Diepwalle Forest is a peaceful destination along the Garden Route with great camping on magical forest decks and several hiking options.
Diepwalle Forest is a section of Garden Route National Park north of Knysna. To get there, it’s a 20 km (30-minute) drive north of Knysna along the R339. The last 10 km are on a good gravel road, suitable for all vehicles. Follow the signs to the rest camp and tea garden, which leaves the main road on a more minor road uphill to the right. If you need a good road map for this trip, see our recommendations.
Diepwalle Forest Map
Tips for Diepwalle Forest
- Diepwalle Forest is in the Knysna Section of Garden Route National Park and it costs R42/21 or R168/84 per adult/child per day for South Africans/International. It’s free with a WildCard.
- The only accommodation in Diepwalle Forest is camping, either in your own tent or a permanent tent.
- There’s no shop nearby and only a small cafe, so stock up on everything you need before you arrive.
- We have separate hike write-ups for the Red Elephant Hiking Route and the Black Elephant Hiking Route.
Things to do in Diepwalle Forest
There are several activities in Diepwalle Forest:
- Walk around the Hiking Trails
- Visit the Big Trees
- Have a Picnic
- Go on a scenic drive to the north
- Visit the Forest Legends Museum
- Grab a drink at Diepwalle Tea Garden
- Try and spot the Knysna Elephant(s)
1. Hiking Trails
There are three fairly short hiking trails in Diepwalle Forest. They are all fairly similar and all loops, so it doesn’t make that much difference which trail you opt for. You can read a more detailed description of the Red and Black Elephant hiking trials by clicking the links. Along the trails you walk through the woodland, see tall trees, follow old woodcutting trails and cross a few streams. Look out for the lovely mushrooms, and if you’re lucky spot a chameleon.
- Red Elephant Route: 6.8 km – visit two large trees and cross some lovely streams.
- Black Elephant Route: 8.8 km – visit the King Edward VII tree and Ysterhoutrug picnic spot.
- White Elephant Route: 7.8 km – visit the King Edward VII tree and a rock pool where you can swim.
The Terblans (or Terblanche) Trail starts from Grootdraai Picnic Area, 10 km west along Kom se Pad from the Diepwalle Main Area. From the picnic area, follow the bush pig signs.
2. Visit the Big Trees
There are several Big Trees in Diepwalle Forest. Most of these large trees were cut down during unsustainable logging in the first half of the twentieth century. However, a couple of them remain close enough to the road to easily visit.
The King Edward VII tree is the most famous example of a Big Tree. It’s a giant Outeniqua Yellowwood more than 800 years old and is almost 40 metres tall. This tree is visited on both the White and Black Elephant Hiking Routes. To drive to see it, the parking is at the turnoff from the main road to Diepwalle Main Area.
The Big Tree further north near Velbroeks Draai Picnic Area is another great example of a giant Outeniqua Yellowwood. It’s even taller than the King Edward VII tree at almost 50 metres tall. This tree is visited on the Red Elephant Hiking Route, or park by the Picnic Area a few kilometres north of the Main Area.
3. Have a Picnic
All the picnic areas in Diepwalle Forest have tables, braai areas and a toilet.
- King Edward VII Picnic Area – close to the famous Big Tree and the closest picnic site to Diepwalle Main Area.
- Velbroeks Draai Picnic Area – a few kilometres north near another Big Tree.
- Dal van Varings (Fern Valley) – a picnic area with a short walk about 10 km north of the main Diepwalle Forest area.
- Ysterhoutrug Picnic Area – a few kilometres south by the edge of the road.
- Grootdraai Picnic Area – 10 km west along Kom se Pad and at the start of the Terblans Trail.
4. Go on a Scenic Drive
You can head north to Spitzkop viewpoint and beyond for mountainous views, or drive west through the forest along a quiet track. For a great map that usefully shows which roads are dirt, get the Tracks4Africa South Africa Map*.
North to Spitzkop Viewpoint
The turnoff to Spitzkop Viewpoint is almost 10 km north of the main area, just around a corner. Once the track leaves the main road, it climbs upwards to the viewpoint at the top. There are several benches here to sit on and admire the view.
West along Kom se Pad to Grootdraai Picnic Area
Kom se Pad is an old woodcutters’ track and this route goes deep through the forest along a dirt track. It’s 10 km west to the Grootdraai Picnic Area, from where the Terblans Trail starts. From there you can either drive back the way you came, another 10 km, or head on the longer route south, east then back north (around 30 km).
5. Visit the Forest Legends Museum
You can see the past lives of lumberjacks and gold-diggers who used to live in this area. You can see a skeleton of an elephant that used to live in the Diepwalle Forest and learn about the mysterious Knysna Elephant. This museum is just by the information centre in the main area of Diepwalle Forest.
6. Grab a drink at Diepwalle Tea Garden
The Diepwalle Tea Garden is located in an old forester’s house. The cafe serves traditional food and drink. It’s open from 10am to 3pm every day apart from Sunday when it’s closed.
7. Try and spot the Knysna Elephant(s)
I’m not gonna lie, the chances of you seeing any elephant in the Diepwalle Forest here are very low. There is probably only one female remaining in the entire area, down from at least 10 in 1969 and 400 in 1876. However, you can have fun pretending that branches scattered on the trails might be pulled down by the elephant and that marks in the mud could be her footprints.
You’re likely to have more success looking out for monkeys and smaller animals such as chameleons.
Accommodation in and around Diepwalle Forest
Diepwalle Forest Camping
The only accommodation is Diepwalle Forest is camping apart from one Old Forester’s House. There are 10 camping sites, all on forest decks raised a few metres above the forest floor. Camping on the decks is very fun and there are little shelters in case it rains. You can look directly out of the forest and all the decks feel quite private although they’re not that widely spaced from each other.
There are two options for camping – bring your own tent or stay in a permanent dome tent. You should book in advance (on the SAN Parks website) as there are only 10 spaces. The reception closes quite early, at 4 pm, but if you arrive afterwards you can just find an empty deck and set up. The camping fees are in addition to the park conservation fees.
Camping in your own tent on the Forest Decks
Cost: R240-380 for two people, plus an extra R100/50 for each extra adult/child up to four people per site. The prices are more expensive during the Christmas summer holidays. The price includes one car, an additional vehicle is an extra fee.
On each camping deck there’s a light and you can connect to electricity. There’s also an in-built braai area, a sheltered area and a surface for chopping food. There are also some little storage areas. You can only camp in a tent, you can’t drive a motorhome or car onto the decks. You must park your car on the edge of the forest, about 20-50 metres away from the camping decks. The decks are big enough for a medium-sized four-person tent.
There are shared ablutions near the car park, between 50 and 100 meters away from each camping deck. There are some cute lights left on at nighttime, but it’s definitely best to also bring a headtorch*.
Camping in a permanent tent on the Forest Decks
If you don’t have your own tent, you can stay in a permanent setup tent on the same forest decks. Cost: R490-850 for two people. Only two people can stay in these tents. The prices are more expensive during the Christmas summer holidays. The price includes one car, an additional vehicle is an extra fee.
Inside the tents are two single beds with mattresses, but no other bedding. You have to bring your own pillows, sheets or sleeping bag and towels. There are also no kitchen items provided so you have to be fully self-sufficient (apart from the tent and mattresses). The deck has a sheltered area, electricity, a light and a small fridge.
Old Forester’s House
Half of this house is used as the Diepwalle Tea Garden, and the other half can be rented out for self-catering. This historic house sleeps up to 6 people. There’s a fireplace (firewood is provided) and the building is characterised by rustic charm. There’s a fully equipped kitchen plus bathroom and lounge with a TV.
You can’t reserve online but must call SAN parks on 044 382 9762 to reserve. The check-in time is 2pm-4pm at the Diepwalle Information Office. If you arrive outside this time, contact the office on 044 382 9762 to make prior arrangements.
Accommodation outside the park
If you don’t want to stay in Diepwalle Forest itself, there are loads of great options in the coastal town of Knysna*, 20 km south. Alternatively, there are some unique places to stay in the mountains* about 35 km north of Diepwalle.
I hope you enjoyed our guide to Diepwalle Forest in South Africa. There are several other great places to explore not so far away along the Garden Route, such as Ebb & Flow Rest Camp in Wilderness or de Hoop Nature Reserve. For more hikes and activities, check out our Guide to South Africa.