The Tugela Gorge hike is one of the longer hikes in Royal Natal National Park and is widely considered one of South Africa’s best one-day hikes. The Royal Natal National Park is home to the Tugela Falls (The world’s second highest waterfall).
To get to the start of the Tugela Gorge trail you drive into Royal Natal and park parking lot of Thendele Camp. At the parking lot there is a big board with a map showing all the trails in the Park. The start of the hike is marked with a sign and the trail is clearly defined.
The hike follows a path along the side of the mountain next to the river all the way to the Gorge – this same path is followed back to the starting point of the trail. Even though the hike is about 17 kilometres in total, it’s not strenuous but relatively flat all way. The only thing that makes this hike a bit tough is the distance.
The only downside to the Tugela Gorge hike is how busy the trail is! Its pretty seldom that you have this trail to yourself unlike the hiking trails at Giants Castle.
About a kilometre after the start of the trail, there is a bridge that needs to be crossed. Shortly after that, the eroded sandstone pillar known as Policeman’s Helmet is in sight. Carry on walking along the path, which takes hikers in and out of lush forests and protea bushes. After about 6 kilometres, the trail takes you right into the riverbed of the Tugela, where you walk along the river for a couple of kilometres until you reach the Gorge.
This last end stretch before the Gorge is absolutely stunning with views of the bright and blue rock pools. At this point, you can either walk through the gorge or take the chain ladder on the right hand side and continue the trail to the base of the Tugela Falls. During rainy season, it is dangerous to wander through the gorge and it is highly recommended to take the chain ladder up the side of the gorge.
The hike takes about 4 and a half hours in total.
The hike is flat but long. Around every bend is a new landscape with more incredible scenes. Besides the amount of people on the trail that day, you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere. Simply nature and yourself. If you like hiking enthusiast put this Drakensberg trail on your bucket list!