The Cats’ Path Trail follows the historic 1819 wagon track. It can be divided into two separate walks (Lower and Upper Cats’ Path) or combined into one longer hike:
- Combined Duration: +/- 4h (one way).
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: +/- 11km (one way)
LOWER CATS’ PATH
THE Cats’ Path Trail starts in Franschhoek at the upper end of Reservoir Street by the gate leading to the Fransche Hoek Estate (elevation 320m; 33-54-28 S; 19-07-52 E). No access is granted to the Fransche Hoek Estate without a valid hiking permit issued by the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. Distance from the Reservoir Street entrance to the Cats’ Path monument at the top of Franschhoek Pass is about 2.7 km (rising 415m). A moderately fit hiker can expect to walk up the trail in less than 2 hours.
Follow the Cats’ Path signage on Fransche Hoek Estate for about 820m to reach the Cats’ Path Trail (the path crosses the Fransche Hoek Estate). Close to Franschhoek Pass hikers have to negotiate some steep steps, cross the pass road/R45 (elevation 660m 33-54-21 S; 19-09-15 E), and climb a short vertical metal ladder before continuing on the trail. The last 285m section from the R45 to the Cats’ Path Monument (elevation 735 m; 33-54-24 S; 19- 09-24 E) rises quite steeply.
Hikers who do not wish to hike back along the same route should arrange for transport back to Franshhoek before making the trip. A convenient roadside lay-by on the R45 is close by.
UPPER CATS’ PATH
THE Upper Cats’ Path Trail follows the original 1819 Cats’ Path wagon track from the top of Franschhoek Pass (R45) in a general southerly direction and ends at the historic JanJoubertsgat Bridge (built in 1825) on the Franschhoek Pass.
Most hikers prefer to walk it one way – arrange for pick up at the parking area next to the R45 at the JanJoubertsgat Bridge (elevation 456m; 33-56-16 S; 19-09-41 E). The trail is about 7.5km long, with a fairly gentle descent of about 280m. A moderately fit person can walk the trail in less than 2 hours (one way, going down).
The trail starts (elevation 736m; 33-54-25 S; 19-09-26 E) at the junction of the gravel road going into the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve off the R45 (close to and just left – east – of the pass road). The footpath to the Karmel Youth Centre branches off to the left after about 1.4km. 50m after the Karmel junction, the Cats’ Path Trail crosses the R45 (elevation 620m).
After another 500m the trail crosses a private 4×4 track going up the slope and off to the west – hikers are not permitted to enter this track. From here on the trail continues more or less parallel to the pass road, eventually meeting up with the R45, at this point hikers drop down to the road and follow it for about 300m to reach the end of the trail.