A Guide to Hiking the Fish River Canyon
Nestled away amidst the remote and arid desert plains lies one of Namibia’s most spectacular natural wonders: the Fish River Canyon.
The largest canyon in Africa, and the second largest on the entire planet, the Fish River Canyon spans an impressive 160km and reaches depths of over 500 meters.
Located in Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, and carved out by Namibia’s longest river, the Fish River Canyon draws hundreds of adventure-seeking visitors each year, each drawn to the challenge of hiking this gigantic wonder and experiencing a profound sense of peace in an unspoiled place, free from the impact of human development.
Owing to the sheer size and vastness of the Fish River canyon, planning a hiking trip can be a tricky task. Where do I start? How do I get there? Do I need a permit? In this guide we’ll take you through everything you need to know about hiking the Fish River Canyon.
How to Get to the Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canyon is extremely remote, and the Namibian capital Windhoek is around an 8-hour drive away. Public transport options are extremely limited so it’s important that you have access to your own vehicle, or otherwise ensure you are part of an organised tour before you start packing for your hiking adventure.
If the thought of an arduous hike across arid terrain is off-putting, and you just want to sit back and gaze out over the spectacular scenery of the Fish River Canyon, then you’ll be pleased to know that there are some great lookout spots available at Ais-Ais and Hobas. However, to get to these lookout spots you will again need to be part of organised tour, or have access to your own vehicle, so please keep that in mind.
The Best time to Hike The Fish River Canyon
The best time to hike the Fish River Canyon is during the winter months and the canyon is open for hiking between May-September. Owing to extremely high temperatures, hiking is not permitted outside of these months and most locals would recommend taking on this adventure in June or July, when temperatures are at their most comfortable.
It’s important to note that although daytime temperatures are warm, during the night the mercury in the canyon drops, and temperatures can feel quite chilly, even reaching lows of 5°C in summer. When planning your hiking trip, it’s essential that you bring some warm and comfortable clothes for sleeping as well as a sturdy sleeping bag!
Hiking The Fish River Canyon Trail
Although marvelling at the beauty of the canyon from one of the dedicated viewpoints is not to be dismissed the best way to truly appreciate the beauty of this natural wonder is to hike the multi-day Fish River Canyon Trail.
In total, the Fish River Canyon trail, which is the only permitted trail, is 85 km in length and takes around 4-5 days to complete. Hiking this trail is not for the fainthearted; it’s commonly regarded as one of the toughest long-distance walks on the entire continent so be sure you’re in the right physical condition to take it on!
The Trail begins just outside of Hobas, where fearless hikers will embark on a steady descent to the base of the canyon. This part of the hike is generally regarded as the steepest, and most physically demanding, but the rewards for completing this section of the journey are more than worth it!
Although progress on day one may be slow as you adjust to the hike, by the evening you will have reached the Fish Riverbed and after a good night’s sleep you will then follow a route all the way to Ais-Ais over the next few days.
As you follow the trail you will be greeted by some truly amazing sights, including tranquil hot springs, jaw-dropping views, and some iconic wildlife. On average you will walk approximately 20km per day but there are several shortcuts along the way that can be taken if you are pushed for time.
This epic hike ends with an ascent to the magnificent Ais-Ais Hot Springs Resort where you can kick back, relax and absorb everything you have witnessed and endured on this epic adventure!
Health, Safety & Permits
The Fish River Canyon hike is one of the most challenging multi-day hikes on the entire continent so it’s essential to prepare for this adventure well in advance. Always ensure that your health and overall fitness can stand up to the rigours of the journey and pack plenty of essentials including water, sunscreen and suitable footwear/clothing.
If you’re planning on hiking this incredible landscape, then it’s also important to note that you will need a permit that has to be pre-approved by the Namibian government. Reservations tend to be limited to 30 hikers per day, although this is subject to change so always consult with your Namibia tour specialist before you travel.
For more information about hiking- or visiting the Fish River Canyon- get in touch with Secret Namibia today or check out our amazing self-drive or private guided Namibia safari holidays.