Nature’s Valley is a small piece of paradise tucked away along the southern coast of South Africa, right in the heart of the Garden Route. Nature’s Valley offers some fantastic hiking trails along a gorgeous coastline. In fact, Natures Valley is the end point for one of the most famous hiking trails globally, the 5 day Otter Trail. Multi-day hikes are not for everyone, though. Luckily, there are shorter day hikes within Natures Valley that you can also enjoy. The Salt River Mouth Hike is one of these shorter hikes. It gets its name from where it leads you — the Salt River Mouth. This amazing beach is a bit secluded and sits just west of Nature’s Valley. Since you can only reach it by walking, we were super excited to go and check it out!
Route Options for the Salt River Mouth Hike
There is more than one way to reach Salt River Mouth beach. However, all trails start and end at a small café, called ‘The Blue Rocks Café’ on the western most side of the town of Nature’s Valley.
- [ROUTE 1, CIRCULAR]: From the beach, head west for about 3 minutes and find the sign marking the entrance in to the forest. The trail then follows this forested path all the way up to a lookout point, after which you descend to the salt river mouth. You then follow the coastline back to your starting point.
- [ROUTE 2, CIRCULAR]: From the beach, head west but continue walking past the forest entrance and follow the coastline trail to the salt river mouth. After that, head up into the forest trail and lookout point. Finally, continue following the forest trail and make your way back down to Nature’s Valley main beach.
- [ROUTE 3, LINEAR]: From the beach, enter the forest and walk up to the lookout point or as far as you want. Then, head back down the same way you came.
Technical Information about the hiking trail
- TIME: 2-3 hours (longer if you spend more time at the Salt River Beach, wandering the rock pools and such.)
- DISTANCE: 3.6 km
- LEVEL: The trail has a moderate difficulty level with a few short steep climbs and tricky sections along the coastline that require careful footing. There’s a brief 30-meter section that might be challenging for those with knee or ankle issues or a fear of heights. Also, be cautious when the rocks along the coast are wet and slippery.
- SAFETY: It’s generally safe to walk, but just be aware of your surroundings. Also, watch out for wildlife like snakes, spiders and baboons! Advised to travel with someone as the coastal rocks can be a bit treacherous should you need assistance.
- LOCATION: Nature’s Valley, Western Cape Province, South Africa
Hiking the Salt River Mouth Trail
We decided to follow ‘circular route 2’. So, instead of entering the forest first on the beach, we walked all along the coastline to the Salt River Mouth and then up and through the forest back to the starting point at the Blue Rock Cafe.
We parked at the Blue Rocks Café and then walked along a short boardwalk path by the public toilets. This path leads to the beautiful Nature’s Valley Beach.
Afterward, make a right (go west) when you reach the bottom of the stairs leading to the beach.
Although we didn’t turn up into the forest, we did see the route marker sign within a few hundred metres along the beach that pointed up and into the forest. We decided to rather continue our walk along the coastline all the way to the Salt River Mouth and save the forest dune journey for the trip back.
Just a few meters ahead we could see the start of the coastal path.
The first 10 minutes of the trail are easy, with a few rock crossings along the coast. Keep an eye out for whales in the area – you might spot them if you’re lucky!
For the next10 minutes or so, the coastal path becomes a bit more demanding. This is the section where those uneasy about heights might feel a tad nervous while navigating the steep and narrow trail. However, with careful steps, it’s entirely safe to walk here.
Eventually you will reach a gulley.
After crossing the gulley, continue making your way along the coast for another 20 minutes or so. You will soon see the sign for Salt River Mouth that leads you off the coastal path and in to the forest.
We didn’t rush into the forest right away. We spent about 15 minutes exploring the rock pools and taking in the beautiful coastal views. The tidal pools are full of interesting creatures and beautiful shells.
After we decided we’d had our fill of that spot, we headed towards Salt River Mouth beach using the forest trail. Following a brief, steep uphill section for about 3-5 minutes, the trail gradually winds through the forest. Just keep walking straight on this path.
As you continue, you’ll encounter two steep declines with ropes leading down to the rocks below. If you’re feeling adventurous, like we were, you can take a moment to climb down to the rocks below. It’s a bit of a challenge, and you’ll rely on the ropes for support when going down and coming back up. Typically, it’s mostly used by fishermen, and the drop to the rocks is only a few meters, but it was quite fun scaling down with the ropes.
If you don’t want to climb down steep slopes with ropes, just skip this part! Walk about 5 minutes through the forest towards the estuary (Salt River Mouth beach). You will see the estuary come in to view below you as you walk along.
Take a break at Salt River Mouth beach for a picnic under the shaded rocks before you keep going on the trail. We enjoyed every minute, soaking in the beautiful views and the calm surroundings during our picnic.
After about 30 minutes of relaxing and snacking in the shade, it was time to continue our hike. There is an obvious sign at the beach leading in to the forest.
When you reach the sign for ‘Brak River’, turn right in to the steep forested log path.
After walking uphill for about 8-10 minutes, the path levels out again and starts to gently slope downhill. As you walk a further 5 minutes or so downhill, you will see an enclave to your left which is the lookout point. This was definitely the highlight of the trail for us. The ocean was all sorts of amazing shades of blue. Contrasted against the green of the mountains and with the small town of Nature’s Valley below, it really was a spectacular site!
After the viewpoint, continue downhill and follow the signs for the beach.
Along with the Robberg Hiking Trail, the Salt River Mouth Hike was definitely up there as one of my favorite trails I have done in South Africa.
Top tips before hiking the Salt River Mouth Hike
- Pack a camera, sunglasses and plenty of suncream.
- Wear suitable hiking shoes.
- Pack a picnic. It’s so nice sitting at the Estuary and enjoying some snacks!
- To really get the full experience, I strongly recommend doing a circular trail. The scenery is incredible and the extra steps are worth the views.
- Take your time! Although the trail can be done in 2-3 hours, there’s just so much nature and sights to embrace that you will find yourself wishing you had more time.
- It’s advisable to travel with at least one other person. Some of the coastal route is challenging and slippery, so its best to have someone there to help in an emergency.
- Take a picture (or save to your phone) the emergency numbers at the start of the trail.
Where to stay in Nature’s Valley
Your closest accommodation option to the Salt River Mouth Hike is Natures Valley Village itself.
Nature’s Valley Rest Camp: This is the primary accommodation option within Natures Valley Village. They offer a range of self-catering accommodations, including chalets and camping facilities. Booking in advance is highly recommended, especially during peak tourist seasons. For a broader range of options, consider checking Google Maps and booking directly with the property. Most options might not be available on major booking websites.
If you can’t find what you need in Natures Valley, check out the Crags region. There are more accommodation options there. I highly recommend Natures Way Farm Stay, just a 15-minute drive from Nature’s Valley. It’s on a working farm and a lovely base from which to explore the area.
A bit further out, are places such as Plettenberg Bay and Storms River Village. Plettenberg Bay is just 25km west and has a plethora of accommodation options, while the Storms River Village is about 45km east.
A bit further out, are places such as Plettenberg Bay and Storms River Village. Plettenberg Bay is just 25km west and has a plethora of accomodation options, while the Storms River Village is about 45km east.
Other hikes in Nature’s Valley & surrounds
Another great hike nearby is the Pig’s Head Trail, on the East side of Nature’s Valley.
Robberg Nature Reserve isn’t too far from Natures Valley either, only a 45km (44 minute) drive in a Westerley direction towards Plettenberg Bay.