With towering peaks, verdant valleys, forests and rivers, not to mention one of the highest waterfalls in the world, the Drakensberg Mountains offer some of South Africa’s most beautiful natural scenery. Discover the best of the local landscape on one of these five great hikes; the ideal day trip from Durban.
The Rainbow Gorge Trail, Cathedral Peak
Moderate: 5.5km / 2 hours
The Rainbow Gorge Trail really shows off the beauty of the Drakensberg Mountains; it’s considered to be one of the most scenic hikes in the area. Taking you past river and waterfall, meandering through a majestic indigenous forest of yellowwoods, you come into what is known as the Rainbow Gorge, so-called because of the radiant rainbows given off by the water as it falls. It’s also a great area for wildlife and birds, so keep an eye out.
Berg View, Giant’s Castle
Easy: 5km / 2 hours
Starting at Giant’s Castle Camp, the Berg View hike is gentle, but the views sure pack a punch. Remember to bring your camera with you because this route will take you up to a great viewpoint with an incredible panorama of the Drakensberg Mountains, all the way from Giant’s Castle to Cathkin Peak.
Sigubudu Valley and Ridge, Royal Natal National Park
Fancy seeing some Bushman rock art on your hike? Starting at the main entrance road, follow the signs after the second bridge to find paintings done by the ancient Bushmen on the west facing rock face. And if you feel energized by your brush with the ancient, you can turn this hour-long walk into a longer hike by following the path up to the ridge that straddles the Sigubudu and Forgotten Valleys. From there you can take your pick: left to see Sunday Falls or right for jaw-dropping views across the Drakensberg escarpment at Camel’s Hump.
The Chain Ladder Trail, Northern Drakensberg
Difficult: whole day
Definitely one for experienced hikers, the Chain Ladder Trail will take the whole day and, as the name suggests, involves climbing up two sections of chain ladder that are firmly fixed to the rock face. (There is an alternative climb, if heights aren’t your thing.) If you need an incentive to tackle this hike, your reward will be views from the top that are nothing short of spectacular, and a tremendous sense of achievement. From the top you can also hike to the point where the Tugela Falls cascade off the mountain; it’s one of the highest waterfalls on the planet. As a matter of safety, remember to sign in (and out) at the Sentinel Car Park before you set off.
Champagne Pools Hike, Giant’s Castle
Easy: 4km / 1.5 hours
Although not actually filled with Champagne, the natural pools you’ll encounter on the Champagne Pools Hike are perfect for paddling and stretching out a relatively short hike into an afternoon outing. The hike itself is circular, easy to follow and, at 4km, it should only take an hour or two, so it’s great for kids, too. Plus, the route is gentle enough that you could even pack a bottle of bubbly in your bag to enjoy with a picnic. Just remember to bring back any trash: what goes into the Drakensberg Mountains must come out.