot here under the oak trees.
*If you are wanting to do 2 nights I would recommend hiking to the huts on the first day, spend the night, then on the second day hike to Die Hel and back (5km each way) with a lovely long stop at Die Hel for a swim and lunch. Then on the third day hike back from the huts to the parking.
If you are continuing on to Die Hel you will pass De Tronk and the oak trees and continue along for another 5km to Die Hel. The terrain is sandy with lots of bushes. The path, which has been fairly flat until this point, begins to undulate up and down over some rocky hills now. Finally, you will reach the gorge where Die Hel is located. It is a steep and technical path down which should be used with caution. After a tricky climb you will reach the bottom of Die Hel where you will be treated to the most gorgeous mountain pool and waterfall. Have a swim and enjoy the cool water after a long day of hiking.
Find a place to camp in the surrounding area. You are not meant to camp in Die Hel and should rather find a spot up above the gorge to pitch your tents. The rest of the area is Wildnerness area and open for wild-camping.
For day two you will hike back the way you came.
The hike is absolutely beautiful with the most spectaular scenery. The fynbos is also gorgeous and in summer the ericas turn the veld into a kaleidoscope of colours. From the end of January to mid-February would might be lucky and see some red disas along the streams near the reception. Keep your eyes peeled as these are rare and tricky to spot. We were lucky enough to see a small cluster right at the end of the hike.
Planning an overnight hike? You might enjoy the Greyton to McGregor Boesmanskloof overnight hike. Read my blog for all the details.