18 September 2012

OK: after numerous enquiries, I have managed to establish the following:

  • the area had been closed in an attempt to address a number of issues including visitor control, safety and degradation to the area
  • increased water flow as a result of a very wet winter hampered trail marking and delayed the re-opening
  • the area  will re-open October and visitors will have to pre-book a trip as there is now a carrying capacity
  • booking and payment can be done at the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West (please note this is an interim measure until the on-line booking system has been released)
  • permits are R65 per person as per the new City of Cape Town approved tariff list
  • gate times are from Sunrise until Sunset
  • more here…

This is a popular and easy hike to a series of mountain pools in a kloof. I have always known it as Crystal Pools, but it officially forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, and you are hiking up next to the Steenbras River.

Getting there: Drive out to Gordon’s Bay on the N2. Take the turn-off to Gordon’s Bay. You will reach a T-junction when you arrive at Gordon’s Bay — turn left onto the R44 (Clarence Drive, which is the coastal road that leads to Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay etc). After 6.6km you will reach Sunbird Guest Lodge on the right-hand side of the road. Parking is just further along the road, over the bridge and on the right-hand side
Difficulty: easy to follow trail up steep kloof

Cross the road and walk along the fence to the entrance where you can present your permits.

The path starts out fairly gently: after a quick walk down to the valley floor it follows the river up the valley. The path is well-marked out, with short red pegs in the ground at regular intervals.

The pools are magnificent!

There are some pretty impressive jumps off the cliffs into the pools. If you are feeling brave, wait for someone else to jump to see where the best launching spots are. Please at no time dive into the pools.

Despite the river and the pools at hand, you need plenty of water — you wouldn’t want to drink this water even if people weren’t swimming in it!

We hiked up to the very top — as far as I can remember, this route was not available a few years back. From the top you can see the top-most pool, as well as the dam wall of the Steenbras Dam. There views in the other direction are across False Bay to Cape Point.

If you are looking for a more adventurous way to enjoy the area, check out the abseil tours offered by Abseil Africa!

Take: a packed lunch, bathing costume, lots of liquid.

Don’t take: your dog.

Slingsby's Walks with a Fat Dog

By David

Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

30 thought on “Crystal Pools”
  1. NOTE :: Steenbras Nature Reserve (not Helderberg) issues permits for hikes to Crystal Pools and Steenbras River Gorge – more info at CoCT link @ http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/EnvironmentalResourceManagement/Documents/Steenbras/Steenbras_NR_permit_regs+hiking_info-2013-11.pdf … correction of text and deletion of redundant comments in this article re. contact info will ease the lives of prospective visitors and Nature Reserves alike – thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Githa

      Thanks for the update! As a blog is by nature a chronological collection of posts, information naturally becomes outdated. As hard as I try, it is simply not possible to keep all the posts updated – unless you know of anyone who would like to pay me full time (I wish!!!). Hence the date of the green notice denoting the time at which that info was valid as well as the relevant info in my Terms & Conditions.

      If only more of my readers would take the time as you have to send in corrections and updated information!

  2. I obtained permits at Helderberg nature reserve and on Sunday,9 December 2012 I went on the Crystal pools hike.It realy is an awesome place.The baboons however decended on the pools and caused havoc by trying to steal whatever they could find.The gate was standing open at 08:00 when we entered and during the day I counted approximately 250 people at the various pools. On our way out, groups of people were passing us on their way to the pools.When we left at 15:00 the gate was still unmanned and large groups of people simply walked through the gates and counting by the number already inside, I suspect that most of the people entered without permits. That left a bitter taste in my mouth because during the week prior I had to drive from Cape Town to Helderberg Nature reserve to obtain the permits that costs R60 pp.On the day of the hike I had to drive again from Cape Town to the hiking trail. Thus including the costs of the permits(3 minimum)and the two car trips, I do not think it is fair to allow people without permits to simply just walk in. It’s no wonder the place had to be closed down last year.With the amount of people I saw visiting on that Sunday, it won’t be long before it will have to be shut down again !!!

  3. Really? R65 per person per day seems a bit much. The outing will end up being very expensive considering petrol to get there and if u go with a whole group of ppl. Used to be R15 per person….

  4. Thanks for the update regarding the Crystal Pools Hike. I’ve been searching the NET now for a couple of days to get the latest information. I also contacted the Sunbird, but according to them, they are not involved in the issuing of permits anymore. Could you please give me directions from Cape Town to The Helderberg Nature Reserve Office in Somerset where the permits must be obtained. Thanks again

  5. Hi there!

    Is the area currently open? And who do I have to contact to purchase permits, etc?

    Thank you very much in advance!

  6. Thanks for great web site. But please if hiking trails are close say so on your web site!!!!!!!!!!!! Me and some friends made the trip from Cape Town to Gorden bay, water and lunch pack. Just to arrive there and was told that the hiking trail is close in summer (when the weather is nice) and will open in may (when the winter is around the corner, very nice for walking in the cold and rainy weather!) It really mest up are saterday and I was embarrass for inviting my friend. So please put a notice on your site when trails will be closed in summer.

    1. Sorry about the disappointment!
      As this is purely my hobby, and currently I am the only contributor on the blog, you will understand that it is simply impossible for me to continually update all the information on the site. As I am at pains to explain on the site, the blog merely serves as a personal record of my outdoor adventures in the hopes that it will encourage others to get out there. The About and Terms and Conditions pages explain this.
      I do put all the relevant links on the posts, and I can only recommend that you make contact with the relevant people before setting out, or contact me via Twitter and I will attempt to assist and advise where possible.

  7. thanks for the input… anycase the fire on the mountain wrecked any plans we had to hike this weekend passed.

  8. hi there,

    is the hike condusive to take a 2 month old baby along for the hike?
    Can prams go with?

    if so any suggestions of what can be taken with to make it easier?

    Many thanks,

    1. It’s not a walk on Sea Point Promenade, Yusuf! I guess you could put junior in one of those fancy backpacks, but you might find it a bit rough for an infant up there – there is no comfortable lawn or space to picnic as such, so Baby might not be too happy about things!

  9. Can you please tell me if this trial is suitable for kids. They have walked lionshead. Is there a safe place for them to swim without haveing to jump from cliffs? Please let me knoe, we are planning to go on Sunday. Thanks!

    1. I would say that it’s easier, and definitely safer than Lion’s Head. It gets really hot, so hats for everyone, and loads of water.
      You can swim easily at a number of places without having to jump off anything.
      Have loads of fun!

  10. I went to crystal pools yesterday. It was amazing and we had loads of fun swimming and jumping from the cliffsides into the pool. We went to the second pool which is the biggest and most popular pool. It took us about 45 minutes to get there. It is sooo worth the hike!!! I would like to know one thing though. What are the depths of the pools?

    Also, the area is closing for a year on the first of May for rehabilitation.

    1. Hey Joshua
      The pools never fail to impress! I have no idea how deep they are I am afraid – rest assured though, you are not going to hit the bottom jumping from even the highest cliffs!
      Thanks for letting us know about the closure!

  11. Awesome Place, the 1st pool can be reached after a brisk 45 minute hike, there are a few baboons and if you lucky you get to spot the resident leopard.most people stop off at the 2nd and 3rd pool….usually end up swimming and relaxing the whole day…we were there on sunday/yeasterday, posted a few pics on Facebook ,the rangers allowed 300 people in for the day (the max is 50)

    A worthwhile experience

    1. According to Slingsby’s “Walks with a Fat Dog”, the official limit is 50 permits per day. I have certainly seen more than 50 people up at the pools at one time.

    1. I contacted CapeNature via their Facebook Page. Lucinda Witten responded and let me know that dogs are not allowed in any of the CapeNature Reserves.

  12. I use to go up to the pools quite regularly. Most times we didn’t even go all the way up to the pools, but only had some fun at the river mouth. But yes, there are quite a few baboons there, and rumor has it that there is ‘a big cat’ also lurking around…. At least that’s what the ‘guard’ said. The cat was apparently spotted in the area over the mountains. How much of this is true – I don’t know? hehehe…. still one of my favourite places to go though!!

  13. The route details specifies the duration as 3 hours max. Is that 3 hours one way?

    1. I don’t like to give times, as I am a trail runner, and tend to walk fast and even run sections. I think you could safely complete the hike in 3 hours — but you will definitely want to spend quite some time in the pools themselves!

  14. I have heard recently that there have been baboon problems at the pools? Can anyone shed some light.


  15. Myself and a group of fiends visited the crystal pools yesterday. The walk was worth it! Had so much fun! Will def do it again!

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