Hiking in Camdeboo National Park



Various options are available to hikers who visit the Camdeboo National Park. These include the Crag Lizard Trail, a 45 minute walk along the rim of the Valley of Desolation, the Eerstefontein Trail, a day walk which starts on the fringe of Graaff-Reinet, circling Wildebeeskom in the south western section of the park and finally, the overnight Driekoppe Hiking Trail in the remote, rugged eastern section of the Park.

The Crag Lizard Trail (45 minutes) starts at the Valley of Desolation parking area and extends for about 1.5km via the Valley viewpoints. There is an information board along the path between the parking lot and the first viewpoint which details proclamation of the Valley as a National Monument and includes a map to show the layout of trail-paths. The trail is marked with the Crag Lizard logo. The Valley of Desolation is a National Monument and the premier tourist attraction of the Camdeboo National Park.

From the parking lot hikers follow a cobbled pathway to the first Valley viewpoint, where there is an information panel that interprets the geological and paleontological history of the Karoo. Black eagles are often seen at close range and the high speed manoeuvres of the alpine swift, hold many a visitor spellbound! From here hikers progress to the second viewpoint which offers a breathtaking view of piled dolerite columns against the backdrop of the plains of Camdeboo and a timeless sense of wonder at a landscape said to be the product of the volcanic and erosive forces of nature, over a period of 100 million years. After the second viewpoint there is an option for a quick return to the car park, or to continue with the trail along the rim of the cliff edge, which provides even more impressive views of the rock formations. There are numerous precipices and crevasses along this section of the trail and due care needs to be taken especially if there are children in the group.

From the beacon at the extreme western edge of the cliff, the route winds back to the parking lot through moist mountain-top shrublands which abound with birdlife. Mountain reedbuck and kudu are frequently sighted by hikers along this section of the trail while cape mountain zebra are also occasionally seen. This is an easy route which does not require any particular skills and is suited to people of all ages.

The Eerstefontein Day Walk is a ‘pan-handle’ shaped trail which starts  and ends on the fringe of town (Bergendal 804m) at the Spandaukop gate. The route is clearly marked with an African hoepoe logo. There are three suggested options to walk this route, but hikers can in fact tailor-make the distance of their walk along the route. The first option is to walk to Eerstefontein (at the base of the ‘pan-handle’) and back, a distance of about five kilometres. This section of the route initially traverses some rather degraded land but this soon gives way to succulent thicket as one gains altitude towards Spandaunek at 935m.  Following the route hikers experience a wide change in vegetation types and birds that are representative of both the Karoo and Eastern avifaunas make up a diverse and interesting eco-tonal mix. At Eerstefontein there are large shady trees, some benches and clean spring water that is safe to drink.

The second option extends your walk to Agterstefontein and bypasses the Camdeboo Environmental Education Center. Hikers should note that this facility is for the exclusive use of booked groups only. The return distance to the start from Agterstefontein is about 11 km and hikers who move quietly are assured of numerous wildlife sightings, including kudu, Cape mountain zebra, mountain reedbuck, springbok, baboons and perhaps a bat-eared fox among many other species. Agterstefontein is an ideal spot to stop and rest, whether you plan to return to the start or continue with the whole trail. Like Eerstefontein there are large shady trees, benches and fresh water. No fires are allowed and hikers are expected to remove the remains of their picnic – please don’t bury anything, since baboons or other carnivores will soon excavate it!

Hikers who decide to do the entire full day route (a total distance of 16 km from start to end) continue with the trail climbing to the top of Akkediskrans along a twisting pathway between large dolerite boulders with many mountain plum, cabbage and shepherds trees. From this point it is a fairly level walk along a doleritic terrace until dropping downhill into Wildebeeskom. From here the trail follows an old game path along the alluvial sediments of a flat-bottomed watershed which originates at Spandaunek – the base of the ‘pan-handle’. From here you are back on familiar territory and all that remains is the downhill slog back to your car and a welcome cold beer in your guest house or hotel.

Only conservation fees (a normal park entrance permit available at the Valley, Game Viewing Area entrance gate or the Parks office) is required to walk this trail

Safety and security: It is not advisable to hike alone – if you do, at least inform someone of your intention and at what time they should expect your return. If possible carry a cell phone to call for assistance if needed. Emergency telephone numbers should be noted and are provided on a notice board at the start of the trail.

Climate: Camdeboo National Park is located in a summer rainfall, semi-desert area. Summers are very hot and winters can be very cold. During the summer months, visitors are advised to confine their activities to early mornings and late afternoons. Most of the average rainfall of 336 mm per annum occurs in summer and autumn, with a peak in March. Thunderstorms and high temperatures are common during the summer months while snowfalls can occur in the high-lying areas in winter.

Contact Details:

Camdeboo National Park

P.O. Box 349

Graaff-Reinet, 6280

Tel:  +27 (0)49 892 3453

Fax: +27 (0)49 892 3456

E-mail: Camdeboo@sanparks.org

Website: www.sanparks.org