The Drakensberg Mountain Range is one of South Africa’s most spectacular natural wonders, showcasing a selection of the most breath-taking vistas imaginable. It is the highest mountain range in the country, reaching an impressive 3 482 metres above sea level. Incredibly, its extensive nature means that the range spans the provinces of the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal as well as Lesotho and Swaziland.
The Drakensberg is a hiker’s dream destination as it offers so much in the way of trails – ranging from relatively short, easy walks to far more challenging, even technical, hikes reserved for the experienced.
These allow hikers to take in the wonderful vistas, smell the fresh South African air laden with the scents of the mountain vegetation, feel the sunshine and take fantastic photographs. There are also a number of sites that showcase the original drawings and paintings of the hunter-gatherers that once inhabited the caves and mountains of the region.
Here are some excellent day hiking opportunities for those with a desire to get the muscles working:
- At the foot of the mountains and near the Mpofane River Valley are a selection of great day walks and hikes. The Hlathikulu Forest Trail boasts some stunning forested areas in some places as well as carpets of wild flowers in others. It takes one along the river and promises the perfect resting spot at Nandi’s Falls. This is an easy walk, ideal for those that are not seasoned hikers.
- Follow the trail up past the Mpofane River Valley’s sandstone rock faces until you reach the vast savannahs at the base of the Caithkin Peak. This is a stunning spot for those who love wildlife, as it is abuzz with different antelope and bird species who call this home. This is also relatively easy.
- For the fitter hikers, climb to the top of Sterkhorn, which has an elevation of almost 3 000 metres. This takes about four hours to accomplish and involves plenty of scrambling over the rocks. The views from the top are breath-taking, and include Devil’s Tooth and the Giant’s Castle.
- The hike to the top of Champagne Castle (3 336 metres high) takes a tough 10 hours. However, for those with the strength and stamina, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get these incredible views of the South African landscapes. There is a drop of about 1 000 metres and, for those sitting at the top of it, the rare bearded vultures can be seen from above as they circle and soar through the air.
Of course, in addition to these, there are countless other trails and paths to explore around the Drakensberg. Bear in mind that winters can become extremely cold in the mountains, presenting a host of unique problems to those that are not absolutely prepared for the harsh weather conditions.
Always drink plenty of water and apply a high-factor sunscreen when hiking or walking outdoors. Ensure that your group knows where you are and that you have some form of communication while venturing out into the mountains before embarking on any Day Hikes of the Drakensberg.
Drakensberg Pages of Interest and to help you plan:
- Drakensberg Attractions
- Drakensberg Hotels
- Accommodation in Drakensberg
- Self-catering in Drakensberg
- Self Catering in South Africa
- Accommodation is South Africa
- The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park