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Nature's Valley is a small coastal town surrounded by a big beach, big mountains, a big forest and a big river (the Grootrivier). It's also the finish line for one of South Africa's biggest hiking trails: the Otter Trail. With so much bigness around, it's possible that one just might miss a few of this region's little gems...
Salt River Hike highlights
- Short, easy trail that offers incredible views.
- Nice variety of scenery and terrain over a short distance.
- Hang out on the beach at the Salt River Mouth.
- Experience the pristine Tsitsikamma forests.
- Incredible bird, animal and plant life along the way.
Nature's Valley and the Salt River Mouth
Nature's Valley is one of those towns that was named rather appropriately. This tiny speck on South Africa's famous Garden Route is quite literally immersed within the Tsistikamma forest that carpets the valley of the Grootrivier gorge.
Visitors to Nature's Valley come from far and wide to bask in this region's infinite natural beauty. The sandy beach is a coastal oasis along a stretch of steep and treacherous cliffs that fringes the Indian Ocean, while the Grootrivier estuary is a popular playground for visitors both young and old.
With such incredible natural surroundings it's no wonder that Nature's Valley is a favourite destination for outdoor enthusiasts and those looking for some good old peace and quite.
The Salt River Mouth is a secluded beach just west of Nature's Valley and can only be accessed on foot. When we first heard about this trail, we decided to give it a go and were pleasantly surprised by what we found.
Hiking to the Salt River Mouth
While the Otter Trail takes the top honour for hiking trails in the region, we found that the Salt River Mouth hike was definitely worth checking out, especially if you are looking for a short, relatively easy hike that you can do in a morning or afternoon.
The route is fairly straight forward and can be completed as a circular route (either clockwise, or anticlockwise) or as a there-and-back route.
The trail starts and ends at a small tea room on the western-most side of the town of Nature's Valley. There is place to park your car, and the tea room is a welcome sight after returning from your hike. From the car park, simply follow the boardwalk onto the beach and head west (right) once you reach the sand. In a few hundred metres (as you round the bay and approach the rocky section of the coast) look out for the route marker pointing the way up off the beach and into the forest.
This next stretch is a bit of a climb through a forested section that has a number of incredible view sites along the way. We stopped dozens of times to get photos of Nature's Valley and the Garden Route coastline below. After the view sites you'll come across a main path that runs both left and right from where you are. Keep to the left and follow the trail back down the hill. This eventually comes out at the Salt River Mouth which is a great resting point where you can swim and relax in the shade. If you have some time on your hands, this is also a really cool picnic site and you could probably spend most of your day just chilling out on the beach.
Keep a look out for small wildlife and the coastal birds that hang out in this region, and maybe even spot an elusive Narina Trogon in the forest.
To complete the hike simply find the trail at the far end of the bay that heads back along the coast towards Nature's Valley and follow the rocky shoreline back to the starting point.
It is important to note that when we last hiked this trail there was a section of the coastal path that was damaged and not suitable for hiking. If this is still the case when you choose to hike, we'd recommend turning around and going back the way you came to make it a there-and-back-route instead.
Approximate trail distance:
3.6 km (2.2 miles)
Pretty easy, with a few tricky sections on the coast. There are one or two steep-ish climbs, but on the whole we found this hike to be quite easy-going with a lot of shade and great places to stop and rest.
Map of the route
Find a place to stay in Nature's Valley
What to pack
- Good hiking boots.
- Sun cream.
- Water (there are no water points along the way).
- Rain coat or poncho for the coastal section.
- Cell phone with saved emergency numbers and power bank.
When to go
The main thing to consider when doing the Salt River Mouth Hike is the tide. Low tide is best as there is a coastal stretch that becomes quite difficult to traverse during high tide, and especially in big surf. Make sure you time your passage so that you start walking at least an hour or two before the low tide to ensure there is plenty of time for you to complete the hike safely.
There is a tricky stretch along the coast that requires some concentration and an ability to overcome any fear of heights. The stretch is only a few hundred metres long, but is definitely the most exhilarating portion of the route. During our hike the hand rails on this section were damaged, so it is not advised to take this path until this has been mended.
The coastal section is also battered by wind and swell making it wet and slippery, so be sure to be alert and cautious on this stretch.
From Plettenberg Bay, take the N2 east towards Storms River. Pass The Crags and look out for the Nature's Valley signs. Take a right onto the R102 and follow the road into the valley. As you get to the bottom of the hill, turn right into Nature's Valley and follow Lagoon Road. Turn right onto St Andrews Avenue and shortly after that turn left onto St Michaels Avenue. Follow this road as far as you can go until you reach the tea garden on the west end of town.