Outdoor exercise: 4 great family hiking spots in Gauteng

Lisa Raleigh doing outdoor exercise and hiking with her family

As a fitness and wellness expert, I’ve always promoted the benefits of exercise – particularly rebounding, as I’ve experienced them first-hand and have seen how just a little daily activity can get those “feel-good” endorphins going, as well as boost your circulation, immunity and help you burn fat  and excess calories.

The benefits of outdoor exercise 

However, did you know that outdoor exercise (also known as green exercise) has even more benefits for you and I? In a study published in Extreme Physiology & Medicine, researchers noted that outdoor exercise in a natural or green environment, “…Causes greater feelings of revitalisation and positive engagement. It also helps to boost self-esteem and alleviate negative emotions such as tension, anger and depression.”

This is because outdoor exercise – where you get to breathe in the fresh air, have the warm sun on your back or feel the wind in your hair, makes you feel like you can exercise for longer especially with friends or family, rather than slogging away on a treadmill on your own.

This has been true for myself and my family in the past two months, as we’ve really enjoyed escaping city life on weekends, and heading out to explore some of Gauteng’s most scenic hiking routes in the Magaliesburg. We’ve even been able to take our Jack Russell, Harley along on some of them!

The best thing about hikes is that they offer a safe, wonderful way to head outdoors, exercise, experience new surrounds and spend quality time with your family. What more could you want?

Here are four great family hiking spots – that should make it onto your bucket list:

1 Kranskloof

Lisa and her daughter Bella in Kranskloof

Where is it?

This beautiful hiking trial is situated close to Rustenburg in the North West Province. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Joburg, so best to leave early in the morning.

Great features

Kranskloof is one of the most scenic hikes we’ve been on. In fact, we loved it so much, we went back a second time!

The route has a sparkling river that runs through it with rapids, so there’s plenty of water on this hike. Plus, you get to experience a lot of different terrains and viewpoints. We enjoyed jumping over rocks, walking through the lush forest section, with beautiful old fern trees, as well as spending some time in the open veld having a look at the man-made dams.

Ideal for...

Lisa Raleigh's husband and daughter at Kranskloof hike

Pets and kids. Our daughter, Bella walked most of it and our dog Harley loved it!

More info…

Cost: Approx R60 per person, R20 per dog

This route is situated at Bartletts Farm and is about 8.5km. It’s not too difficult and is ideal for beginners. Click here for more info. 

2 Vergenoeg

Lisa Raleigh and her daughter Bella in Vergenoeg hike

Where is it?

This route is in the Vergenoeg Nature Reserve, Hartebeespoort Dam, and is about an hour’s drive from Joburg

Great features

This hiking trail is off the beaten track and not well manicured. It’s scenic and rustic, which is what I loved about it, although we did come out with a few nasty scratches from thorn bushes. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and had the whole place to ourselves to explore, it was such fun!

It’s a good idea to pick this hike on warmer days, because there are plenty of lush, shady areas, so you don’t spend too much time in the sun.

The highlight of this hike was that we saw a group of around 30-40 Cape vultures circling around us and at one point, we were so high we looked over the vultures flying below us, which meant we got to see them from above, it was incredible!

The view at the top was unbelievable – we were overlooking Hartebeespoort Dam, and on the way up we saw many different flowers, as well as over 50 indigenous trees.

However, this hike is definitely for more experienced hikers, even though it’s considered an intermediate hike. I wouldn’t suggest this route if you’re a beginner or don’t like steep climbs.

Ideal for...

Lisa Raleigh and her daughter Bella walking along the Vergenoeg route

More experienced hikers – due to many steep sections. Children and animals aren’t technically allowed due to baboons on the property, but we were given special permission on the day to bring Bella and our dog Harley because we had a carrier with us for Bella and Harley stays close.

More info...

Cost: Approx. R50 per person

You can choose to do a 4km route or a more technical 8- 10km route, which is 4km up and 4-6km down again.

Click here for the location and map

3 Shelter Rock

Lisa Raleigh and her husband at the start of Shelter Rock hike

Where is it?

The Shelter Rock hiking route is also in the North West province in the Magaliesberg mountain range, and it’s about an hour’s drive from Joburg.

Great features

If you’re looking for a safe hike in a well-run establishment, then you’ll enjoy Shelter Rock.

The viewpoint at the top of this hike was spectacular- and we got to sit on the top of a large flat boulder- the ideal spot for a picnic.  According to the team at Shelter Rock - on a clear day you may see the kloof of Groenkloof, the hills at Sun City, Madibeng, The Hartebeestpoort dam, Sandton and Randburg, the Johannesburg General Hospital, the Witwatersberg and the West Rand.

The route was fairly straightforward, which was nice because we once again had Bella and Harley our Jack Russel, with us and Bella walked most of the way.

You simply walk 4km up to the peak (800m ascent), and 4km down again. The hike included a few stair bridges and we walked past the ruins of an Iron Age Village, which was very interesting, as well as a cairn of stones where local peoples used to place a rock to ensure of a safe journey.

Ideal for...

Lisa and her daughter Bella at the top of Shelter Rock hike

Everyone – as the hike isn’t too technical. It’s also pet, and child friendly which was great for us.

More info...

Cost: R80 per person, R40 per child and R40 per dog.

Click here for more info. 

4 Rustig

Lisa and her husband at the start of the Rustig hike

Where is it?

Rustig is only 45 minutes from Johannesburg or Pretoria. It’s situated at a beautifully tranquil location on the southern slope of the Magaliesberg mountain range.

Great features

My hubby and I went for this hike together on my birthday as a treat – and we both really enjoyed it. We set out to do the 13km route, but we ended up taking the chicken run detour back to the car – as we only had time to do the 9km route.

This was another beautifully scenic hike with spectacular views from the Magaliesberg mountains. It was also pretty rustic, with some steep gradients – where we had to climb on our hands and knees in some areas!

I also love that it’s a privately owned farm run by the Oosthuizen family, so you feel safe and secure throughout the entire hike. There are some great mountain biking routes too for all the cycling enthusiasts.

Ideal for...

Lisa Raleigh at the top of the Rustig Hike

Those who love a challenge. Both the 9km and 13km routes are steep and technical- but the views at the top are worth it!

More info...

Cost: R70- R75 per adult and R30 per child for the 3km and 5km routes.

No children are allowed on the 9km and 13km routes, and no pets allowed. Due to Covid-19 regulations, space is limited, and booking is essential.

Click here for more info.