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In a region known for its beautiful hiking trails, the Madonna and Child Falls hike in Hogsback is one of the best!
Madonna and Child Falls hike highlights
- Complete immersion in one of South Africa's pristine Afromontane forests.
- Cool, shady hiking conditions, even in the heat of the day.
- The Big Tree: An 800-year-old Yellowwood in the middle of the forest.
- Relax at other waterfalls including the Swallow Tail and Bridal Veil Falls along the way.
- The chance to spot rare forest birds including a Narina Trogan, Orange Thrush or Bush Cap.
Hogsback: Eden of the Eastern Cape
Hogsback is an enchanted little village situated in the Amatola Mountain range of the Eastern Cape. It's a strange, quirky little place where myths and legends abound and things in the the surrounding hills and forests aren't quite as they seem. It's been said that one traveller who became particularly spellbound by Hogsback was none other than J.R.R. Tolkien and popular belief is that he based many of the landscapes and characters in his Lord of the Rings series on memories and stories from this little town.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Hogsback is a veritable Eden. There are dozens of hiking and mountain biking trails throughout the forests as well as rock climbing along the ridges of "The Hogs" - a group of craggy rock faces that gives the town it's name.
Ultimately, it's the sheer natural beauty that draws people from all over the world to this Hobbit-like village and what attracted us to check out some of its hidden treasures.
The Madonna and Child Falls hike
As with many of the waterfalls around Hogsback, the Madonna and Child Falls can be accessed from a number of starting points, depending on how far you want to walk. The quickest route is via a short path on the edge of Wolfridge Road (see the map below for details). Simply park your car at the signboard and walk on down the path to the falls. While this is most definitely the shortest route, it's still pretty steep, and can get slippery in the wet so you'll need to be prepared for that.
However, if you're an avid hiker and you've come to Hogsback to do some exploring, then advice on the quickest, easiest routes are probably not what you've come here to find. So here's the other longer, tougher and in our opinion much better option!
Drive to Away With the Fairies Backpackers at the southern end of Hogsback. Their friendly staff will point you to a place where you can park your car as well as help you find the start of the hiking trail near their famous "Bath with a view". You can also pick up a map of the route that is a semi-serviceable and might help to confirm whether or not you are in fact lost - although getting lost in the forest is something that is often encouraged by the locals in Hogsback.
Once on the path you'll find that the route is fairly well marked with coloured hog route markers painted on stones and trees along the way. There are a number of detours worth taking if you've got the time. Most notably the Swallow Tail and Bridal Veil Falls which are both along the trail. It's difficult to mark the exact path on the map below, but we found that the signage on the trail was more than sufficient for us during our hikes.
Another impressive feature along the trail is The Big Tree, which is unfortunately named, owing to the fact that there are many other "The Big Trees" in forests around South Africa, including the Tsitsikamma and Diepwalle forests. Something like "The Massive Tree" would have been just as appropriate and slightly more distinctive. However, as the name suggests, The Big Tree is really big and really beautiful. This fine Yellowwood has been the guardian of the forest for over 800 years and is a truly magnificent specimen worth stopping for.
The centrepiece of the trail is its namesake. The Madonna and Child Falls are an awesome reward at the end of a day of detours, double-backs and distractions. The pools at the base of the falls are a great place to cool off, while the many shady boulders make for perfect viewing decks from which you can watch the cascading waterways.
From this point you can choose to hike back along the route you've just come, or hike up the ridge and back to Hogsback along Wolfridge Road. Either route is good, although, in the forest there are fewer passing cars to cover you in dust from the gravel road!
Important information for hikers
Approximate trail distance:
2.8 km (1.7 miles) from Away with the Fairies to the Madonna and Child Falls.
6 km (3.7) round hike.
This will really come down to how long you want to take. We'd recommend giving yourself a good few hours to complete this hike.
Families, avid hikers, birders, people who just like being outside.
There are no permits required, however, there is a nominal levy charge (around R10) that is payable at Away with the Fairies Backpackers which goes towards maintaining the trails in Hogsback.
Map of Madonna and Child Falls hike
What to pack
- Good hiking boots.
- Sun cream.
- Water (there are no water points along the way).
- Cell phone with saved emergency numbers and power bank.
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When to go
The Madonna and Child Falls hike is open all year round. Most of the hiking trail is under the cover of thick forest, so, even in the heat of the day, conditions are quite pleasant.
Check with Away With the Fairies to ensure that the route is safe and let them know you’ll be hiking the Madonna and Child Falls trail. Also be sure that you are fit and capable as there are a number of steep sections along the way, however, this is generally quite an easy hike.
Drive along the main road through Hogsback until you get to the Hogsback Information Centre. Look across the road for a large green sign at the top of a dirt road which breaks off the main road. This sign will read, "Away with the Fairies", with an arrow pointing down the road. Follow it to the next sign pointing right, take the first right, and finally drive through the gates.