Harkerville Coastal Hiking Trail Western Cape

Harkerville Coastal route Hiking Trail

Garden Route National Park, Western Cape

The Harkerville Circuit route is an epic, and magnificent, but very challenging 2-day trail and 27 km which winds through indigenous forest and along some unspoilt scenery of the coastline. It is situated near Plettenberg Bay and Knysna and it has a rugged coastline that rivals even the beautiful and scenic Otter Trail. This trail does have short sections of steep inclines and declines and rocky coastline which is quite tough and challenging. It is surely not for the unfit or faint hearted.

Day 1: Harkerville Hut to Sinclair hut   15 km. (Our day six and seven)

The six of us completed the Outeniqua 5-day hiking trail in August, ending at Harkerville Hut. Due to veld fires the first two days of the Outeniqua were closed, and we could not do the original 7 days thereof. So, we had opted to combine the Outeniqua with the 2 days Harkerville /Sinclair circuit. We repacked our backpacks for another two days.

The following morning, we headed from Harkerville hut following the trail into the forest. We were once again entering a magical world of forest sounds, moss covered trees, cicada beetles and plenty of diverse flora. We constantly heard the sound of the very elusive Knysna Loerie, but these birds are blending in with the forest, and it is difficult to spot them high up in the canopies of the trees.

The trail continues for 10kms through the cool shades of the forest until we eventually reaching the side of the forest where we had lunch at the large Californian Redwood trees.

There after we reached a cliff where we had breathtaking views of the ocean and rugged coast line. The excitement and adrenalin had started to hit us all, as we descend to the rocky shore.

Once we reached the shore, the fun really started. This stretch includes a very technical section where one has to climb very carefully around a rock face (“gecko” style) above the swirling ocean below – there is a metal chain to assist and even though it is only a few metres, we already had our doze of adrenaline for the day! Fanie, Johan and Gary, assisted the three of us ladies tremendously with this obstacle.

Once this exciting yet terrifying part has been conquered, the trail continues along the ocean for 4km. It is very time consuming to cover these few kilometres, and it took much longer than anticipated, since you have to climb over a lot of boulders, up, down and over, and again up, down and over them. We did not mind as we took our time appreciating the incredible beauty, and taking as much pictures as possible. There is no civilization here either.

Eventually the trail begins to ascend back to the cliff top, and from here it is only about 1km of hiking, through some picturesque fynbos, before we arrived at Sinclair Hut.

The Sinclair Hut have two rooms with bunk beds and mattresses which sleep 12. There are flush toilets with wash basins but no showers.  There is also a very cozy covered braai area with wood.  You can pack something to braai and while sitting next to the fire, reflect on the day’s hike. Be aware of the baboons and lock all windows and doors. please clean up, and take your trash with. Fill up your water at the hut.

Day 2: Sinclair Hut to Harkerville Hut (12km)

The trail begins on the opposite side of where we approached Sinclair Hut from the previous day, and walking on the plateau for a short while, before it begins to descend. It was quite overcast and drizzly when we started off that morning. From here, you have an awesome view of the sea and mountains once more.

Once descended, we passed a crystal-clear pool forming part of the “Groot Eiland” river mouth, before you reach the incredible, pebbly shoreline once more. Here we found a hat on a stick and a drone that has crashed or washed out on the shore.

For the next couple of kilometres, we walked along the beautiful coast with every corner bringing another magical view of the waves crashing (and rocky obstacles) Then the famous boulders up, down and over, have also started for the day. I have lost count of how many we went over, up or down with! It really felt as if we were doing an obstacle course!!

There are a few wooden stairs, chain ladders and more chains! By now, the chains do not have the fear factor anymore. Some places we had to hold on to the rocks with our bear hands only. It surely did add to the adventure! Once more, the gentlemen assisted us to get us up on the rock face, where our legs were just too short!

By now our legs felt like jelly. We had our much-needed lunch break on the beach, in awe with the beautiful ocean view, and pebbles as far as the eye can see. Simply spectacular.!! The thought of saying goodbye to this epic journey was actually sad.

Eventually you come across a signpost where the path begins to leave the coast. After a tough zig zag climb, we emerged at an open grass area at the top of the cliff where you can view the incredible ocean below that you have just explored. Another perfect spot to catch your breath, and a final view of the beautiful turquoise coloured ocean!

The path from here goes back to the indigenous forest which brought us to this awesome, unspoilt place. The final +-8kms backtracks on the forest path until we once again reached the Harkerville Hut. This was indeed an epic trail, that tested your endurance to the ultimate. Our group was simply awesome to hike with, and team work really helped some of the ladies on the challenging heights. We have doen102 km over 7 days! Fanie and I will definitely do it again.

Rating: Difficulty: 9/10

Beauty: 4/5

Tips for the hike:

I took a day pack filled with food, toiletries, clean socks, underwear and first aid kit. As well as my sleeping bag, and fitted sheet. (The matrasses are covered with plastic, but some matrass covers have been damaged.) The lighter back pack helped me a lot getting up and over the large boulders, as well as around the sections where you go around the cliffs with the chains.

Pack the minimum stuff.  Don’t pack any unnecessary items but take at least two litres of fluid per day. There’s no drinking water along the way and it can become extremely hot.  Provide for all types of weather, as it can become cold or rainy very quickly along the coast.

Wear PROPER hiking boots with ankle support, and a hiking stick for balance. There are plenty of loose marble shaped stones and large rocks to negotiate.

This is not a hike for beginners, anyone afraid of heights or scouring around a cliff with steep drops. The second day is much more challenging, but this is what test your own endurance to the limits, and builds character.

You need to be quite fit as there are many ups and downs climbing over the boulders.  Day two ends with the difficult and seemingly never-ending climb back up to the Harkerville hut.  Stop to rest and snack regularly and enjoy the spectacular views. Please do not litter.

The sea on this part of the coast can be rough, and freak waves can occur at any time. Be aware of the tides when going around the cliffs with the chains.

We did this trail the 11-12th of August 2022, and conditions may change per season.

Have the following emergency numbers on your phone: Harkerville Forestry Station

044 532 7770

Route Makers: Black signs with white boot prints on. There are also ample white painted footprint and arrows painted on the rocks along the coast.

Managed by: SANParks: Contact Numbers: SAN Parks Knysna 044 302 5600 or 044 302 5606, ​
Bookings: Bookings are made through the SAN Parks office on Thesen Island in Knysna.
or by mailing reservations@sanparks.org. Prices increases annually.

Foot note:

The products/ food/ gear that are referred to, are things that we personally prefer to use, or helped us on our hiking expeditions, since we have started hiking. Personal preferences may vary from one hiker to the next, regarding gear, food and products used.

All information given above, is based on our personal experience, circumstances, observations and weather conditions of a certain hike.

 It might differ from other hikers’ experiences, or different weather conditions and circumstances.

Check out some more of my photos at 500PX and PhotoPixSA and the Trip Reports and Hiking Trails
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