How to book & plan for the Tsitsikamma Trail

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How to book & plan for the Tsitsikamma Trail

The Tsitsikamma Trail is a 6 day, 60km multi-day hike which begins at Nature’s Valley Rest Camp and ends at Storms River. It is one of the most beautiful multi-day hikes in South Africa and definitely needs to be on your bucket list. The trail takes you deep into the Tsitsikamma Forest and along beautiful fynbos-lined paths with stunning mountainous scenery.

How to book and plan the Tsitsikamma Trail

If you’re keen to get into multi-day hiking but are feeling nervous and not too sure where to start then I would absolutely recommend the Tsitsikamma Trail. It is a relatively flat route with very manageable distances each day. This makes it accessible to anyone with a general base level of fitness. The trail is run my MTO trails who have recently redone the camps with gorgeous modern cabins and the cutest little A-Frames. The showers use a donkey boiler system so you can even have a hot shower after your hike! The huts are all really stunning and they also offer slackpacking options to make your hike even more comfortable.

Tsitsikamma Trail

Tsitsikamma Trail A-Frame huts

Watch my YouTube Vlog for a complete breakdown of the experience and what you can expect on the trail:

 

Tsitsikamma Trail Hiking Details

Tsitsikamma Trail Day 1: Kalander Hut

Distance: 2km or 3.4km
Time: 30mins – 1 hour
Elevation gain: 60m

The first day of the Tsitsikamma Trail begins at Nature’s Valley Rest Camp. Here you will be able to drop off your portered bags and food for the duration of the hike. I’ll provide further information on everything you need to know about the slackpacking option later in this post but for now you need to know that for the first hut there is no porterage. This means that on day 1 you will need to pack in your day pack dinner for night 1, breakfast & lunch for day 2 as well as your sleeping stuff and clothes for the next day.

On day 1 you will also need to arrange your return vehicle for the trail. We dropped one car at the trail end – parked at Storms River Bridge Petroport. To do this you’ll need to drive two cars up to the the Petroport, drop the one and then drive back down in the second car. You will also need to factor in the toll fee for both cars. On the way back down to Nature’s Valley you may be able to take the left exit just before the toll. This takes you back to Nature’s Valley by bypassing the toll. However, they do close this road when there has been a lot of rain so don’t bank on it.

Once you have dropped off your slackpacking bags and food you can begin the short walk across to the first hut: Kalander hut. The prescribed route is a 3.4km walk through coastal forest, across the river and on towards the hut. However, the bridge crossing the river has washed away and so if you don’t want to walk through knee deep water you can opt for the shorter day 1 route which is a quick 2km walk down to Nature’s Valley beach, along the beach and up a short path to the hut. Kalander hut is the only hut on the trail that does not have any of the newly upgraded huts and only has the old log cabins. There is also no wood provided at Kalander hut (all other huts have a large wood supply) which means you’ll need to carry your own wood this day if you want to have a fire/braai. For this night we just brought food that could be cooked on our small gas stoves.

Day 1 Top Tip: Once you’ve dropped your bags at the hut pop back down to Nature’s Valley beach for a swim in the lagoon or sea.

Tsitsikamma Trail Kalander Hut Tsitsikamma Trail Nature's Valley

Tsitsikamma Trail Day 2: Bloukrans Hut

Distance: 14.7km
Time: 5 hours walking
Elevation gain: 430m

The second day of the hike is where the true Tsitsikamma Trail begins. This is the longest day of the hike and begins with a short and steep incline which rewards you with the most stunning views of Nature’s Valley beach and lagoon.

Tsitsikamma Trail Nature's Valley How to plan for the Tsitsikamma Trail

The rest of the day takes you through fynbos, indigenous forest and under the N2 deeper into the more remote Tsitsikamma Forest. After 10km you will reach a gorgeous mountain pool and waterfall which is perfect for a break for a swim and your lunch. This is also the first water you will reach on day 2 so make sure you carry enough for the first 10km.

Tsitsikamma Trail 6 day hike

Once you’ve completed the final 5km of day 2 of the Tsitsikamma Trail you’ll arrive at Bloukrans hut. The views from this camp are exceptional with stunning panoramic vistas of the mountains.

Tsitsikamma Trail 60km Tsitsikamma Trail A-Frame cabins Tsitsikamma Trail Bloukrans Hut

Day 2 Top Tip: Make sure you put some mosquito repellent on before you leave for today’s hike. The forest area today has a lot of bugs and mosquitoes.

Tsitsikamma Trail Day 3: Keurbos Hut

Distance: 13.4km
Time: 5 hours walking
Elevation gain: 480m

Day 3 of the Tsitsikamma Trail takes you deeper into the forest through scenes straight out of Jurassic Park. The trail today is mostly flat with a couple of slow burn gradual uphills. We had one of my favourite swims on this day in a big, deep mountain pool surrounded by ferns and gnarled trees. There are a few very chilled river crossings on this day. You may need to take your shoes off depending on rainfall in prior days. There are plenty of spots to refill your water on this day.

Tsitsikamma Trail Tsitsikamma Trail Everything you need to know about the Tsitsikamma Trail How to book the Tsitsikamma Trail

Keurbos hut is nestled in the forest and doesn’t have any views out.

Tsitsikamma Trail Keurbos huts and facilities

Tsitsikamma Trail MTO Trails

Day 3 Top Tip: Make sure you have a swim at the big mountain pool at the 5km mark.

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Tsitsikamma Trail Day 4: Heuningbos Hut

Distance: 13.4km
Time: 5,5 hours walking
Elevation gain: 510m

The first 4km of day 4 consists of a gradual uphill. You will be rewarded with incredible views of endless mountain peaks once you reach the top. You’ll also have your first bit of signal of the trail here. Up until this point there is no signal on the trail or at the huts.

Tsitsikamma Trail

You’ll then descend back down into the forest. At the 6km mark there is an absolutely stunning spot along the river which is perfect for a cool down swim and lunch break. We spent over an hour here just soaking up the views and for us the first bit of sunshine on the trail (we unfortunately had quite a lot of rain during our trip in January but I do think there is just generally a lot of rain in the Tsitsikamma area).

Tsitsikamma Forest Hike Tsitsikamma Trail Tsitsikamma Trail swimming pools

The rest of the trail for the day continues through the forest. You’ll need to conquer a hefty descent into the valley to get to Heuningbos hut but the views are gorgeous. And you may even spy your finish line of Storms River from up there.

How to book the Tsitsikamma Trail All the Tsitsikamma Trail hiking distances

The Heuningbos hut was one of my favourite camps. It has really beautiful mountain views and a beautiful swimming spot close by.

Day 4 Top Tip: Once you’re finished with day 4’s hike make sure you grab a cold drink, change into your swimming goodies and walk back down the path to the rock pool just below the hut. There is the most gorgeous ‘infinity pool’ where you can see a cascading waterfall from the end. Talk about the perfect sundowner spot!

Tsitsikamma Trail Day 5: Sleepkloof Hut

Distance: 14.2km
Time: 6,5 hours walking
Elevation gain: 660m

Day 5 of the Tsitsikamma Trail is definitely the most challenging. This day has two peaks you’ll need to climb with a saddle in the middle. For us we had a full day of wind and rain on day 5 so the challenging hiking conditions made for a tough day out in the mountains for us. I believe there are meant to be gorgeous mountain views on this day but we unfortunately couldn’t see them because of the cloud cover. Most of day 5 is along fynbos lined trail and we spot two rare disa species. Disa racemossa and the Blue Disa. Near the end of the day you will head back down into the forest again and will face a few challenging river crossings. These involve walking across big logs which can be very slippery so proceed with caution.

Disa racemossa Tsitsikamma Trail Blue disa Tsitsikamma Trail When to do the Tsitsikamma Trail Tsitsikamma Forest Hike

Once you have conquered day 5 of the Tsitsikamma Trail you will arrive at the Sleepkloof Hut. You can give yourselves a pat on that back because you have done the hardest part and only have an easy 3km to go the next day before completing the trail.

Tsitsikamma Trail Tsitsikamma Trail accommodation

Day 5 Top Tip: Look out for disas on the trail today. These rare flowers are orchid-like in appearance and about 3cm in size.

Tsitsikamma Trail Day 6: Exit Storms River

Distance: 3.2km
Time: 1 hour walking
Elevation gain: 40m

Day 6 of the Tsitsikamma Trail is a quick and easy 3km down to the Storms River Petroport where you would have left your second car on day 1 of the trail. The path is a gentle jeep track going down through the forest back towards the N2. If you left your car at the Petroport make sure you follow the signs for Storms River Bridge. We got so excited we were nearly finished that we accidentally followed the signs to Storms River Village. This popped us out on the N2 2km away from the Petroport. So we had to walk an extra 2km along the N2 which wasn’t ideal. But we made it in the end and could celebrate our finish with a cup of coffee and breakfast bun at Mug & Bean.

Day 6 Top Tip: Make sure you follow the signs correctly on your way down to arrive where you parked your return vehicle.

Tsitsikamma Trail everything you need to know

Once you have finished you can drive back to Nature’s Valley Rest Camp where the porters will have delivered your portered items. Once collected you are finished and can be on your merry way back home!

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Tsitsikamma Trail Huts & Facilities

The Tsitsikamma Trail originally acommodated 12 people in classic wooden log cabins with bunk beds. When MTO Trails took over they built the most gorgeous new huts for nights 2,3,4,5 for the trail. Kalander hut for night one is still just the original old-style cabins. Each other hut now also includes 3 x 2-sleeper A-Frame cabins and one new 6-sleeper bunk cabin which resembles the trendy ‘pod’ style cabins that are so popular at the moment. The new cabins are made from gorgeous light wood, are all positioned to look out over the gorgeous mountain views and are very modern and lovely. The bunks all have matresses but you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow. Each camp also has two toilets and two showers. The showers use a donkey boiler system to heat the water so you’ll just need to get the boiler fire going upon arrival each day to ensure a hot shower. Each camp has a big communal area with wooden picnic tables and benches. There is a big braai as well as a 2-plate gas stove. There are a few big basic pots and pans as well as a kettle that are for communal use. I would definitely recommend bringing along a couple of mini gas cookers and pots for your group as the communal utensils need to be shared amongst 24 people. Make sure you bring along a sharp knife, cutting board, your cutlery & crockery and cooking utensils. I’ll be releasing a follow-up blog post with a full packing kit for overnight & multi-day hikes which will outline everything else you should remember to pack. Except for the first hut (Kalander hut), there is wood provided at every hut, free of charge. There are 2 rolls of toilet paper provided each day so maybe bring along a few extras rolls for your group in case. The water is all from rain tanks and so it is advisable to boil the water before drinking. We didn’t and were all completely fine.

Tsitsikamma Trail  

Tsitsikamma Trail: How much does it cost?

The cost of the trail is R1425 per person. This includes your permits for the 6 days of hiking, acommodation for 5 nights and wood. The cost for the porterage/slackpacking costs R980 per night for 5 people. Thereafter the cost for porterage is an additional R195 per person per night. So for a group of 6 people you will be looking at about R2400 per person for the whole trip. There is also an optional extra of a shuttle for the final day of the hike to return to the hike start. We opted not to go for this option and just leave one car at the trail end but I believe the cost was around R1000 for the shuttle one way. As a comparison the Otter Trail costs R1450 per person for the 5 day hike with no porterage available and the Whale Trail costs R2050 per person for the 5 day hike with a cost of R560 per unit for porterage.

How to book the Tsitsikamma Trail

The Tsitsikamma Trail can be booked through MTO Trails via their booking platform. The platform is easy to use (unlike our beloved SANParks) and compared to other South African multi-day hikes, like the Otter Trail and Whale Trail, the Tsitsikamma Trail has a decent amount of availability throughout the year. At present there is even availability still for the June July school holidays. Your group can be any size. However, if your group is smaller than 24 then you will most likely be sharing the trail with other people, however, in low season this may not be the case. Depending on the number of people in your group you may need to share the huts with other people on the trail. If you are a group of 6 you will be able to either take one 6-sleeper cabin to yourselves or use up the 3 x 2 sleeper A-Frames. But generally, if you chat to the fellow hikers on the trail with you, you should be able to work out an arrangement that works for everyone. Once you have secured your reservation you will need to make a 50% deposit within 48 hours of receiving booking confirmation, with the remainder being paid within 2 weeks.

Tsitsikamma Trail Slackpacking Details

This trail was absolutely exquisite and the slackpacking meant we could really enjoy it to the full! It meant we didn’t have to carry the weight of our heavy packs all day making it a much more enjoyable experience. The slackpacking makes the trail accessible to a wider range of people and allows for more time for swimming, photography, birding and other activities usually limited by time or weight constraints. The best part was that at the end of a long day of hiking we could crack open a cold beer or G&T and enjoy a delicious meal for dinner that wasn’t just dehydrated hiking food.

While the slackpacking was so deluxe and really made the hike so much more enjoyable and comfortable, it definitely took a lot of extra thinking and planning ahead of time. The way porterage on the Tsitsikamma Trail works is that each person can have a big overnight bag (this includes your clothes, toiletries, sleeping bag and other bits and bobs). You then have seperate cooler boxes & bags for your group’s food. For each night of the trail they will bring through one fridge bag, one freezer bag and one dry foods bag for the evening. Those bags will be dropped each day at your hut for the night and in it will have your food and drinks for that night as well as your breakfast and lunch for the next day. When you are packing for the trail you need to arrange and split your food in this way: day 2 fridge, day 2 freezer, day 2 dry, day 3 fridge, day 3 freezer, day 3 dry etc. They provide you with labels which you can print out and staple on the bags labelling which bags are for which hut on which date. All your fridge & freezer bags can be placed inside cooler boxes which you will drop off at the Tsitsikamma Trail office at Nature’s Valley Rest Camp upon your arrival on day 1. As long as everything is labeled and split correctly they will be able to know which bags need to be delivered on which day. We found that anything we left over in the delivered cooler box on a given day was brought back along with the next day’s stuff to the next hut. So don’t worry about things like salt & pepper needing to be split up for each day. Each person is limited to 30kg per day for their overnight bag and food and everything needs to fit into a bakkie.

For the first hut there is no porterage. This means that on day 1 you will need to pack in your day pack dinner for night 1, breakfast & lunch for day 2 as well as your sleeping stuff and clothes for day 2.

Tsitsikamma Trail Food

For breakfasts I did coffee sachets, Oats-So-Easy and fruit. For lunches I did rolls with sachets of tuna, or salami and laughing cow cheese triangles, some people did 2-minute noodles on the trail. For dinners we catered well because of the slackpacking and did braais, pastas, prego rolls, greek pitas and bratwurst rolls as a group. I made sure to pack in Energade concentrate and Rehidrat for the electrolytes. For snacks I brought Jungle Oats energy bars, nuts, protein balls and sweets. You’ll also need general things like tea, salt & pepper, matches, fire lighters and washing up liquid & sponge. Top tip- get a ziplock bag for each day and put inside your coffee sachet, tea bag, breakfast oat sachets, snacks and lunch goodies for that day. Label this with your name and the day you want it and pop it in the group’s portered dry goods bag for that day. For drinks you’ll want to opt for cans to reduce weight and breakage. We did canned beers and G&T’s.

If you are not slackpacking then you may want to check out Mama Alles for dehydrated meals. These take up much less space which is super helpful when you’re carrying all your food.

Tsitsikamma Trail Shorter Variations

MTO Trails offers different variations of the hike and you can choose to only do 2,3,4,5 days of hiking. For me the first day of hiking was not very exciting and the first hut was not the nicest (only one without the upgraded huts & A-Frames). You have the added complication of no porterage or wood provided on night one which makes packing a little more complicated and limits your meal options for the first night. If I redid the hike I would skip day 1 and Kalander hut and skip straight to day 2 of hiking spending the first night at Bloukrans hut. This 5 day, 4 night option Bloukrans Hut – Sleepkloof will cost R1140 per person. If you wanted to cut back on additional days to make a shorter hike I would suggest cutting day 5 & 6 of hiking. I personally didn’t enjoy the hike on day 5, but that may have been more to do with the weather conditions and my hip injury playing up on the uphills than the actual hiking trail. And day 6 is basically just a 3km jeep track through the forest. Day 2,3 &4 were the absolute showstopper days of hiking so if you are wanting to cut back and do a shorter trip I would say you have to do these 3 days. You can opt for the 4 day, 3 night option Bloukrans Hut – Heuningbos which will cost R855 per person and will cover the best huts and hiking days of the trail. If I did the Tsitsikamma Trail again I would go for this option.

Tsitsikamma Trail Best Time to Go

Tsitsikamma follows a summer rainfall climate with January and December having persistent drizzle and mist. Temperates range from 17-23°C in January. We hiked in January and it rained 3 out of the 6 days with one of these days being extremely wet with non-stop rain. We also experienced beautiful sunny days with blue sky. The driest months are June and July with temperatures ranging from 10-17°C.

Accommodation for the night before and after

If you’re driving up from Cape Town you may want to spend the night before somewhere a little bit closer to the start of the trail. Firefly Falls looks absolutely gorgeous and offers camping, glamping and cabin accommodation options. It is located in the Crags area which is very close to the start of the trail. Lekkerkry near Plett looks so tranquil and lovely, and Colourful BnB in the Crags is another option. Alternatively, you may want more of a halfway point. We stayed in Stilbaai on both the way up and down and it proved to be the perfect halfway stop. Check out Oudewerfskloof Olive Farm, The Suites at Waterryk Eco Guest Farm or Charlotte House.

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The Tsitsikamma Trail was one of the most incredible adventures I’ve been on. The natural beauty was unmatched, the sense of accomplishment was incredible and I honestly think it is one of the most beautiful multi-day hikes South Africa has to offer. If you were looking for a sign, this is it- book the Tsitsikamma Trail for this coming year!

Looking to start with a couple of overnight hikes? Check out the Boesmanskloof Greyton to McGregor Overnight Hike or the Groot Winterhoek Overnight hike.

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2 thoughts on “How to book & plan for the Tsitsikamma Trail

  1. Hi
    Thanks so much for telling us about your Tsitsikamma trail adventure.
    It really looks an amazing experience.
    We are a couple and unfortunately we only have one night (2 days) so we will do as you suggested and walk day 2/3 or 3/4.
    We have only one car so how do you suggest we do that? Do we have to coordinate directly with a driver?
    Thank so much
    Regards
    Raphael

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