The Leopard Trail Hike
Route and Map
The Leopard Trail is a circular hike staring from, and returning to, Cedar Falls Base Camp. Vehicles are left at the base camp.
9.75km, 3 – 5 hours
The first day of the trail is 9.75km, so please ensure you start walking by 2pm at the latest. The trail begins with a nice stiff walk up Kick-Start Hill to the plateau. At the day’s halfway point there is an optional detour to Gabriel’s Pools – a spectacular kloof with small pools for swimming and your only drinking water along the path for the day. The detour is 570 metres each way, and with time for swimming will add an extra hour to the day’s hike. From there the path moves down into a valley that winds its way to the first overnight spot.
Our recommendation: Give yourself enough time to do the detour. Gabriel’s Pools are in a really special little kloof.
18 km, 5 – 8 hours
Day 2 starts off nice and easy with a 5.5 km walk along Rhebok Valley. The valley ends at an optional detour (314 metres each way) to the Cedars Viewpoint, passing a stream with drinking water and a small pool to swim in. From the detour turn-off point you start the climb to the top of the saddle and spectacular views of the Kouga and Baviaans foothills. Down the other side to Reflection Pools, for a swim and drinking water. The remainder of the day’s hike takes you across the landscape before climbing two small saddles at the end and arriving at the overnight huts.
Our recommendation: In summer avoid walking during the middle of the day. Organise yourselves the night before for an early departure. Leave early in the morning (as close to daybreak as possible), enjoy the detour to Cedar Viewpoint, and keep moving to get to Reflection Pools and shade by mid morning. Spend a good few hours at the pools before heading off mid afternoon for the last few hours of the walk. Bags for Camp 2 are delivered last, so if you arrive at the camp site early be prepared to wait for your bags to arrive.
22 km, 6 – 9 hours
The longest day of the trail, day 3 starts with you walking across the flow of the landscape. This is the most taxing part of the hike as you tackle the three climbs of Honeybush Hill, Inconvenient Truth and Ain’t so Bad. This is true wilderness, with no sign of human impact, and views deep into the Baviaans and Kouga mountains. At the day’s halfway point, Draaipunt, there is a short 224 metre detour to drinking water. The second half of the day is spent walking down the incredibly beautiful Kasey Kloof, following its winding path for 9 km through to the third overnight huts.
Our recommendation: Leave as early as possible in summer and get over the three saddles in the first few hours of the day (prepare your camp the night before for a sunrise departure.) Spend some time at the stream at Draaipunt before continuing. The walk through Kasey Kloof in the second half of the day is a lot cooler, often passing through shaded areas and under trees. Depending on the localized rains, there are often places in Kasey Kloof to sit in the shade with your feet in running water.
13km, 3 – 5 hours
An easy start to the day has you following yet another beautiful kloof, Birdsong Valley. After 4km you get to Fond Farewell, a steep climb to the plateau. Once on the plateau you will need to get through The Cauldron, a series of two small valleys that get very hot in summer. From there it is a steep descent into the Cedar Falls valley, which brings you towards base camp for a traditional swim in the reservoir’s clean mountain water.
Our recommendation: Take time to enjoy the last morning of your walk, being conscious of the spectacular valley, listening to the birds and keeping your eyes open for kudu, rhebuck and klipspringers. This is your last day on the trail, and the world out there awaits. Try to make it wait just a little longer.