COVID-19: Due to the countrywide lockdown the Haarkapper Hiking Trail is closed. It will not be possible to buy permits during the lockdown, either for now or for future dates. We hope to see you back once this is over. Until then, please keep safe and observe the rules for everyone’s safety.
Jannie Willemse was a farmer from Tesselaarsdal who used to walk 20km over the Klein River Mountains to Stanford every Saturday, to cut the townsfolk’s hair, before returning to his Tesselaarsdal farm the same day. He did this each and every Saturday for over 20 years without fail, faithfully serving his Stanford customers, and clocking up over 42,000km on foot – more than the distance all the way around the earth! The Haarkapper Hiking Trail offers you a chance to walk in the footsteps of the famous Tesselaarsdal Barber, crossing the Klein River Mountains between Phillipskop near Stanford and Tesselaarsdal. The route can be walked starting from either side and can be done as a figure of eight starting and finishing at the same point, or just one way if you have transport arranged on the other side. The route is described below, with alternative options outlined at the end. Hiking permits must be purchased online in advance at R60 an adult, R40 a child. A map of the hiking trail for printing at home can be downloaded from the button below.
Description of route
Upon arrival at Phillipskop Mountain Reserve, please park your car at Reception and sign the hiking register (if coming from Tesselaarsdal, the hiking register should be signed when you pass the Reception at Phillipskop). The route begins by climbing steadily up the western flank of Phillipskop via the Saddle path. This broad shallow valley is filled with flowers such as King Protea, Broad-leafed Featherbush, and the beautiful pink Erica vogelpoelii. It is also a regular haunt of the endangered Black Harrier. The path is only 1.5km but climbs up to 400m across that distance and several breathers should be taken to look back and enjoy the views across the Klein River valley below.
Upon reaching the Saddle, the view opens up to reveal the crags at the back of Phillipskop and the Hidden Valley below. Here it is worth spending some time watching out for the Black Eagles that often soar along the cliff edges. Look out for the path to the main ridge of the Klein River Mountains off to your left just as you start to descend the Saddle. The path up to the ridge climbs more gradually than the Saddle path. It passes through a dense stand of Sickle-leaf Conebush, which is golden in colour during spring. The fynbos-endemic Orange-breasted Sunbirds particularly love this area and are often seen in some numbers amongst the bushes.
The views from the ridge are spectacular. To the north, the mountains of the Steenboksberg and Babylonstoren rise up first. Beyond, is the high mound of the Caledon Swartberg and then the Riviersonderend Mountains towering above. On clear days to the north-west, the mountains of the Hottentots Holland can be seen very well, even making out the pointed peak of Hansekop just north of Sir Lowry’s Pass.
The ridge of the Klein River Mountains here is one of the lowest points along the entire range and hence the best crossing point for the Barber of Tesselaarsdal. At the ridge you will join the 2017 Cape Epic route. Make a note of where you join it, as you will need to find this path again upon your return. Take the path to the east along the ridge for about 0.5km. Just before reaching the highest point on the route, you will see the path down to the left.
The northern slopes of the Klein River Mountains are drier than the south and rockier than the route up to the Saddle. As you descend you can see the diffuse town of Tesselaarsdal spread out below. The path zig-zags down the slope and you will soon see the numerous pincushion proteas that cover these slopes – they are an amazing display during flowering season of November and December. Cape Sugarbirds also love these displays and can be frequently seen hunting for nectar amongst the flowers. Tesselaarsdal is at a higher altitude than Phillipskop, so the descent is not as far. You will soon see the path down to the town through the gate. This is another 1.5km but worth taking if you want to have lunch at De Postkantoor (do check opening days and times before setting off) or just stock up on drink at the general store.
Whether you take that out and back diversion or not, the main route now heads east along the boundary of Elzaksa Farm before curving round to the south and heading up towards the mountains again. Elzaksa Farm will soon be providing accommodation here next to a small dam. You will soon rejoin the route of the 2017 Cape Epic, where it began its tortuous ascent of the Klein River Mountains, via a series of gradual zig-zags. Please do not cut corners but enjoy the gentle way of gaining altitude and the interesting rock formations along the outcrops that border this valley.
As you reach the ridge, the view opens up below you, showing the Hidden Valley and the crags of Phillipskop again. You also get good views from above of the two rock stacks, David and Goliath. It won’t be long before you are passing below them. From here there is still a bit more climbing up to the highest point of the trail, Haarkapper Peak (575m). There are 360° views from the peak, west along the ridge of the Klein River Mountains towards Hermanus, and east towards the Akkedisberg. Beyond the eastern end of the range, the wheatfields of the Overberg spread out before you may be lucky to see the rising mountains of the Langeberg above Swellendam. In October also look here for the amazing flowers of Erica aristata, known as the Pride of Hermanus.
At this point you retrace some of your earlier route, back towards the Saddle at Phillipskop. As you rejoin the path above the Hidden Valley, you take a left turn and start your descent into the Hidden Valley. The thick vegetation of this valley is a good home for another fynbos endemic bird, the Victorin’s Warbler; it is more often heard than seen. Also keep an eye out on the rocky crags of Phillipskop, which are home to a family of Klipspringers. You will come to the base of David rock stack, with Goliath looming across the valley. There is a climb from here up across the eastern shoulder of Phillipskop and passing Castle Rocks. At last you can see your starting point again and a short steep descent will bring you back to the car park. The total route is 12.8km long, 15.8km if you include the diversion to De Postkantoor.
Permits for the trail can be purchased by clicking on the button below:
Starting at Tesselaarsdal
Park near De Postkantoor or J&S General Store. Take the road up to the right of J&S Stores and keep to the right hand side where the road splits. The path to the start of the trail runs along the side of the stream just before the entrance to Liefland. Eventually you will find a gate and join the hiking trail on the other side.
One way from Phillipskop
The shortest route from Phillipskop to Tesselaarsdal is described above in the first half of the hike. However, if only doing one direction, we recommend taking the eastern side of each loop as the more scenically interesting option. The initial ascent to the Saddle is also more gradual. It is also possible to take the Waterfall Hiking Trail route, rather than the one via Castle Rocks. This enables you to visit Phillipskop Cave on the way. Transport must be arranged from Tesselaarsdal back to the start. It is 7km from Tesselaarsdal Postkantoor to Phillipskop car park via the western route, or 9km if taking the eastern route (plus an extra 1km if going via the cave).
One way from Tesselaarsdal
This involves the least climbing as one starts at a higher altitude. Start as above at Tesselaarsdal and take the route described in the second half of the trail. We request people not to visit Phillipskop Cave without signing in at reception at Phillipskop first. Transport from Phillipskop must be arranged in advance. You can also consider walking on into Stanford to truly relive the route of the Tesselaarsdal Barber. The dirt road from Phillipskop into Stanford is good for walking, with very little traffic. Add another 8km onto your route if walking all the way.