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IIf you find yourself in KwaZulu-Natal and want to explore the exquisite mountains found inland on foot, then we have the perfect suggestion for you - The Drakensberg!
The Drakensberg, south, central and north, are littered with exquisite hiking trails that give you a breathtaking dose of both natural mountain beauty and brilliant wildlife. From forest meanders to chain ladders anchored to steep buttresses, there are hikes that will appeal to the beginner, expert, and everyone in between.
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 why not take an easier hike to McKinley’s Pool, Gudu Falls and the Grotto. The water from the mountains in this region is ice cold and crystal clear. Along the routes you will be notified of fresh mountain streams that you can replenish your water supplies in.
AAnother 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.
IIn the central Berg, the Blue Pool and Nyosi Grotto hike, which is 5km and takes over two hours, is the shortest, following the path of the Nyosi River to the south. In contrast, you could test your mettle on the long and tough but totally worth it 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 and over 3.5km. The contour path rises up the Cathedral range and down the Ndedema Gorge. Short and steep best describes the 2km hike to Mushroom Rock from the Cathedral Peak Hotel, while the two six-hour hikes – Ganabu Ridge to Baboon Rock and Mlambonja Pass to Twins Cave – require a lot more stamina.
EEase 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. Although you need to remember to book, as this one is popular. 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. Wow, now that’s a lot of options. Seriously, if you love the great outdoors, and in particular, walking through them, then you can’t miss out on the magic of the Drakensberg. There are too many other wonderful hikes to mention.
Be warned, although these hikes may take a day, you’ll never want to leave. See you up in the mountains!
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