A winter weekend trip to Matroosberg Nature Reserve, camping in a cosy wood and hiking in the snow.
Matroosberg is 175 km and 2.5 hours drive from Cape Town. Ceres is the nearest town, 40 km and about 40 minutes away. It is a privately owned reserve (see their website) with many accommodation options. If you don’t have a car to get there, check out the options for car hire* from Cape Town.
Matroosberg Nature Reserve Map
- Minimum two-night stay on weekends
- Gate closes at 21:00. To check in later, you need to organise it in advance. This costs an extra R50 call-out fee.
- Arrive before 11 am to drive up the 4×4 track (this is a strict time limit). Arrive early on weekends or visit on weekdays to avoid the queues.
- Check the Matroosberg Facebook Page for snow updates and special offers
- A shop at reception sells basics, boerewors rolls and crates of firewood.
- Hiking poles* are useful for hiking in the snow.
- The last fuel is in Ceres, none in Matroosberg.
- Tracks in the reserve are dirt – all manageable for a normal car apart from the 4×4 trail to the top.
- Read more about our exciting Matroosberg Snow Hike to the top of the mountain
We set off on Friday afternoon and camped at Matroosberg. We hiked up Matroosberg on Saturday and went on a short run the next morning. On the way back to Cape Town we stopped for lunch near Worcester and enjoyed the scenic drive.
We set off on our weekend trip from Cape Town on Friday afternoon. It’s best to leave before 3:30 pm to miss the traffic. We set off a bit late so got delayed and by the time we reached Matroosberg, it was getting dark. Luckily the reception is open until 9 pm on Fridays. If you are late, you have to pay an extra R50 fee. We stayed in the lovely, sheltered Dennebos Campsite – it’s R65 per night per person, with a 2-night minimum stay at the weekends.
The drive out was beautiful, as it always is after you leave Cape Town behind. Approaching Ceres you drive up through Michell’s Pass, a really spectacular valley with several viewpoints to stop at.
After checking in at reception (closes at 9 pm on Fridays), and buying some wood, we got shown to the camping wood. We chose a nice spot and set up our tent. It was fairly empty in the campsite even though it was the weekend. It was slightly cold on our first night, but we lit a fire to huddle around. The ablutions were great – really hot water in the showers!
Accommodation in Matroosberg
Matroosberg is only 2.5 hours drive from Cape Town so could be visited as a day trip, though it’s much more relaxing to stay the weekend. Remember if you want to drive up the mountain, you have to arrive and be ready to drive up before 11 am (see 4×4 Trail box below). There are several accommodation options in Matroosberg nature reserve, including camping.
- Check in times: Mon-Thu 15:00 – 17:00, Fri 15:00 – 21:00 , Sat-Sun 15:00 – 16:00.
- Gate closes at 21:00. Checking in after this needs to be organized in advance and will result in a R50 call out fee.
- Minimum two-night stay on the weekend.
Near the Reception
Lakeside Houses (up to 8 ppl): Fully equipped cottages clustered around the lake near reception. Two separate rooms with double beds and two double futon beds in the living area.
YCMB Cabins (up to 8 ppl): Small, basic but fully equipped cabins with six bunk beds and two single beds.
In-House Camping (up to 8 ppl): Similar to YCMB cabins but with no bedding or towels provided.
BZN (2, 4, or 6 ppl): Basic accommodation in units for 2, 4 or 6 people with fully equipped kitchens and an undercover braai.
Remote and Secluded Cottages
Ski Hut (6-20 ppl): A beautifully designed rustic hut with great views. Fully equipped kitchen and hot showers. Bedding not provided and no electricity. Inside and outside braai area.
Goatherder House (up to 6 ppl): A remote, fully equipped old house. Gas fridge and hotplate. No electricity. The inside fireplace can be used as a braai.
Solitaire (up to 8 ppl): Fully equipped, secluded mountain cabin near Crystal Pools. Need a 4×4 to reach here.
50 Shades of Green (2 ppl): A romantic, two-person cabin. This cottage has an inside and outside braai area, as well as an outdoor bath!
Dennebos Campsite: We stayed here. It’s a sheltered camping spot amongst a beautiful pine forest. The ablutions have lovely hot showers. Most sites have a picnic bench and a braai. Of the two nights we stayed in mid-winter, one was slightly cold but the next was surprisingly warm. Make sure to bring warm clothes if you come for the snow.
Private / Group Campsite: Up to 10 people.
Outside Matroosberg Nature Reserve
Ceres is the nearest town, about 40 minutes away. There are many accommodation options*, from smaller cottages to fancy hotels.
The next day, after a chilly night, we woke up to the beautiful morning light filtering through the trees and campfire smoke. We didn’t light a fire but quickly cooked some instant porridge on our small camping stove.
After breakfast, we drove to the beginning of our hike up Matroosberg. For more details see our hike report. The night before, reception explained where was best to park. As you drive towards the mountains you have to pass another manned gate. Here you have to show your reservation and can ask again about the parking. You could hike straight from the campsite, but this would add on another 3 km (and 145 m climb) each way.
Hikes in Matroosberg
All hikes are free for overnight guests and R70 for day visitors.
Longer Hikes in Matroosberg Nature Reserve
Matroosberg Snow Hike (click for hike details): A great 14 km hike to the top of the mountain and back with just over 1000 m climb. The waterfall hike covers the first few kilometres of this trail. Like the Waterfall Hike, this hike starts from a small car park in the valley, reachable along a dirt track accessible to all vehicles. We did this hike as a day hike, but you can carry all your gear and camp overnight near the summit of the mountain (summer only).
Matroosberg Kloofing Trip: A guided, technical 2-day hike involving regular abseils down over waterfalls and jumps into pools. Two mountain guides accompany each group. No more than 8 per group. Open Dec-Mar. Book in advance.
Shorter Hikes in Matroosberg Nature Reserve
Crystal Pools Hike: A 7 km easy hike on fairly flat, wide tracks to a natural swimming pool in a river in a beautiful little valley. The water is very cold in winter. This hike starts from the Private/Group campsite near the Ski Hut.
Waterfall Hike: A 5 km hike with 200 m climb to view two scenic waterfalls (best seen when the snow is melting, may be dry in summer). After walking on a dirt track you head more steeply upwards. You can see a smaller waterfall cascading down the steep cliffs on your right, to reach a waterfall on the main stream in the valley. Return the same way. This hike follows the beginning of the much longer hike up Matroosberg. Like the Matroosberg Snow Hike, this hike starts from a small car park in the valley, reachable along a dirt track accessible to all vehicles.
We returned from our hike in mid-afternoon and drove back to the campsite. Because of all the snowmelt, we had to drive through a bit of a river on our way. It was slightly deep, but nothing most cars couldn’t handle.
Back from the hike, and we made a great fire this evening. The weather was also so much warmer. It was crazy after having been in the snow all day to have such a warm camping spot in the cosy wood.
Other Activities for a Weekend in Matroosberg
Mountain or Quad Biking: Bring your own bike. Trials are free of charge for overnight guests, R55 for day guests. There are many trails on the reserve open to mountain and quad bikers. You can choose from easy, fairly flat dirt tracks or try the steep and rocky descent from the car park at the top of Matroosberg.
Ski or Snowboard: Bring your own skis/snowboard. Drive to the car park near the top, or hike your way up. Become a member of the South Africa Ski Club to use the ski lift.
Farm Tours: R120 per person. Experience life on a working farm. 10 km drive with little walking.
Abseiling: Book in advance. R165 per person, minimum of 6 people per booking. Easy beginners slopes to much more difficult overhangs. Equipment and tuition supplied.
Other: Fishing (book in advance, bring own equipment), target shooting, paintball, cherry-picking at the neighbouring Klondyke Cherry Farm (December only).
The next morning, we went on a 35-minute out-and-back run to the Crystal Pools. It was about 7 km long, and an easy run on flat tracks. As a hike, it would take 1.5-2 hours. For this run/hike, you park at the parking by the private/group campsite, then set off past the Alpine Ski Hut.
The pools in the river at the far point looked lovely. We would have swum if we had brought our swimming stuff… and if the water was warmer. The largest pools are at the beginning of the valley. You’ll find some smaller hidden pools if you continue up the valley.
Apart from the pools, the scenery was lovely. There were interesting rock formations and colourful flower bushes. There were great views across the valley of snow-capped mountains, and I thought Alaska probably looks similar.
4×4 Trail up Matroosberg
As the name suggests, you must have a 4×4 vehicle to drive up this track. Additionally, the following vehicles are not allowed: Subaru Forester, BMW X3 & 5, Audi Q5, Honda CRV, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota Rav 4, Land Rover Freelander, Hyundai Tucson. You must deflate your tires before driving up.
To drive up Matroosberg you must arrive and start driving before 11 am. This timing is strictly adhered to. The trail is one-way and is up in the mornings, down after 1 pm. To make sure that all cars reach the car park at the top before 1 pm, you have to start the drive up before 11 am. An official vehicle follows behind the last vehicle going up to make sure the entire drive is clear. The trail then opens for those who want to drive down.
The car park (here) is not actually at the top of Matroosberg. It is a further 2.5 km and 300 m uphill to reach the very top. There is a track to the top but this is steep, rocky, perhaps covered in snow so most vehicles do not attempt this. You can, however, hike up the track.
You can hike up all the way. See our Matroosberg Snow Hike Report.
Lunch on the way back from Matroosberg to Cape Town
After our run, we started driving back to Cape Town. We decided to have lunch somewhere nice on the way back. We first tried Bosjes Kombuis Restaurant (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*). It was in a beautiful setting but completely full for lunch. Make sure to book in advance if you want to eat here on the weekend! At a later date, we came back here and had an absolutely delicious lunch.
Bosjes Kombuis Restaurant
Ou Stokery (Stofberg Family Vineyards)
The staff at Bosjes recommended the nearby Ou Stokery restaurant, at Stofberg Family Vineyards (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*). I had a burger which was really good, and we sat outside amongst the vines. We shared a wine tasting but although the wines were fine, there weren’t particularly inspiring. It seemed to be a good place for kids and families and was full of locals (though I’m not sure where all these locals were coming from since it was a bit in the middle of nowhere).
Du Toitskloof Pass
After lunch, we continued back through the spectacular Du Toitskloof Valley. We decided to go over the slightly longer Du Toitskloof Pass rather than the Paarl Huguenot Tunnel. It’s about 10 km longer but there are dramatic mountain views on both sides of the pass with viewpoints to stop at. If you’ve never driven this route before and the weather is ok, it’s definitely worth the detour (plus you avoid the tunnel toll). Make sure to concentrate when you’re approaching the turnoff for the pass because it’s sooner than you think – if you miss it there is no option but to take the tunnel.
After the pass, we continued on the N1. We arrived back in Cape Town on Sunday afternoon, after a super weekend in Matroosberg.
FAQS for a Matroosberg Weekend
Matroosberg is the name of both a private nature reserve and a high mountain peak within the nature reserve.
Matroosberg is in Western Cape, 175 km and about 2.5 hours northeast of Cape Town. Ceres is the nearest town, 40 km away.
Snow often falls on Matroosberg in winter, Aug & Sep. Sometimes it can snow and then melt very quickly because of the strong sun. Often snow only settles higher up on the mountain, and not in the lower parts of the nature reserve. Often the snow can only be predicted a few days, or up to a week in advance, so check the weather forecast.
You don’t need a 4×4 to enter or stay at Matroosberg Nature Reserve though you do need one to drive up the mountain. Without a 4×4 you can hike up the mountain, go on shorter hikes lower down, visit a beautiful natural swimming pool and enjoy staying in amongst nature.
Most people visit Matroosberg in Winter when there is snow. However, at any time of year, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Hiking, camping, swimming in the rock pools and picking cherries (December) are all activities that are happily enjoyed when it’s a bit warmer.