Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Time to go chasing waterfalls! There are few things better than spending time in nature and exploring the great outdoors, especially in a city as beautiful, exciting, and vastly diverse as Cape Town and the Western Cape as a whole. The ONLY thing that can possibly top / make your outdoor exploring expedition and nature adventure even more memorable and thrilling is discovering the most glorious waterfalls, rivers, rockpools, stunning hidden gems, and incredible hiking trails scattered in and around Cape Town.

Cape Town boasts a spectacular and ecologically diverse terrain – it is so magnificent in fact that people travel halfway across the world to experience it for themselves – and we certainly don’t blame them one bit!

By far one of the MANY great things about living in (or visiting) Cape Town is how many incredible and down-right exhilarating hiking trails there are right on Cape Town’s doorstep (or not too far from the city) – several of which have waterfalls or rockpools to dip into along the way.

We’ve rounded up some of our favourite hiking trails, rivers, and rockpools as well as the best waterfalls in Cape Town – all of which should undoubtedly be added to your Cape Town nature adventure bucket-list.

Skeleton Gorge

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

We’re kicking off our list of the best waterfalls in Cape Town with a toughie, but a goodie – The iconic Skeleton Gorge.

Going on a Table Mountain hiking adventure is one of the top things to do in Cape Town hands down. Standing tall at 1 085m above sea level at its highest point of elevation, the mountainous giant of the Cape Town skyline is not only considered one of the Mother City’s most iconic landmarks, but one of the New7Wonders of Nature too. While there are several ways to make your way up Table Mountain, Skeleton Gorge is by far one of the most thrilling and popular routes.

The beautiful forest like start in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens also makes Skeleton Gorge one of the most picturesque Table Mountain hiking trails as well as one of the most sought-after hiking experiences for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts from around the world.

The Skeleton Gorge hiking trail essentially takes you from one side of Table Mountain to the other. Although the trail is only 3km, it is not to be underestimated. The Skeleton Gorge trail starts off with a steep ascend from the 310m contour path above Kirstenbosch and up the back of Table Mountain. As you continue your ascend, you’ll be surrounded by indigenous trees which provide much needed shade along the way – the first half of your hike will feel like you’ve been transported to some far away magical jungle – it is nothing short of sensational!

Although the scenic beauty of this hiking trail is unparalleled, prepare for a tough climb as you work your way up to the summit. Once you clear the forest, the terrain becomes far less steep in sections, allowing you to enjoy all the incredible views, amazing sights, incredible attractions, variety of hidden gems, secret spots, and natural wonders Skeleton Gorge has become known for.

Now for the part of the hike you’ve ALL been waiting for – En route, you’ll encounter a stream, magnificent waterfalls, endemic fynbos, and some of the most interesting rock formations before arriving at Maclear’s Beacon – the highest point of ascend on Table Mountain.

Once you reach this iconic end point of your Skeleton Gorge hiking adventure, it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy the sensational panoramic view of Robben Island, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mother City in all her glory. You’ve definitely earned it!

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Hiking Details:

  • Difficulty: High
  • Fitness required: High
  • Route Distance: +/- 3km
  • Start Point: Lower Aerial Cableway Station | Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
  • End Point: Upper Aerial Cableway Station | Maclear’s Beacon
  • Average time to the summit: Approximately 2 – 4 hours one way (depending on your fitness & experience level)
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Good to know: Nursery Ravine is an easier alternative route that joins up with the Skeleton Gorge trail at certain points. This makes them a popular pairing, with one trail used for the ascent and the other (preferably Nursery Ravine) for the descent.
  • Need to know: This is a long hike with ladders to assist climbers to the top, and a rockfall to overcome, meaning you have to be extremely fit. Parts of the gorge can be quite slippery, even during summer. It’s recommended to avoid this route during and immediately following heavy rains.

Crystal Pools Waterfall

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town
Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

If taking a dip in the Crystal Pools Waterfall is not on your Cape Town adventure bucket list, go ahead and add it right away! Located approximately 90 minutes outside of Cape Town, the Steenbras Nature Reserve offers hikers, adventurers and anyone looking to explore the great outdoors the ultimate escape from the city.

The Crystal Pools Hiking Trail starts on the R44, just after you’ve crossed the bridge over the mouth of the Steenbras River. The trail features indigenous fynbos, beautiful lush surroundings, and incredible views throughout.

The first pool is located just 45 minutes from the start of the trail. Besides an invigorating dip in the cool and refreshing water, you can enjoy a lovely picnic under the shade. If you’ve got some extra energy left in your hiking ‘tank’, we highly recommend you continue your journey to the second pool. Boasting some seriously cool swimming and kloofing opportunities as well as a spectacular waterfall, it promises to be one exciting adventure you won’t soon forget.

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town
Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

**Tip: This hiking trail is suitable for anyone who is reasonably fit, however, it is slightly more challenging for those who are not in tip-top hiking shape. While the half-day hike takes you through rocky, but generally flat terrain, with an amazing waterfall at the top, it is quite a trek.  So make sure you are well prepared and have plenty of snacks, water, and energy to get there.

**Important note: To ensure that the hiking trails don’t get too crowded, a maximum of 50 people are allowed per day. It is essential to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

  • Distance from Cape Town: 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Where to find it: Steenbras Nature Reserve (via N2 and R44)
  • Opening times: 7.30am – 2.30pm (office hours) | 6.30am – 7pm (hiking trails may differ slightly according to sunrise and sunset)
  • Contact details: 021 444 6927 | steenbras.naturereserve@capetown.gov.za (bookings must be done via email, at least 3 to 5 working days before your visit) | 021 957 4725 (emergency number)
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Cost: R75 per person

Jonkershoek Nature Reserve

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Located approximately 15 minutes from the historic centre of Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek Nature Reserve includes the smaller Assegagaai Nature Reserve and is home to the imposing Jonkershoek Mountains as well as portions of the upper Jonkershoek Valley.

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

The reserve boasts four popular, challenging, and equally thrilling hiking trails, all of which offer beautiful views of the valley and wine farms below. The invigorating Swartboskloof Trail ascends to the top of Kurktrekkernek and back down past an amazing waterfall where you can take a refreshing dip on a hot summer’s day in Cape Town. Alternatively, you could take the more easygoing Swartboskloof to Sosyskloof hike.

  • Swimming: Yes! There are several rockpools and waterfalls to dip into along the way.
  • Starting and end point: Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
  • Duration Swartboskloof Trail: 6 hours
  • Swartboskloof to Sosykloof: 2 – 2.5 hours
  • Panorama Circuit: 6 hours
  • Tweede Waterval: 2 hours
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Contact: 021 483 0190, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za
  • Location: Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, Jonkershoek Road, Stellenbosch

**Need to know:

  • Some of the paths are slippery when wet, so tread carefully.
  • All CapeNature reserves require a permit to access its hiking trails. Contact CapeNature to book your permits or acquire them at the reserve office.
  • Cost CapeNature permit: R50 (adults); R30 (children)

Silvermine Reservoir

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Located in the Table Mountain National Park, between Hout Bay and Noordhoek, less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town’s city centre, the Silvermine Reservoir is a fan-favourite among both locals and tourists for cooling down when the Mother City heats up – undoubtedly making it one of the best dams, rivers, and waterfalls in Cape Town.

The Silvermine Reservoir can be reached via various hiking trails / routes, the most popular being the Elephant Eye Cave, Silvermine Ridge, and Sentinel View. The large, glistening reservoir is not only wildly popular for leisurely swims and picnics – with several stunning picnic spots scattered around the reserve – it is also the starting point for many other exciting hiking trails. This makes it the perfect place for a fun-filled family day out. There is also a 1km trail around the reservoir with a boardwalk that’s easily accessible for wheelchairs and prams.

**Important note: As there are no lifeguards on duty, swimming in the Silvermine Reservoir is done at your own risk.

  • Swimming: Yes. Take a dip in the reservoir before or after your hike – or even both if you’re keen. There is also a river and various streams located along some trails.
  • Where to find it: Silvermine Reservoir in Table Mountain National Park (via M3)
  • Opening times: Daily, 8am – 5pm (May to August) | Daily, 7am – 6pm (September to April)
  • Starting and end points: Silvermine Reservoir
  • Duration: 1 – 3 hours
  • Contact details: 021 712 0527 | tablem@sanparks.org (Table Mountain National Park)
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, but dog walkers require a Level 1 My Activity Permit | Contact Tokai Plantation Office at 021 712 7471 for more information
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Cost: Conservation fee (rates valid until 31 October 2023): R38 (SA citizens and residents with ID); R19 (SA children, 2 – 11 years) | R76 (SADC nationals with valid passport); R38 (SADC children with valid passport) | R152 (international visitors; standard conservation fee); R76 (international children; standard conservation fee) | Visit the SANParks website for more information

Krom River Trail

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town
Image:allevents.in

Located approximately an hour from Cape Town, the Limietberg Nature Reserve boasts some of the best hiking trails in the Western Cape – with the Krom River trail being a definite stand-out.

This noncircular route crosses two rivers before it reaches the Krom River waterfall and pool. Follow the white boot prints (painted on rocks along the ravine) for breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

The Krom River Trail is an exhilarating hiking trail and a fan-favourite among avid adventurers and thrill-seekers as it guides you past incredible waterfalls and deep, translucent rock pools that are clear enough to snorkel in. While the water may be ice-cold, it will certainly be a welcomed relief after enduring a long hike in the gruelling heat.

**Important note: You will have to pay a fee to drive through the Huguenot tunnel to reach the Krom River Trail. You will also need a permit / All CapeNature reserves require a permit to access its hiking trails. Contact CapeNature to book your permits or acquire them at the reserve office. The trail is closed during winter.

  • Swimming: Yes. You can take a leisurely dip in the pool underneath the waterfall.
  • Where to find it: Du Toitskloof (to the left after the Worcester exit of the Huguenot Tunnel), Limietberg Nature Reserve (via N1), Paarl
  • Starting point: Follow the Krom River signs (Once through the Worcester exit of the Huguenot Tunnel, take the first road on your left to the parking lot.)
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Cost: R50 (adults); R30 (children)
  • Contact: 021 808 5121 (Tweede Tol campsite) | 082 494 9707 (emergency number) | 021 483 0190, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (booking enquiries)
  • Good to know: There are several other hiking trails in the Limietberg Nature Reserve, including a two-day trail. It’s also the location of the Tweede Tol campsite.

Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is a small conservation area located a mere 120km north of the city of Cape Town. Known for its untamed beauty, rugged landscapes, and rich heritage, the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and avid adventurers.

Besides boasting one of the best dams and rivers for swimming in Cape Town, this natural gem has so much more to offer!

From stunning fynbos landscapes, interesting rock formations, and refreshing clear water rockpools, to ancient rock paintings by the San and Khoi people, there is an endless variety of hidden gems to discover and explore.

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is also a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and thrill-seekers. Plus, with plenty of places to stop for a refreshing swim, everyone is invited to join in on the fun.

  • Swimming: Yes, there are many rockpools along the various routes, one of the most popular being ‘Die Hel’.
  • Distance from Cape Town: 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Where to find it: Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area (via R44, R365 and Dasklip/Cardouw turn-off), Porterville
  • Starting point and end point: Groot Winterhoek parking area
  • Duration: 1 – 6 hours
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Contact: 022 931 2860 / 022 931 2315 (reserve office) | 087 087 8250; reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (permits)
  • Need to know: Groot Winterhoek Wilderness was closed due to fire damage, but part of the reserve has been reopened to the public, including day hiking trails such as De Tronk to Die Hel | All CapeNature reserves require a permit to access its hiking trails | Contact CapeNature to book your permits or acquire them at the reserve office.

Bobbejaans River Trail

Situated in the Limietberg Nature Reserve, this trail takes you above the river that gives it its name, culminating at a majestic waterfall. Along the way you’ll cross the Witte River, where you can take a refreshing dip in its cool waters.

  • Swimming: Yes. There are various crystal-clear rockpools and waterfalls to cool off in along the way.
  • Good to know: There are several other hiking trails in the Limietberg Nature Reserve, including a two-day trail. It’s also the location of the Tweede Tol campsite.
  • Starting and end point: Bainskloof Corner Lodge parking area
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Need to know: The trail is not recommended during winter, as the Witte River can become quite rough following heavy rainfall | All CapeNature reserves require a permit to access its hiking trails | Contact CapeNature to book your permits or acquire them at the reserve office.
  • Cost: CapeNature Permit: R50 (adults); R30 (children)
  • Child-friendly: Suitable for teenagers, if they are fit.
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Contact: 021 808 5121 (Tweede Tol campsite) | 082 494 9707 (emergency number) | 021 483 0190, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (booking enquiries)
  • Location: Bainskloof Corner Lodge, Limietberg Nature Reserve

Suicide Gorge

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

The infamous Suicide Gorge is one of the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve’s most thrilling hiking trails. While it offers hikers a bucket-list worthy hiking adventure and sensational panoramic views throughout, it is only to be attempted by hardy and experienced hikers.

This exhilarating Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve hiking trail takes you high up into the mountains, and then right down through the gorge (hence the name). 

As you’ll be getting sufficiently wet throughout your hike, we highly recommend you take the appropriate gear along, including lightweight hiking shoes, a swimsuit, and a change of clothes – just in case things get a bit wet and wild.

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Much of the 16.2km hike involves slip-sliding your way along the natural waterslide. At certain points throughout your hike, you may be required to leap off cliffs (some as high as 14 metres) into the pools below. Thus making it one adrenaline-boosting, thrill-inducing, adrenalin-filled experience to say the least – perfectly suited to experienced hikers and die-hard adventurous thrill-seekers.

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

However, if you prefer a less intense and daring experience, the nearby Riviersonderend Route offers a similar challenge, but with fewer drops – the highest drop being seven-metres. Whichever route you choose, it promises to be an exciting and unforgettable adventure nonetheless!

  • Distance from Cape Town: +/- 90 minutes
  • Where to find it: Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve (via N2 and R321), Grabouw
  • Contact details: 028 841 4301/02 (reserve office) | 087 087 8250, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (permits)
  • Dog friendly: Pets are not allowed in CapeNature reserves
  • Cost: R325 per person (for Suicide Gorge and Riviersonderend Route, cost of permit included)

**Important information:

  • The Suicide Gorge and Riviersonderend Route may be closed at any time, at the discretion of the reserve management (due to inclement weather or other unsafe conditions).
  • Hikers are advised to start early (no later than 9am) and must be out of the reserve by 4pm.
  • Groups must be guided by a registered and experienced kloofing guide. Contact CapeNature for information about guides.
  • No children under 12 are allowed on this trail.
  • As the routes are popular, advance booking is advisable.
  • Maximum capacity for each kloofing route is 30 people per day.
  • The reserve office is only open on weekdays, but a staff member will be on duty seven days a week.

Kogelberg Trail

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Rich plant life, majestic mountain peaks and the cool waters of the Palmiet River make the Kogelberg Nature Reserve a favoured destination for hikers.

The abovementioned trail is a circular route that covers roughly 24 kilometres, as it takes hikers deep into the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

If you’re looking for a more easy-going adventure? Try the Palmiet River Hike.

  • Swimming: Yes, on the Palmiet River walk at the demarcated swimming spots.
  • Start and end point: Kogelberg Nature Reserve office
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Need to know: The trail is long, so hikers are advised to start no later than 10am in summer (8am in winter) | All CapeNature reserves require a permit to access its hiking trails | Contact CapeNature to book your permits or acquire them at the reserve office.
  • Cost: CapeNature permit: R50 (adults); R30 (children)
  • Child-friendly: No, because of its duration.
  • Dog-friendly: No.
  • Contact: 021 851 6982 / 021 851 4060 (reserve office) | 082 783 8585 (emergency number) | 021 483 0190, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (booking enquiries)
  • Location: Kogelberg Nature Reserve, R44, Kleinmond

Palmiet River

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Palmiet River is located in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, one of the Western Cape’s most beautiful natural wonders. Besides being one of the best rivers in Cape Town for swimming, the river feeds the apple farms of Grabouw before passing through the town of Kleinmond.

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

The best way to reach the Palmiet River is via the Palmiet River Trail in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. It is also a great spot for hiking and exploring the nearby sandy coastline.

  • Distance from Cape Town: +/- 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Where to find it: Kogelberg Nature Reserve, via N2 to Kleinmond or via Gordons Bay and Clarens Drive
  • Contact details: 087 288 0499 (reserve office) | 087 087 8250; reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (for permits)
  • Dog-friendly: Pets are not allowed in CapeNature reserves
  • Cost: R50 (adults) | R30 (children)

Beaverlac

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Well-known for its beautiful waterfalls and crystalline rock pools, Beaverlac is a lovely local campsite located in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains. Travelers, explorers, and adventurers who would like to freshen up and cool down after a hike can go for a dip in the dam and admire the beauty of the waterfalls. Keep in mind that you will need to book one of the cabins or a spot at the campsite when visiting the famous Beaverlac.

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town

Besides enjoying a revitalizing dip in the dam, this nature lover’s paradise boasts a few hidden gems and thrilling adventures you simply can’t pass up. From a variety of exhilarating hiking trails to going on the ultimate cave exploring expedition (some of the caves are decorated with rock art dating back thousands of years), your visit promises to be filled with tons of adventure, thrill, and scenic beauty.

**Tip: As Beaverlac no longer allows day visitors, you will have to book a spot at the campsite or one of the cabins | Bookings can be made online and pay cash at the gate.

  • Distance from Cape Town: 2.5 – 3 hours
  • Where to find it: Beaverlac Campsite, Porterville (via N7)
  • Opening times: Daily, 7am – 9pm
  • Contact details: 022 931 2945
  • Dog-friendly: Dogs are allowed in the campsite, but not in the rock pools where people are swimming
  • Cost: Entrance fee: R30 per car | Camping rates: R75 (per adult per night); R45 (children 4 – 17 years); free (children 0 – 4 years); R50 (per dog per night) | *Prices are subject to change

Meiringspoort Waterfall

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town
Image:postcardsfromasmallplanet.blogspot

Located close to the small town of De Rus, the Meiringspoort Waterfall is probably one of the most famous waterfalls in the Cape Town area.

Officially called the Great Waterfall, Meiringspoort Waterfall is a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts hundreds of both locals and tourists daily. The best thing about this magnificent waterfall, besides the thundering water of course, is all the interesting geological formations visitors can discover and explore as well as the amazing opportunity to swim in the natural pools. You can even make a whole day of it by bringing a picnic basket along. Meiringspoort Waterfall is approximately 60 meters high, while the pool below the waterfall is +/- 9 meters deep.

The Kaaimans Waterfall

Best Waterfalls in Cape Town
Image:gardenroutemeander.co.za

Easily accessible from the Kaaimans Pass by boat and located between the towns of Wilderness and George, the Kaiimans Waterfall offers amazing views of the Kaiimans River. The pass which leads to the waterfall is quite steep, but you can stop and rest at the famous Dolphin Point. The good news is that there is a car park nearby.

About The Author: Bianca Bunge

I am a Cape Town based Travel Blogger & aspiring writer. Travelling is the ULTIMATE joy, it allows us to lose ourselves & find ourselves all at the same time, is there anything better than that? PURE BLISS!! And being a Travel Blogger allows me to share my love of travelling, especially my LOVE of Cape Town, with all of you. The Mother City truly did steal my heart, and perhaps she'll steal yours too! I also love the ocean, going on adventures & wine, I REALLY love wine! Join me on my mission to discover EVERY little bit of Cape Town, and what a glorious adventure it will be!
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