Castle Gorge, Magaliesberg
Cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear pools and challenging gullies make hiking in Castle Gorge* at the
southern foot of the Magliesberg particularly memorable. Like Foothold, Castle Gorge is one of the
signature hikes on the Johannesburg Hiking Club calendar and an offering that hike leaders and
members delight in tackling, time and again. Just remember to include your cossie in your backpack;
you’ll kick yourself if you don’t.
To get to the beautiful water features, located about halfway through the 12 kilometre hike, you will
however need to traverse difficult terrain that tests both your stamina and rock-climbing skills. The
starting point is very ordinary; from the car park a sandy red path and a dry forest leads to the
ascent which is the hardest part of the hike. Your climb upwards over rocks to the escarpment is
sweaty stuff that will deplete your water supplies but once there the spectacular views are a kind of
scenic reward. Fortunately this is a location with plenty of fresh water so you can top up if need be.
From the plateau, undulating paths through grasslands populated with weathered rocks provide
plenty of photographic opportunities with few hikers able to resist a selfie on the train-like rock
formation. You’re also likely to encounter Boer War ruins, gemsbok, baboons and monkeys.
The gullies that descend into the Gorge are a little tricky to navigate but the prospect of water will
keep you motivated. Depending on your route, the first pool you’ll come across is called Piranha
Pools. Don’t be alarmed by the name; they are filled with fish but not the kind that are life-
threatening. At most, the small black fish in them will brush against your feet and legs if you decide
to take the plunge. The stream from Piranha Pools flows to the first waterfall about 600 metres
further along, a 10 metre sheet of water with a “swimming pool” at the bottom. There are two
other pools in the vicinity but the last one is almost impossible to climb back out of so give it a miss.
Just 50 metres further along you will come across the second waterfall, a 20 metre chute of water,
with a surprisingly deep “swimming pool” at its base. It’s only accessible via a circuitous route, but
well worth the effort to get to.
Lunch at the edge of water is hard to beat, wherever in the world you happen to be, and the
waterfalls, pools and ponds in Castle Gorge are no exception. They serve up numerous spots for
hikers to snap open lunchboxes and to relax and replenish energy levels, at which point laughter and
camaraderie kick in.
The route back to the car park is flattish and easier, or perhaps it just seems that way. Achievement
coupled with food and fun tend to cloud hiker perceptions. Favourably!
Members of the Johannesburg Hiking Club are eligible to participate in Club-organised hikes
in Castle Gorge through a permit system with the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA).