Day hikes in the Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal
The Drakensberg Mountains – Ukhahlamba or 'barrier of spears' in isiZulu – extends for more than 200km across South Africa, creating a veritable wonderland of day hikes.
Starting in the north, Devil’s Hoek is an ascending, hour-long, 3km valley hike from the Thukela car park. Or try an easy hike to McKinley’s Pool, Gudu Falls and the Grotto. Another hour-long hike takes you to Otto's Walk via the Sigubudu Valley to view San rock art.
Tackle more moderate walks over 12km to Sigubudu Ridge in a four to five hour round trip, or from Rugged Glen Nature Reserve to Mahai, a five to six hour hike over 14km.
Hardcore hikers will be tantalised by the prospect of a 10-hour, 20km slog to Mont-Aux-Sources via Basotho Gate and The Chain Ladder. Follow the river valley past Witsieshoek to the Sentinel car park and up the chain to the top of the escarpment.
In the central Berg, the Blue Pool and Nyosi Grotto hike over two hours and 5km is the shortest, following the path of the Nyosi River south.
In contrast you could test your mettle on the long and arduous 10km Cathedral Peak hike from the Cathedral Peak Hotel to the top of the ridge.
Cathedral Peak to Ndedema is a fairly demanding option at three hours over 3.5km. The contour path rises up the Cathedral range and down the Ndedema Gorge.
Short and steep describes a 2km hike to Mushroom Rock from the Cathedral Peak Hotel, while two six-hour hikes – Ganabu Ridge to Baboon Rock, and Mlambonja Pass to Twins Cave – require a lot more stamina.
Ease off a little with a four-hour hike to the Tarn and Tryme Hills, through forests along the tributary of the Mhlonhlo River.
Crystal Falls and the Sphinx is a 3km hike from Monk’s Cowl, or there’s a short hike to Fern Forest to a waterfall and picnic spot.
A Southern Berg four-hour hike to Ash Cave in the Loteni area includes overnighting in a cave, but book beforehand. Cypress Cave is closer at two hours and sleeps eight hikers.
Eagle Trail follows a six-hour circular route, while Stable Cave Trail ascends the Steilberg and saves you two hours.
Boulder hopping and river crossings feature on the six-hour Sterkspruit Falls and Gorge hike over 15km from Monk’s Cowl.
There are too many other wonderful hikes to mention. Please consult with the Drakensberg Tourism Association.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Drakensberg Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)36 448 1557
Drakensberg Boys' Choir
Tel: +27 (0) 36 468 101
Tel: +27 (0)36 448 2455
How to get here
Take the N3 from the coast towards Johannesburg, or from Johannesburg south towards the coast. All parts of the Drakensberg are signposted from this route.
Best time to visit
Summer sees hot days and cool evenings, whereas winter is cold with snow.
Tours to do
Hot-air balloon trips; whitewater rafting; San rock art tours.
What will it cost
If you hike into a protected conservation area, a nominal fee is charged.
Length of stay
Overnight stays in caves can be booked prior to departing on your hike.
What to pack
Sturdy hiking boots, a hat, sunscreen and plenty of thick, comfy socks.
Where to stay
Guest lodges, B&Bs, hotels and cottages are plentiful in the villages and towns in the Drakensberg.
The world-famous Drakensberg Boys' Choir is based here. Visit their school to hear the choir sing. Booking essential.
A nice memento of your hike in the Drakensberg is a hand-carved hiker's cane. These are sold at the roadside.