South Africa is an incredibly diverse country with a beautiful coastline, animal-packed safaris, and spectacular mountains. After exploring Table Mountain and Cape Town, we set off in our rental car to hike in the Drakensberg.
Passing through the wine country and the famous Garden Route, we arrived at the mountainous foothills of this incredible range. We felt right at home and ready to explore the most beautiful area of South Africa.
The Drakensberg is a mountain chain that runs 620 miles along the Southern African plateau and surrounds the small nation of Lesotho. It is located three hours south of Johannesburg.
The rugged mountain peaks offer some epic hikes in the Drakensberg. There are some areas with crowds, but for the most part, solitude-seeking hikers will be easily pleased. From short walks to adventurous day hikes to multi-day treks, the Drakensberg offers it all.
Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.
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Best Time to Visit and hike in the Drakensberg Mountains
The best time to hike in the Drakensberg is during the Spring and Autumn months. November is the best month for fauna growth. March through June offers great weather and vibrant green colors after the summer rain.
The summer is the rainy season and afternoon storms are common at high peak locations. The winter months have snow at higher altitudes and can get very cold.
The 6 Best Hikes in the Drakensberg
1. Monks Cowl
There are many hikes within Monks Cowl, from short day hikes to overnighters. The Blindman’s Corner hike via the Sphinx is an excellent day hike that is a four-hour return. The hike starts from the Monk’s Cowl parking lot at the end of the road in Champagne Valley.
If time permits, camping is available just past Blindman’s Corner.
2. Cathedral Peak
There are a few places that we encountered that truly resonated with us. This hike was one of those places. It is truly unlike any other place on earth.
Our hike started up the summit route to the Contour Path, and down One Tree Hill. At one point, we lost the trailhead and had to bushwhack up the side of the mountain. After five hours, the weather turned and started pouring rain on us. However, to see these lush green-covered mountain peaks was oh so worth it! The total hike was seven hours return.
3. Gudu Falls
The Gudu Falls is an easy three-hour return hike. To make a loop, add going up the Crack and down the Mudslide to make this an adventurous six-hour hike. Views from the top of the Crack are amazing!
The highlight for us was hiking down the Mudslide, which entailed various ropes and wooden ladders. It made for a very fun adventure!
4. Tugela Gorge
This eight-mile hike is easy and ends at a beautiful gorge. The hike isn’t spectacular, but the gorge at the end is lovely. Be sure to check out the ladder leading up the side of the gorge to a swimming hole.
Another option is to hike directly into the gorge, which requires wading through water to reach the swimming hole. And for the best views, be sure to hike into the gorge.
5. Amphitheatre Rim
Wow, what can I say about this hike? It is AAHHHmazing! This is the most popular hike in all of Drakensberg and for good reason. It is so breathtaking! While there are plenty of hostels and hotels that offer tours, the trail can easily be hiked alone. You won’t find solitude exploring this area, but it is completely worth it.
Make this hike a loop by going up the chain ladders and down the gorge. Be aware that going on the chain ladders can be quite terrifying if you are afraid of heights. The views from the top are stunning!
Tip: The dirt road to the start of the hike can be quite rough, but we were able to drive it with a normal/small car. In case of rain, organize transport with Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge.
6. Golden Gate National Park
Not technically in the Drakensberg, but just a short drive from the Amphitheater is Golden Gate National Park. It is known for its wonderful colors and sandstone rock formations.
It is free to drive on Highway R712, which cuts through the National Park and offers several scenic areas and chances to spot wildlife. Camping is available at Glen Reenen Rest Camp situated below the spectacular cliffs.
Inexpensive Accommodation Options
- Khotso Backpackers in Underberg
- Highmoor KZN Campsite
- Inkosana Lodge in Champagne Valley
- Mahai Campsite in Royal Natal (Amphitheater Valley)
- Karma Backpackers in Kestell
- Glen Reenen Rest Camp in Golden Gate National Park
- Clarins Inn Backpackers in Clarens
That’s it – we hope you have a wonderful time During your Hike in the Drakensberg!
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