Nursery Buttress from Rycroft Gate, Kirstenbosch Gardens

Nursery Buttress is the dominant mountain feature above the Kirstenbosch Gardens. Nursery Ravine is to the left. This is quite a steep climb, but the path is well constructed and easy to follow.

Getting there: park your car at Rycroft Gate (the upper Kirstenbosch gate)
GPS Co-ordinates: S 33°59.543′, E 018°25.859′
Distance: 8.5km

Nursery Buttress from Rycroft Gate, Kirstenbosch Gardens
Nursery Buttress from Rycroft Gate

Standing inside Rycroft Gate looking straight up the road at the mountain, the dominant buttress directly in front of you is Nursery Buttress. The green, forested ravine on the left is Nursery Ravine, and around to the right is the well-known Skeleton Gorge.

Head straight up the paved road, following the signs pointing to the Contour Path and Nursery Ravine. The paved road reaches an intersection with a set of stairs leading up the opposite side. The sign-post points right to the Contour Path and Skeleton Gorge — you will only see the sign to Nursery Ravine once you pass the sign-post.

The stairs cross one paved road before topping out at the Contour Path [S 33°59.282′, E 018°25.313′, 305m]. This should take less than 20 minutes. Turn right onto the Contour Path and walk for less than 100 meters before you reach the sign-posted Nursery Ravine. The path is well constructed and follows stairs up the ravine with the stream to your left and a canopy of trees providing shade.

About 15 minutes later, at about 530 meters altitude, you will emerge from the trees and be rewarded with views of Kirstenbosch below you, and the imposing buttress towering above you.

Soon the cliffs of the buttress will be directly to your right, and the trail becomes rockier. You will see some King proteas to your right.

Miniature stone dam above Vaalkat Ravine
The miniature stone dam above Vaalkat Ravine

At the top, you will climb a wooden ladder with an iron railing, and immediately in front of you will be a stone pillar information hub [S 33°58.992′, E 018°24.993′, 711m]. You are now 2.2km into the hike and it should have taken you in the region of 50 minutes to get this far. The trail to the right is Smuts Track and will take you past the head of Skeleton Gorge in the direction of Maclear’s Beacon. We will head left towards Constantia Nek. Just after the 3km mark, you will reach a miniature stone dam, on the other side is a concrete furrow leading off to the left, which is the top of Vaalkat Ravine. Walk across the stone wall and continue on the path at the other side as it veers to the left slightly.

A little further along and the trail begins to drop slightly, and soon the Overseers House will come into view. Not much further and you the trail ends at the concrete road, at which junction there is another stone pillar information hub [S 33°59.408′, E 018°24.859′, 671m]. Turn left down the concrete road to the Overseers House where there is a water fountain if you are thirsty [S 33°59.491′, E 018°24.856′, 661m].

Continue along the concrete road until you reach the iron bridge. Looking down on the road below you from the bridge, you will see a sharp hairpin bend in the road, and further down the mountainside, you will see a gravel road coming from the road on the left and seeming to reach a dead-end. This is where you are headed. Continue down the concrete road, pass through the hairpin bend, and 300 meters further, turn left onto the gravel road marked earlier [S 33°00.086′, E 018°24.711′, 476m]. Follow this road until you pass a set of stairs leading up to the left after which the road becomes a single track again and heads down the slope into Spilhaus Ravine.

Rounding Spilhaus Ridge you will head into Cecilia Ravine where you will pass Cecilia Waterfall [S 33°59.739′, E 018°25.015′, 389m] with its mossy rocks and massive fallen tree. You are now 6.3km into the hike, and after an hour and a half of walking, if you have not yet had tea, this is the perfect spot. Head out of Cecilia Ravine up onto Cecilia Ridge, then continue round through another ravine, up a small set of stairs, and then down a long steep set of stairs which deliver you back up to the Contour Path [S 33°59.542′, E 018°25.329′, 319m] on the border of Kirstenbosch Gardens. You will take a left — the sign just down the path to the right confirms that you are heading back to Nursery Ravine.

You will take a pleasant walk along the Contour Path until at the 7.5km mark you will reach the path that brought you up onto the Contour Path from Kirstenbosch earlier in the day. Retrace your steps down to your car.

By David

Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

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