Hogsback, a hidden gem nestled in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, is a village that seems to have sprung from the pages of a fairy tale. It’s a place where the natural world enchants visitors with its indigenous forests, cascading waterfalls, and stunning landscapes. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in this enchanting realm is by exploring the various hiking trails that crisscross the region. Madonna and Child Waterfall is one of the most iconic and beautiful natural attractions in Hogsback.
The hiking routes that lead to Madonna and Child
You can start your hike to Madonna and Child Falls from different places, depending on how far you want to walk.
Option 1: The fastest way is by using the short trail that starts near Wolfridge Road. This GOOGLE MAP LINK will take you directly to the parking lot. Follow the pathway down to the falls. Although this route is the shortest, it can be quite steep and slippery in wet conditions.
Option 2: This route is longer and a little more challenging. In my opinion, however, it is the better and more rewarding experience. Head to Away With the Fairies Backpackers located at Hogsback’s southern end. The staff will help you in locating the beginning of the hiking trail, which is conveniently situated near their famous “cliff bath with a view.”
What to expect along the trail
When you start walking on the trail, you’ll see that it’s easy to follow because of the colorful hog route markers on rocks and trees along the way. Along the way, you will notice signs for some detours you can take along the main trail. Specifically Swallow Tail and Bridal Veil Falls are worth venturing to if you have the time. The route markers clearly lead you back to the main trail, so if you keep your eyes open for signs, you shouldn’t (in theory, at least) get lost.
The trail through the forest is incredibly beautiful and quiet. For the most part, we were the only ones on the trail so it was easy to hear the birds and other wildlife as they went about their day.
The Big Tree, an iconic guardian of the Hogsback Forest
One of the first attractions you pass along the trail is the ‘Big Tree’. The giant Yellowood towers at 38m (124 feet) high and is estimated to be about 800 years old. It really is quite an amazing sight!
Our next detour was to Swallowtail Falls. A clearly marked trail sign on the tree provides directions to the falls.
Swallowtail Falls is a smaller waterfall compared to some of the others in Hogsback, but it’s still a lovely, tranquil spot. The waterfall is named after the swallowtail butterfly due to its unique shape. The area around the falls is also a nice place to relax and enjoy a small picnic.
Bridal Veil Falls
The next detour is to Bridal Veil Falls. The path to Bridal Veil is a little more challenging and steep, but this pretty little waterfall is worth the climb. I suppose the waterfall gets its name from the veil-like appearance of the fall, especially when the wind blows the mist sideways.
After spending some time at Bridal Veil Falls, we continued making our way to Madonna and Child. As you walk along the forest path trail, you’ll eventually reach a wooden boardwalk. Be careful where you step, as a few of the wooden planks may be loose.
Madonna and Child Waterfall
Our next stop was the Madonna and Child Waterfall, the whole reason we started this trail in the first place. The waterfall did not disappoint. The waterfall gets its name due to a rock formation at the base of the falls, which resembles the figures of the Madonna and Child. The water cascades magnificently onto the rocks below and forms a small pool at the bottom. The pool is a popular spot for swimming, especially during the warmer months.
While you can turn around and go back through the forest the way you came, I would suggest hiking back to Hogsback along the Wolfridge road. It gives you a change of scenery and has so many pretty views along the way. To take this route, follow the steep 150m climb up a set of rickety wooden steps near the Waterfall. From this point, you can hike back to Hogsback along the gravel road.
To our pleasant surprise, one of the first places we came across as we entered Hogsback happened to be a beer garden. I can’t think of a more fitting end to a long and hot hike than some cold beer and gin sampling at the Hogsback Brewing Company.
Important information for the Madonna & Child Waterfall Hike
Approximate trail distance:
2.8 km (1.7 miles), if you start from Away with the Fairies Nature Lodge.
The total distance there (from Away with the Fairies) and back along Wolfridge road is 6.4 km (3.7 miles).
This is really up to you and depends on how many detours you include along the trail. We stopped a lot along the way for pictures and visited all the falls along the trail. If you follow this same pattern, I would suggest allowing yourself around 4-5 hours to complete the trail.
The hike is absolutely FREE. However, there is a small trail maintenance fee (around R10) that is payable at Away with the Fairies Nature Lodge, if you choose to start from there.
How to get to Madonna and Child Waterfall
Starting from Away With The Fairies: You can find the sign for ‘Away With the Fairies’ at the top of a dirt road opposite the Hogsback Information Centre along Hogsback’s Main Road. Drive down the road and follow the signs to ‘Away With The Fairies’.
Starting from Wolfridge Road: Here’s a GOOGLE MAP LINK for the parking lot.