Phillipskop has a fantastic variety of trails which can be combined to make longer and more varied walks. But for those who want the ultimate challenge of exploring Phillipskop in one day, we present the Three Peaks Challenge. This route uses the various trails in the most efficient order to summit each of the three high points at Phillipskop with the minimum of repetition. The route is 8.5km in length and has about 670m of ascent in total. It tackles the peaks in ascending order of height: Phillipskop (487m), Parking Meter (524m) and Haarkapper (575m).
The Three Peaks Challenge begins at the reception area and heads off along the Candlewood Trail towards the waterfall. This gives a gentle start to the route as the first 2km is relatively flat and allows one to warm-up before the climbing begins. At the end of the Candlewood Valley, the path starts its climb up to the Rock Stacks. Here is a good point to pause and take the opportunity to ensure your water bottles are full as there is not much water on the rest of the route.
From the Rock Stacks, the route takes the more adventurous option up to the top of Phillipskop, via the Klipspringer Path. Take the turning towards Eagle Crags and from that path you will see the signpost for the Klipspringer Path heading up between the crags. This route is an easy scramble with ropes on some of the sections to assist – but there is nothing especially risky. (Those who want to avoid this route can take the path to the Saddle, but it will involve more retracing of your route up and down Phillipskop.) There are fantastic views from between the rocky crags of the Klipspringer Path towards the other two peaks that you will be heading to. The path comes out of the crags just below Phillipskop summit, and it is only a short easy walk up to the peak with minimal retracing before heading down the main summit path to the Saddle.
From the Saddle, the route takes in the north-west corner of Phillipskop. This is a less visited part of the reserve as the high point is not as peak-like as Phillipskop, nor as high as Haarkapper. Nevertheless it offers great 360° views towards the ocean beyond Stanford, west along the mountain range to Klippiesberg, north to the Riviersonderend Mountains and east to the Akkedisberg Pass. On a clear day you can see as far as the Langeberg Mountains above Swellendam. The path up to Parking Meter Point is not as steep as the route already taken and the rounded top gives a number of false summits as one approaches. Only those who have visited this peak will understand why we have called it this unusual name.
The final stretch to the last peak is the easiest part of the whole route as one walks east along the ridge of the Klein River Mountains. The path only drops about 30m before slowly rising again by an additional 80m over a kilometre. During this walk, you have good views both down towards Tesselaarsdal and back across the Hidden Valley to the peak of Phillipskop. Take time at the top of Haarkapper Peak to appreciate your achievement. From that point one has to do the longest stretch of retracing your route, back to the Pimple before heading south and cutting across to the Saddle. The path down from the Saddle is a quick descent of 300m in 1.5km – not easy with wobbly legs so take it carefully.
The Three Peaks Challenge offers a good work out for those who like to test themselves. Our son has set a time challenge by doing it in less than 2 hours walking time, but don’t think that is a normal time. For most people it is best to give yourself the whole day to enjoy it to its fullest and have time for the views and all the plants and animals along the way.
Although the Three Peaks Challenge covers a lot of Phillipskop, please don’t think that you have done it all. There are other paths to explore, and the fynbos and the views change constantly depending upon the time of the year and the weather. We explore Phillipskop on a daily basis and there is always something new.