Helderberg is a prominent feature in the landscape near Somerset West. The Helderberg Dome is the highest point in the Helderberg mountain range. We went on a hike to the top from the Helderberg Nature Reserve: A good path with some sheer drops and spectacular views from the top over False Bay.
This hike starts at the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West. It is a 45 minutes and 50 km drive from the centre of Cape Town. There is an entry fee of R15 per vehicle, R25 per adult and R15 per child. The is ample space for safe parking within the reserve.
We left early on a Saturday in February 2020 from Cape Town, and started hiking at 8:15 am. This was definitely necessary because it was a very hot summer day. The reserve opens at 7:30 am. I brought my hiking poles for the descent as my knees were hurting from recent other hikes.
Tips on Helderberg Dome
- Helderberg Nature Reserve has a very informative website with some trail options. This is one of them.
- Bring a sunhat, sunscreen and plenty of water. It can be very hot in summer.
- The Oak Cafe in the reserve is a great place for a post-hike drink, snack or lunch.
- After the hike, a stroll through the gardens of the nearby Vergelegen Wine Estate is a must do.
For the first part of the hike we took one of the many trails on the lower slopes of Helderberg. On the way back we took a different trail down. It does not really matter, until you start ascending more. There you should be on a track towards the right hand side of the mountain.
After a while, you enter a woody ravine, called Disa Gorge. This is a good shady point for a water break. Not far into the woods there is a right turn where you cross the stream. On the other side the path leaves the woods and enters a fynbos area again. Here the real climb starts with a number of switchbacks.
Soon the fynbos tins and you climb the rocky outcrop. Here you will have a good view of the end destination, Helderberg Dome. However, the path to the dome is on the left hand side of the mountain.
The First Saddle
The path takes you first to the saddle between the peak closest to the start, West Peak, and the rest of the peaks of Helderberg. At the saddle, there is a sign pointing you in the right direction for the dome. The other path goes left to the top of West Peak, which we didn’t take. There is an alternative way back via this peak.
The saddle is a nice spot for a break, with views to both directions. On the east side you look out over the vineyards on the slopes of the Helderberg and on the west side you can see the Cape Flats and Table mountain in the distance.
Helderberg Dome in View
Next, the trails loops around the left hand side of a minor peak and takes you to a second saddle. This involves a very minor amount of scrambling, nothing serious. At this saddle, we were awed by the impressive rocky south face of the Helderberg Dome, which is just in front of you.
From this saddle, we climbed to a rocky ridge. Finally, this ridge takes you to the top of Helderberg Dome. Here we had a nice long break, enjoying the views. We had a food break in the shade of a nice overhang just below the peak, and then started the long way down.