There are a couple of fairly demanding circular day hikes and an arduous multi-day trek that takes eight days, or four days if you arrange a pick-up (or leave a vehicle) halfway. The two day-trails require no prebooking and can be walked year-round, whereas the multi-day hike has to be booked with NWR in advance. All three hikes, which are clearly marked with painted footsteps, involve rocky terrain, requiring robust hiking shoes or boots. You’ll also need to carry at least two litres of water per day.
Probably the most popular trail, this 10km loop (4–5hr) starts from a car park 4km from the park office. It steadily winds its way up onto the plateau past many olive trees before descending via a gradually deepening valley – look out for the quiver trees – where towards the end you will need to use a chain bridge to navigate a canyon wall. The trail eventually joins a 4WD track that leads back to the car park.
Starting near the campground, this more strenuous, and arguably more scenic, 17km hike (6–7hr) takes you up a narrow ravine, dotted with pools (in the rainy season), onto an open, exposed plateau and then onto a ridge, which affords superb panoramic views. The trail then descends steeply past further pools and waterfalls (after rains) before meeting the usually dry Naukluft River and then a 4WD track, which you follow back to the start.
This gruelling, eight-day, 120km trail (with a four-day option that avoids the toughest sections) allows you to experience the full variety of the massif’s rocky terrain but is not for the faint-hearted, those afraid of heights, or the inexperienced. Moreover, while some sections of the trail lead you through impressive scenery, others take you along seemingly endless rocky ravines and riverbeds. Averaging around six hours hiking a day, you’ll stay in very basic shelters, offering only water and toilets (no showers), and with no fires allowed in the park, you’ll need to carry a stove with your food, water and other kit. The good news is that it is possible to leave a vehicle with supplies for the last four days at Tsams Ost, the shelter for the fourth night, thereby saving having to carry the extra kilos of food. Those doing the shorter four-day trail will also leave a vehicle here for transport back out of the park.
The Naukluft multi-day hike is only permissible between March 1 and the third Friday in October (Tues, Thurs & Sat); buy a permit in advance from NWR in Windhoek, for which you need a current medical certificate. The cost is N$100 per person, in addition to park entry fees. A minimum of three people (maximum twelve) are needed to hike the trail.