August 21, 2016
Blyde Canyon, A Forever Resort offers a network of trails with pretty views of the canyon. For active hikers the area is worth exploring, but you will probably exhaust much of the network in less than a day.
On a pretty winter day with temperatures around 23° Celsius we registered at the reception desk, 50 Rand/ $4USD per person, and got the trail map, a simple drawing of the limited trail network.
Don’t expect a lot of help choosing a trail from the clerk. She rattled off the trail options, made sure we understood that we couldn’t loop from the Leopard trail back on Guinea-fowl Trail to the Upper Lookout. They may look close together on the map but they are at two very different elevations, and left it up to us to choose the trail that corresponded to our level of fitness. Compared to many other trails in the world anyone used to hiking will find these trails not too difficult and should be able to complete them in way under the stated time.
We chose a loop starting along the Tula Trail and connected via the Guinea-fowl Trail to the Leopard Trail up to the Upper Viewpoint. We then followed the road back to our car near the restaurant. Took us about 3 hours.
We parked near the restaurant and started down the Tula Trail. While this region is known for its uber-green valleys and rainy conditions at the end of August it was dry, dry, dry.
There was still a fair amount of water in the river and creek and the occasional water fall was still flowing.
Although it would be much prettier in greener conditions we found the trail pleasant and scenic. It’s a mostly open trail that follows along the canyon walls and along the creek.
There are plenty of viewpoints of the Three Rondavels and the surrounding formations.
Beware that the trail junctions are not always well marked as signs are missing. However, if you use the map and some common sense you shouldn’t get lost. Note that when finding the Guinea-fowl Trail from the Tula Trail, if you end up back at the road you missed the turnoff. Head back down to the river and cross it. The Guinea-fowl Trail will begin on the other side.
It’s a steep slog back up the Leopard Trail. I imagine this trail gets quite muddy in the rainy season.
After completing the loop by climbing up the Leopard Trail to the Upper Viewpoint, I’m not really sure which direction is the better choice. By starting at the high viewpoint you would have the sun more at your back, but it really depends whether you prefer climbing or descending this section of switchbacks.
On the way back to Graskop we stopped at the viewpoint for the Three Rondavels, a short detour of Route 532 just south of the Forever Resort. It is best seen late in the day with the late afternoon or evening light on the hill tops.