Uitkyk Trail – Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek
Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve is situated high up in the Franschhoek Mountains, overlooking the quaint village of Franschhoek (French Corner). The town is named for the early French Huegunot settlers who were settled in the Cape between 1688 and 1725. There are four different trails in this reserve, from a short, steep 2½ hour circuit, known as the Vista Circuit, to the full day, 14 km Perdekop Trail. The Vista Circuit passes a number of optional viewing points, from which the whole valley opens up with views of the Franschhoek Valley, the Stellenbosch Mountains and on a clear day, Table Mountain in the distance. The Uitkyk Trail (Lookout Trail) is an out and back route that takes about four hours, with an optional loop on to the Vista Circuit. A slight variation on this is to take the higher path on the outward route, to the summit of Du Toitskop. This is steeper, slightly more challenging, with the highest point at 700 metres.
What to expect:
The trail starts at the entrance gate to the reserve, just off the Franschhoek Pass, about 20 minutes outside of the town. From the gate there is a short jeep track to a private residence within the Reserve, before the path branches off. There is an initial climb up to a high point known as Breakfast Rock, before the path levels out and then undulates through the mountain slopes for approximately 3 km, to reach the lookout point after which the trail is named. This gives hikers a view over the Wemmershoek Dam in the valley below. The rugged cliff faces. Mountain peaks are awe inspiring and worth the walk just for that. The area is known for its superb views and pristine Fynbos with some unusual Erica and Protea species. On the way back the views in the opposite direction are just as impressive, with the Theewaterskloof Dam – Cape Town’s largest water supply dam – the Groenlandberg Mountain in the distance.
The path is generally clear and firm, with a few uneven and stony patches. As the height gain is only 360 metres over the entire trail, it is a relatively easy hike. There is the option to take the loop to the Vista Circuit, either on the way out or on the way back.
Timing: Franschhoek is about 1½ drive from Cape Town and the trail starts about 20 minutes drive from the town, at the highest point of the Fraschoek Pass. The trail takes between three and four hours, with a slightly longer option if the route over Du Toitskop – one of the highest peaks in the area – is taken on either the out of back route. This would add an extra hour to the excursion. There is also the loop to the Vista Trail, that would add an extra 45 minutes to an hour. Franschhoek is known as the Food and Wine capital of the Cape, so it is worth making the time to visit one of the many nearby estates or restaurants in the town on the way back. Franschhoek is also a good option for an overnight stay and there are many other hiking routes and activities in the area.
The Perdekop Trail is much longer, more challenging and will take between 6 and 8 hours.