6 of the Best Hiking Trails in the Drakensberg | African Camping Guide

6 of the Best Hiking Trails in the Drakensberg

The highs and lows of hiking in the Drakensberg

Everyone feels the need to get away from it all at times and hiking’s one of the best ways to escape into solitude. So, if you feel like an outdoor escape’s the answer to your daily stresses, or you just feel like a change of scenery, then the Drakensberg’s the destination for you.

Check out these hiking trails in the Drakensberg for those who love scenery, nature, and excitement, with a dash of healthy outdoor exercise thrown in for good measure.

Chockstone In Rainbow Gorge | Top of Mnweni Pass | 6 of the Best Hiking Trails in the Drakensberg | African Camping Guide

Rainbow Gorge, Bergville

This scenic six-kilometer hike sets off from the landmark Cathedral Peak Hotel in the central Drakensberg or from Didima Camp close by. It’s an easy ramble that the whole family can enjoy.

For starters, you head out upstream along the Ndumeni River through lush forests into a verdant gorge. You’ll pass waterfalls, rock pools, and rapids as well as groves of towering yellowwood trees.

You’ll know when you’ve reached the end of the trail at its namesake waterfall as the sun glinting through the trees casts beautiful rainbows around the gushing waters.

  • Duration: 1 day
  • Trail Length: 11 kilometers there and back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Costs: You can pick up a map for a nominal fee at the hotel reception
Sani Pass | 6 of the Best Hiking Trails in the Drakensberg | African Camping Guide

Giant’s Cup, Sani Pass

This five-day trail is one of South Africa’s best-known hikes. The official start is at Sani Pass, near the Sani Pass Hotel, and the trail ends at Bushman’s Nek.

Apart from its length, it’s not a particularly strenuous hike since you’ll spend most of your time exploring the foothills rather than the high peaks of the mountains. You need a degree of fitness to carry a backpack for the duration of the hike.

In the summer, the hills are dotted with wildflowers and snow often adorns the peaks in winter. You could also spot jackal buzzards, dassies, eland, and Verreaux’s eagles along the way and if you’re lucky you could see a blue crane or bearded vulture too.

You can tackle Giant’s Cup on your own or with a professional guide. Overnight accommodation is provided in huts or rustic old farmhouses with bunk beds and the trails are well marked and easy to follow with lovely rock pools along the way.

You can buy some snacks at the park shop on arrival, but it’s best to pack everything you need beforehand.

  • Duration: five days
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Length: 59 kms
  • Costs: Enquire with KZN wildlife
Cathedral Peak Route | Top of Mnweni Pass | 6 of the Best Hiking Trails in the Drakensberg | African Camping Guide

Cathedral Peak and Cathedral Ridge

This is a challenging one-day hike and conditions are sometimes hard going. You’ll need a private guide to make the most of this hike. If preferred, you can split the hike into two days overnighting in one of the many caves you will find in the area.

The final ascent is a ‘vertical endeavor’ and particularly exhilarating. Most hikers take ropes along to scale this part safely. The gorgeous views, challenging terrain, and sense of achievement when you finally reach the 3000-foot-high peak make this one of the most popular exertions for experienced hikers visiting the Drakensberg.

  • Duration: 1 full day or 2 half days
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Length: 19km
  • Costs: Enquire with Cathedral Peak Hotel

Lower Injusuthi Cave

Injusuthi is in the northern part of the Giant’s Castle area of Malothi-Drakensberg Park, home to several hiking trails.

The lower Injusuthi’s one of the more popular trails and offers a little bit of everything along the way. The trail winds through the Injusuthi River Valley, with excellent views of the distant mountains. You’ll pass Battle Cave and Junction Cave along the way where you can stop to admire the San art.

Boundary pool is a great spot to stop for a swim along the way and you can overnight in the cave at trail’s end if you want to enjoy the scenery for a little longer.

  • Duration: 1 full day or 2 half days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 24km there and back
  • Costs: Enquire with KZN Wildlife
Top of Mnweni Pass | 6 of the Best Hiking Trails in the Drakensberg | African Camping Guide

Mnweni Pass Circuit, Northern Drakensberg

Remote, pristine, and stunningly beautiful this little-known trail is managed by the local community and takes you into the heart of the hills below the escarpment.

The trail sets off from the Mnweni Cultural and Hiking Centre and you’ll hike hills to the base of Fang’s pass where the Mnweni and Mubudini Rivers meet. Spend your first night here camping and then head off early along the banks of the Mnweni River until you get to the pass.

Here, the climbing starts in earnest, and you’ll ascend up to 800 meters in just 1.5 km. The strenuous climb is rewarded with stunning views of the Mnweni Pinnacles glowing golden as the sun sets. You’ll spend the night at these heights.

The final days’ hike takes you across the escarpment and over a small stream to the top of Rockeries Pass where you might catch sight of Cape vultures nesting in the nearby cliffs.

Interestingly, this inconspicuous trickle of water is the source of the Orange River.

At the bottom of Rockeries Pass, you reach the Thonyelana River which leads you back to the road and the start of the hike. It’s imperative to hire the services of a local guide on this hike.

  • Duration: 3 days
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Length: 43km
  • Costs: Enquire at the Mnweni Cultural and Hiking Centre
Amphitheatre Chain Ladders Hike | 6 of the Best Hiking Trails in the Drakensberg | African Camping Guide

The Amphitheatre Chain Ladders Hike

This is an extreme challenge for experienced hikers only. Along the way, you’ll scale one of the 1 200-metre-high cliff faces of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre.

The trail starts at the Sentinel car park, within the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area. From here you’ll ascend a steep zigzagging path along the base of the Sentinel where you can take a moment to catch your breath and admire your gorgeous surroundings.

From there, you’ll continue round the base of the rockface to the double chain ladders leading to the top of this landmark cliff face. About half an hour’s walk from the top of the ladders, you’ll reach the top of the Tugela Falls, the second highest falling body of water in the world.

At 3 000 meters above sea level, this vantage point commands views over soaring birds and the peaks of the northern Berg. It’s a breath-taking spectacle, so take your time to absorb it all, noting the small, rare endemic plants that occur here too.

Once you’ve had your fill and absorbed the impact of it all, you’ll retrace your steps back to the start of the trail.

  • Duration: 1 day
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Length: 5km
  • Costs: Enquire with Royal Natal National Park

Beyond Hiking Trails in the Drakensberg

South Africa offers a wealth of adventures for every traveler, so if hiking trails in the Drakensberg seem out of your league, keep browsing our website for more laid back alternatives.

Get in touch if you need assistance planning your camping trip or other outdoor adventure anywhere in southern Africa.

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