It was a bit embarrassing hiking on Paarl Rock without actually knowing that it was The Paarl Rock until about ½ hour after we climbed off of it. The problem was that there were two other similar bulbous granite rocks in the Paarl Rock Nature reserve, namely Bretaneklip and Gordon’s Rock, that are bigger and more impressive and so we had incorrectly assumed that one of them was the official Paarl Rock.
The Paarl Rock Nature Reserve is a beautiful expansive nature area with granite rocks and dams sitting above the town of Paarl about an hour’s drive outside of Cape Town CBD. It is known for the three major granite rocks that remind me of pictures I have seen of the more famous Yosemite National Park in the U.S.A. We started off in at the visitor’s centre parking area and there was a bit of confusion as to the starting point of our hike because the path was not so clearly marked. But after a few wrong turns we soon found ourselves climbing vertically up a granite rock following some white footprints. After reaching the top and taking in the views, we traversed Paarl Rock on a somewhat dubious path before we found the more official route. Of the two other rocks, only Bretaneklip is scalable. It even has a chain handrail at the steepest part to guide you to the top with beautiful views across the Paarl valley.
Then being in explorer mode we decided to continue on the path going down between Bretaneklip and Gordon’s Rock on a series of wooden steps into a forested area. It was absolutely beautiful and gave us a proper idea of the massive scale and steep drop-off of the granite rocks. But there was no direct path back to the parking lot. Instead there were a lot of long and windy dirt paths on a more extensive circular route around the reserve. On the advice of a passing scout troop we decided that the quickest route back was to retrace our steps back up the wooden steps. Going down the steps I had the sinking feeling that we would have to climb back up and so we counted the steps (we counted 390 steps but apparently it’s 403 steps). Let me know when you go how many steps you count.
Our tour of the Paarl Rock Nature Reserve took us about 3-hours. You could vary your time if you wanted to do less walking or exploring. There are 2.5 – 10 km paths around the reserve if you would like to make it a longer day. There are also other activities such as trail running, fishing in one of the dams or rock climbing.
Tips for visiting the Paarl Rock Nature Reserve:
- There is a dirt road into the reserve which is not really suitable for all types of vehicles.
- Park hours are from 7h00 and close at 19h00 (summer) or 18h00 (winter).
- The visitors’ centre seems to have limited opening and operating hours.
- We did not have to pay a fee but this may change when the visitors’ centre is open. The website says that it’s free during the week and entry is Entry is R52.00 per vehicle plus R17.00 per occupant, which can be bought at the reserve main gate.
- It also seems as if it’s possible to drive to the top area of the granite rocks thereby cutting your hiking time down even further.
- You can also visit the nearby Afrikaans Taal (Language) Monument. A beautiful piece of abstract architecture symbolising the growth of Afrikaans in South Africa. R30 entrance fee.
- Disclaimer: information is subject to change. Please check the website.