Exploring Echo Valley

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As Capetonians we are spoilt for choice when it comes to hiking and sprawling views. However, people seem to get hung up on taking the same old selfies on Lion’s Head when, in reality, there is just so much more out there – and Echo Valley is calling your name…

Ambling along Boyes Drive in the direction of Fish Hoek, you’ll pass a number of hiking routes marked with green Table Mountain National Park signs. Echo Valley is the last of these before you turn down to Kalk Bay. Nestled neatly above the harbour (of which you are afforded amazing views right at the start of the trail), the entrance to the hike is easily accessible if you park in the newly-demarcated parking bays just before the fork in the road. Alternatively, you can park along one of the narrow streets and take some stairs up to Boyes Drive. I like to do this and give the legs a tiny burn before you even start the trail 😉

Views for days. Don't worry there are unobstructed views too, I was just trying to be artsy :P

Views for days. Don’t worry there are unobstructed views too, I was just trying to be artsy 😛

Getting up to around 450m in a relatively short space of time there is quite a bit of ascent to get through but the hike is still fairly moderate even if you are not the fittest person around and there are some routes that are flatter in parts than others so you do have options. On our most recent foray we took the direct approach, sticking to the Weary Willy route that takes you under the canopy of Echo Valley forest on your way to the aptly named Amphitheatre, an open section of rocky outcrops that makes for a good spot to picnic or acts as a waypoint on your way to one of the other routes that branch off from this central location.

Fires ravaged much of Cape Town's mountainsides last year but the contrast between the damaged and the resurgent can be striking...

Fires ravaged much of Cape Town’s mountainsides last year but the contrast between the damaged and the resurgent can be striking…

Besides the views near the top, meandering through the canopies of the little forests on this route is one of my favourite things about it. The Echo Valley forest is a short walk, with a built wooden path. On a hot day it makes for some welcome relief as it’s always nice and cool under the low canopy. If you like forest walks then make sure you also include the Spes Bona forest route, maybe on your descent. Of course, these aren’t quite forests in the traditional sense that you may be thinking of, along the lines of something like Newlands, they’re more like dense, low-hanging little oases for you to explore and there are some spots to chill out and have a picnic in the cool shade if you are inclined for a quick stop… There are also plenty caves in the area, look out for the signs or follow little paths that look like they lead to some unmarked treasures (there are some cool open-topped cave portals right near the amphitheatre map too so if you’re feeling adventurous have a squizz around there)…

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The amphitheatre map is a great place to take a pic too…

Speaking of the amphitheatre, I mentioned that it makes a good waypoint. There are a number of routes that branch off from here and the handy little map gives approximate times from there to points such as dams/pools, waterfalls, exit gates as well as peaks and you get a good idea of how the land around you sprawls out along the valleys. Some options include making your way back down to the other routes along Boyes Drive or heading over towards the Steenberg and Silvermine exits that lead out to Ou Kaapse Weg.

A glimpse under a forest canopy...

A glimpse under a forest canopy…

You can fill up water bottles if you make it to the little waterfall area (again, a great place to picnic, spoilt for choice, remember?) but, as with any hike, remember to pack in enough water so that this doesn’t become a necessity. Otherwise, just take in the fresh air and enjoy the silence on top of the mountain (you quickly forget there’s a road and a town just down the hill and it makes for a great little escape…)

 

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About Baywatch Bergemann

Baywatch Bergemann is a wayward, transient academic who would rather spend his time on the beach or on a hillside than in the classroom. We're thankful for that and that he chooses to spread his wisdom here rather than anywhere else.

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