Most of the people who ever visited Franschhoek have been on the Franschhoek Pass. The place to be for great views of the valley, and, if you come from direction Hermanus/Villiersdorp/Robertson; the best and by far the quickest way to access the village. But if you have been up the Franschhoek Pass to enjoy the view, doesn’t always mean you know what a beautiful nature reserve there actually is on top and behind the Franschhoek mountain; the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. You find here lots of different flowers, fynbos, plants and other vegetation. The reserve is also home to small wildlife, and it’s a great place for the people in (and outside) the valley who enjoy nature, walks, hikes and views. On a bright day you can even see Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, about a 90km away. No joke! If you are not afraid for some sweat and sore muscles, this is a great place for a day outing. In this blogpost today I will share some photos I made during my hikes at the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve with you. There are several hikes you can do and today I will tell you more about four of them.
Breakfast Rock Trail
By far the easiest and shortest trail is to Breakfast Rock. Starting at the main gate of the reserve, it’s only 1km to reach Breakfast Rock. The climb is about 120m and it will take you less than an hour (and 25 minutes if you’re fit). I wouldn’t say Breakfast Rock is the ideal place for a breakfast. There is no picnic table or what. It’s just a start point for other trails. And the views of Theewaterskloof Dam are nice already. So if you are not too keen for a long hike, but still want to enjoy part of the reserve, this is a good first encounter! If you have time and if you are fit enough to do another trail after Breakfast Rock (for example Uitkyk or Du Toitskop) do it! It’s well worth it.
As a result of the fire we had in the nature reserve this summer, some of the vegetation still looks burnt, and yes you can still smell fire. But new life (fynbos, flowers and other greens) has start and is growing! How dramatic are these red flowers in their black branches?
From Breakfast Rock you can hike to the Uitkyk saddle, from where you can enjoy beautiful vistas of the Wemmershoek mountain region. From Breakfast Rock it’s about a 2,5 km walk (one way), easy hiking but becomes slightly more strenuous as the route rises. Most people will hike up Uitkyk (from the parking lot, via Breakfast Rock) in about 2 hours. If you are fit you’ll nail this trail down in about 1 hour 15 minutes (one way, starting from the main gate). The view from the top of Uitkyk is beautiful.
The Dutoitskop Trail is one of my favourites hikes, as the views over the Franschhoek Valley at the top are breathtaking. On a clear day you can easily see Table Mountain and Lion’s Head! The way up to Dutoitskop is moderate strenuous. If you are fit you can easily do it and if you are not very fit you can still do it, but keep in mind you go up quite a bit (from 520m to 1419), so then the advice is: take your time. It’s a great feeling to see the pole on top and you know you are there! You can sit here for a while and enjoy the view. From Breakfast Rock to Dutoitskop is about 3km (one way) and a fit person will hike up there in about 1,5 hours, starting from the main gate. If you are a bit less fit it will probably take you 2-2,5 hours, starting from the main gate.
The longest hike you can do at Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve is the Perdekop Trail. I did it once, together with the Mr and a common friend. It is a beautiful trail and very diverse, lovely to do, but it’s not easy. There are some steep climbs and parts. I would only recommend to do the full Perdekop trail if you are (a bit) trained and if you have hiked before. There are also very easy, flatter than flat walking parts on this trail, but it’s pretty strenuous in some parts. A round trip, starting at the main gate and going off east is about 15km. The last part (or the first, if you walk it the other way round) is the same as the Uitkyk Trail. Perdekop round tour will take you about half a day. I would say about 4 hours (if you are fit) up to 6 hours (if you need a bit more time to rest). The mountain vistas are superb and on a clear day you can see Table Mountain and Lion’s Head from a distance. I love the big mountain of rocks they build if you made it to the top, just a great feeling once you up there! At the beginning of the trail (if you starting east) there is a nice rock pool, where you can safely swim on hot days. After the rock pool the trail starts with a very steep climb (using stairs and ladders). You can therefore decide to hike the Perdekop Trail ’the other way around’ in summer, to end off with a impressive trail drop and afterwards a refreshing swim. If you decide to do so, then the first part of the trail is to Breakfast Rock,(part of) the Uitkyk Trail and then just before the viewing point of Uitkyk you head on right towards Perdekop. You clearly see this on your map, or on the signs at the trail.
At the top of the Perdekop Trail you can easily see Table Mountain and Lion’s Head in a distance.
Uitkyk and Dutoitskop Trail round trip
Since a little while, you can combine Uitkyk and Dutoitskop in one trail. Fantastic! I really like to do a hike every now and then, but I always prefer a round trip so much more than a ‘same way back’ trail. Therefore it is now possible to do a round tour, starting at Breakfast Rock, towards Uitkyk. Enjoy the views from the Wemmershoek mountain range at Uitkyk point, then walk the same way back to the ‘junction’, where you can take the ‘exit’ towards Perdekop, and opposite the ‘exit’ towards Dutoitskop. Follow the signs and the stones built on top of each other, and make your way up the mountain, until you reach Dutoitskop. From there you will follow the original Dutoitskop trail, via ’the window’ viewing point back towards Breakfast Rock. The last part from Breakfast Rock will be the same way as up. For me this is the perfect day hike, it will take us about 3 hours all way around. But we hike pretty fast (especially the Other Half with his long legs. Sometimes I have to take short sprints to keep up), so if you are moderate fit it would probably take you about 4 hours. An it is lovely! *Note: as there was a big fire here this summer, some parts of the signs between Uitkyk and Dutoitskop are burnt down. Therefore I would advice to follow the stoned built on top of each other, together with a map of the reserve and you will find your way! It is difficult to really get lost at Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. Also I believe that they start to re-do the signing here soon.
There are more trails than I mentioned above. Uitkyk, Dutoitskop and Perdekop are just my favourite hikes to do, and I highly recommend these 3! But there are more trails, for example Vista (easy walk, half an hour from Breakfast Rock and already great views of the valley), Lower Cats Path (starting from Fransche Hoek Estate, in the village, ideal if you don’t have a car), Upper Cats Path (as it’s one way you’ll need a pick up for this at JanJoubertsgat bridge) and the Aalwynkop Trail (easy walk, less than 45 minutes, starting and ending at main gate of reserve).
The Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve is accessible from the top of the Franschhoek Pass, just follow the signs. Park your car on the parking lot and buy a permit (R40 per person) and a map at the gate. If it’s your first time up, you can always go upfront to the Tourism office in the village (in between Col’Cacchio Pizzeria and the Franschhoek Pharmacy) for more information, the permit and a map of the reserve. You don’t really need a map, the trails are quite easy if you follow the signs. But for a first time in a new places it can be nice to have a bit an idea of the area. Also, because of the fires, some marks of the trails can be a bit unclear. If you have a map, there is nothing to worry about. You will find your way. Keep in mind there is not always someone available at the gate, so if you want to be sure you have a map of the reserve before you start your hike, go to tourism and get yours upfront! You can now also buy your day permit online.
This mountain of stones and rocks will tell you that you have reached at the top of the Perdekop Trail.
Keep in mind
Never hike alone. Wear good shoes. Always take water with you.