Walking in KwaZulu-Natal

While KwaZulu-Natal’s coastal regions and many parts of the Midlands region have some superb walking trails, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg mountains in the west of the province on the border with neighbouring Lesotho are a magnet for walkers from all over the world.

Wilderness mountain trails wind through a landscape of snow-capped peaks, gorges, shaded valleys, lush forests and shimmering waterfalls. The region splits naturally into the Southern, Central and Northern regions.

Northern Drakensberg
The northern end of the Drakensberg is the home of the Royal Natal National Park and its famous Amphitheatre which for more than 5kms towers up over 3,000 metres. If you’re fit and feeling adventurous, you can climb to the top of the escarpment with the aid of a chain ladder for some epic views. Mountain baboons are often seen clambering across the rocky outcrops while soaring birds of prey including black eagles and the rare bearded vulture (lammergeyer) circle in the thermals.

The region is also famous for its waterfalls including the Tugela Falls (the second highest waterfall in the world) which plunges a spectacular 948 metres in a series of five cascades down sheer cliffs.

There are numerous spectacular hikes including Devil's Hoek Valley, Amphitheatre to Cathedral, Mckinley's Pool, Gudu Falls, The Grotto Mont-Aux-Sources via Basutho Gate and The Chain Ladder, Otto's Walk & Bushman Paintings, Tugela Gorge and many more all differing in length.

Another favourite walk for hardened hikers is the traverse along the northern Drakensberg escarpment on the borders with Lesotho. The area is remote and the scenery on an epic scale. There are various possibilities for tackling the trail but most people start at The Sentinel walking southward to Rockeries Pass.

Southern & Central Drakensberg
Only two hours from Durban by car, the Southern ‘Berg is home to many nature reserves including Coleford, Loteni and Kamberg and more than 150 rock art sites reflecting the beliefs and cosmology of the ancient San people with some of the earliest examples of both colour and a primitive form of perspective.

Walking trails of every level of difficulty can be found throughout the region. The best leisurely hikes suitable for family groups include the valley from Garden Castle towards Sleeping Beauty Cave with rivers, rapids, pools and forest to enjoy along the way or a wander up the Pholela stream at Cobham or to The Big Pool on the Ngwangwana River at Bushmannek.

Day-walkers will enjoy Bamboo Mountain, Three Pools at Garden Castle and Jacob’s Ladder at Lotheni while Underberg’s Mt Hlogoma has superb views. A popular, but strenuous, all-dayer is the walk up The Rhino at Garden Castle, an eight-hour round-trip. Hodgson’s Peaks, Thabana Ntlenyana (at 3,482 metres the highest point in Africa south of Kilimanjaro), Redi and The Giant are all popular with mountaineers.

In the Central ‘Berg, the Giant’s Castle Reserve has three rest camps and a network of hiking trails. Geologically the region is a mix of outcrops and pinnacles with descriptive names like the Bell, the Pyramid and the Organ Pipes.

The highest of them all is Cathedral Peak at over 3,000 metres while Mike’s Pass has some tremendous views over the whole of the Central area. Rainbow Gorge is one of the region’s most beautiful natural features.

Find out more about activities in KwaZulu-Natal
Responsible Travel would like to thank Tourism KZN for their sponsorship of this guide
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