This 2 day hike definitely falls into the category of “adventure hiking”. If you have not dassied your way up the Lion’s Head chains and the India—Venster safety measures, you will not have fun on this route. At all. You will be doing more significant tricks than both these routes — with a backpack on your shoulders.
Getting there: on the N2 between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, turn right onto a dirt road at the Sasol Garage [-34.03735, 23.22606]. Pass the turn-off to Harkerville and continue until you reach the parking lot.
GPS Coordinates: -34.047278, 23.230824
Distance: 13km + 15km
Difficulty: extreme for heights, stairs, walkways, ladders, hills
At a glance
We did this hike in September, and experienced weather typical of the Garden Route: cool weather with light misty rain on the first day, and sunny warm weather on the second day. We both wore boots which was definitely the right choice for both the weather and the rocky coastal sections.
The map we received was a photocopy of a not very useful map to begin with, and as it was raining it was soon totally useless. The first section of the trail is shared with the Perdekop Trail. When we did the trail this section was not well marked and we had to do some guesswork, however, it is clear that lots of work has been done on this section and there is now plenty of great signage.
The chains, ladders, stairs, walkways and other devices are all pretty serious. The metal “loops” drilled into the rock are very slippery; they need to be roughened at the least, but would be better off being replaced by the staples used on India—Venster. The cable ladder hangs skew and the rubber grip on the rungs is not attached so spins treacherously underfoot. To be honest, unless you are very confident in the capabilities of all members of your party it would be well worth it to take a climbing harness, some long slings and carabiners.
Please note that on at least two occasions you will be sharing single-track in dense forest with mountain bikers on the famous Harkerville Red Route. You have right of way, but it is more likely that you will hear them long before they see you, and it would be worth stepping aside to let them whiz past.
We were informed that we needed to book and stay here the night before setting out; this is not true and I wouldn’t recommend this option. The Harkerville Hut is also utilised for the 7 day Outeniqua Hiking Trail and tends to get a bit crowded.
Your overnight stay is at the Sinclair Hut. The long building has two cabins each with two triple bunks with mattresses. There are ladies and men’s ablutions with flushing toilets and hand basins. There is no electricity, hot water or showers. There is a big fireplace under cover as well as a fire-pit on the huge lawn in front of the hut. A dangerously large axe and plenty of wood are at hand so get your Knysna Woodcutter on and swing away.
I would not drink any of the water en route unless you are really desperate; there is water at the Sinclair Hut and at the Kranshoek picnic site.
The route starts in Harkerville Forest at the Harkerville Hut where you leave your vehicle.
From the trailhead walk down the gentle hill. After 500m you will see one of the saw-pits to the right of the path.
At 680m the trail reaches a fork, take the left fork.
At 1.5km the trail forks again and this time you will take the right fork. The route now shares trail with the Harkerville MTB Route.
At 2.5km the MTB routes peel off to the right to join the jeep track whilst the trail continues ahead.
At 3.45km take a right at the intersection (the left fork is the Perdekop Trail).
You emerge from the forest onto a plantation road which is also part of the Red and Blue Harkerville MTB routes. At this point, you will see a small forest of California Redwoods which were planted as an experiment. They are truly impressive even in the surrounding magnificence of the Knysna Forest.
Your overnight stay is at the Sinclair Hut.
The second day is longer in distance, and the going is extremely slow on the coastal sections.
From Sinclair Hut head down across the lawn to rejoin the trail.
Progress along the rocky rugged coastline is pretty slow so bear this in mind when deciding what time to set out in the morning. You will pass a few rock pools that looked like they would be perfect for a quick dip on a hot day.
At the top of the climb you will reach the lawns of the Kranshoek Viewpoint. From here follow the path along the edge of the steep valley wall. You will soon reach the Kranshoek Picnic site. The site is grassed and has plenty picnic benches and refuse bins, some of which are in the cool shade of the forest edge. There are also flushing toilets and water taps, however, the water was not drinkable when we were there.
From here you head back into the forest and we welcomed the cool deep shade of the lush surroundings as you head back to the starting point at the Harkerville Hut.