The wine region around Stellenbosch is one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa. However, the real gem is situated about 10 km southeast of the city. There you will find the gorgeous Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, a true paradise for nature and hiking enthusiasts. The Jonkershoek Nature Reserve covers an area of about 9,800 hectares of rugged and unspoiled nature. If you want to fully experience this jewel, there is one hiking trip that you should definitely take: the Panorama trail.

It is a rather demanding day trip, but the environment makes it all worth it! A loop of 10.6 mile (17 km) along impressive mountain walls and countless unique plant species, including proteas. But most of all: indescribable vistas!

How to get there

Jonkershoek Nature Resure is easily accessible from Stellenbosch. Via the Jonkershoek Road you reach the entrance of the park, where you pay 50 Rand per person for a day pass. You can park your car at the trailhead, just past the Witte Brug (White Bridge). Before getting there, you have to conquer about 5 km of bumpy dirt road. For a high clearance car there might not be a problem, but for our budget rental car it was quite a challenge.

Parking lot GPS info:

Latitude: 33° 59′ 36.3″ S (-33.993417)
Longitude: 18° 58′ 28.3″ E (18.974528)
The facts
Min. height: 1,050 ft / 320 m (Witte Brug trailhead)
Max. height: 4,134 ft / 1260 m (Dwarsberg plateau)
Distance: 10.6 mile / 17 km
Elevation gain: 3,084 ft / 940 m
The hike

The trail takes a relatively steep start towards a contour path along the Third Ridge and Banghoek peaks. Immediately you are overwhelmed by the unique mountain slopes of the Jonkershoek Mountains. There are several photogenic spots along the way.

The presumed highlight of the Panorama trail is of course the viewpoint over the Assegaaibos gorge from the Bergriviernek, about halfway the trek. An extensive outlook on how the Banghoek River makes its way towards Franschhoek, enclosed between two impressive mountain flanks. We both had the same reaction immediately: this is much alike Observation Point in Zion (USA). Equally dramatic and jaw-dropping, but in green instead of red.

In fact, for us personally, this was not yet the absolute highlight. We were just a little more impressed by the magical panoramic views of the Jonkershoek Valley and Mountains while descending from Dwarsberg plateau. The innumerable undulations follow each other in quick succession and create a sublime contrast on the mountain slopes. You walk through a living painting, as it were. Honestly, the photos speak for themselves:

As you further descend, you pass the Second and First Waterfall. Some hikers choose to visit these as a shorter hike, from the other direction. The waterfalls should be quite impressive. Unfortunately, in summer (European winter) there is too little water to come into full play. Don’t hike the trail especially for the waterfalls in that period of the year. The panoramic views higher up, on the other hand, are more than worth it.

The Panorama trail is high on our list of highlights in South Africa!

Watch out

However, we must also mention that you’ll need to pay attention along this trail! The path is not always in very good shape, especially the section before reaching Bergriviernek (if you hike clockwise). The dense vegetation often forces you to walk close to the edge. Nothing impossible or too dangerous, but do keep your eyes on the path while you step. Yes, that is quite a challenge in this beautiful environment!