The Drakensberg, known in Zulu as Ukhahlamba, the “barrier of spears”, is South Africa’s highest mountain range.
The Drakensberg offers the best hiking and trekking in South Africa. Hikers can chose from high altitude treks to low altitude trails to gentle walks based from hotels and lodges. It is also a Word Heritage Site, renowned for its dramatic scenery, well preserved mountain splendor and diversity of fauna and flora.
|The range forms the eastern, international boundary between the province of KwaZulu-Natal of South Africa and the small, land-locked independent country of Lesotho. The mountains consist of a high escarpment with large rolling mountains to their west (the Lesotho plateau). To the east the escarpment drops away into South Africa down spectacular cliffs of over a 1000 meters in height. The average height of the range is 3000 meters. Mafadi Peak (3450m) is South Africa's highest mountain and is located in the Injisuthi area, about midway along the range. South of Mafadi and a little inland, inside Lesotho is Thabana Ntlenyana (3482m) which is the highest point south of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Both these peaks are considered trekking peaks as no rope work is required to climb them. Most of the range is in a protected wilderness area preserved firstly for water conservation and secondly for it's wide variety of plants and animals.
PEAK HIGH guides many different hikes and treks from one day to up to ten days in length. These trails are run on request and cater for small groups or even one client at a time.
Clients need to be fit and strong and able to carry a large backpack. The hiking routes are in very remote areas with breathtaking scenery. On most trails it is unlikely that any other hikers will be seen for the entire time.
Visitors can do extended hikes/treks at either low altitude or along the high plateau, as there is a good network of trails in both areas. The high altitude treks are generally more popular, but are more demanding physically. The low altitude trails are easy to complete and are not so strenuous.
Porters can be hired, and they will carry up to 10kgs of the client's equipment. If porters are required they need to be booked at least 7 days in advance.
Reaching the Drakensberg takes only 3 hours by road from Durban or Johannesburg. Johannesburg has South Africa's main International airport (O.R.Tambo). Durban International is a regional airport. There is also a small regional airport at Pietermarizburg.
It is possible also to do guided day hikes based from comfortable lodges or up-market hotels. Contact us for a free electronic information sheet on possible trekking routes.
The following personal hikes are available:
Cleft Peak to Cathedral Peak Trek (high altitude)
This hike starts from the Nature Conservation office at Cathedral Peak wilderness area. It is a circular route that goes through large mountains and is usually covered in three days of hard walking or four days, if taken at a leisurely pace. Over the last 1.5 days the route either descends Umlambonjwa
Pass or alternatively climbs Cathedral Peak proper via an exposed scramble. Clients are usually roped over the few exposed sections.
Download Info Sheet here (PDF 700kb)
The Didima Traverse (high altitude)
This hike traverses south from the Cathedral Peak area and incorporates low level hiking in the “Little Berg” and also traverses the edge of Lesotho.
It takes 5 days to complete and returns back to the starting point at Cathedral Peak. The route is in a very remote area and usually no other people
are seen for the entire 5 days.
Giant's Cup Wilderness Trail (low altitude)
This is a 3 day circular hike that goes deep into the southern wilderness area. The walking is easy yet very spectacular. The feature being the massive Sandstone rock formations and strong flowing rivers. It is also the prime area for seeing the large Eland antelope of the Drakensberg. Bushman rock art can also be viewed along the way.
Monte - Aux - Sources to Cathedral Peak (high altitude) Mini Traverse.
This trek is from Monte-Aux-Sources in the most northern area of the Drakensberg, south to Cathedral Peak. It traverses the high escarpment of the range and normally takes 5-6 days to complete. This trek is often listed as one of the great treks of the world. In South Africa it is known as the Mini Traverse.
Accommodation is both in small mountain tents and demarcated caves. Caves or rather rock overhangs have long been used by South African hikers and climbers as a useful alternative to using tents.
Alternative route: Depending on time and fitness of the clients, the last 1.5 days can incorporate doing the “Bell Twins Traverse” and ascending
Cathedral Peak it's self. The route is very spectacular but clients must have a good head for heights as there are steep drop offs below the path. This trek can be done at any time of year.
Download Info Sheet here (PDF 469kb)
Mafadi, the highest peak in South Africa (high altitude)
Mafadi has only in the last twenty or so years been officially recognized as the highest mountain in South Africa. On official Government maps the height is given as 3450m. The summit lies on the border between South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho.
This hike starts from the Nature Conservation office at Injasuthi wilderness area. The Injisuthi area is one of the best preserved areas of the uKhahlamba/Drakensberg Park. There are few trails and only one road giving access to the ranger station. The hike is a circular route that goes through large mountains and is usually covered in four days of hard walking or five days if taken at a leisurely pace.
Download Info Sheet here (PDF 300kb)
Xeni Cave (low altitude)
This is an easy hike into the wilderness to stay in a large sandstone overhang once inhabited by the San/Bushmen. It is usually walked over 2 days and one night. The walking is easy and hikers can enjoy the abundant flora and fauna of the northern Drakensberg.
Rhino Peak 2 day Trail (high altitude)
The trail starts from the Nature Conservation office at Garden Castle in the mZimkhulu wilderness area. It is a circular route with 2 nights spent on the Lesotho summit plateau.
The real feature of this area is the wide open spaces and amazing sandstone rock formations. There is also an abundance of primitive San/Bushman rock art in many of the caves of this area. The entire hike takes place within the Drakensberg World Heritage Site. Traditional Lesotho herdsmen and boys are often seen along plateau area.
Hodgson’s Peak Circuit Hike (high altitude)
Hodgson’s Peaks are located in the southern Drakensberg. The lower hills or “Little berg” is not as steep as in the north, which makes for easier cross-country trekking.
The hiking starts from the Nature Conservation office at Cobham in the mZimkhulu wilderness area. The route follows good trails to the foot of the Hodgson’s peaks, then ascends the final few hundred meters on a rough pathl to the summit plateau. The main peak has two very distinct summits. It is possible to scramble to the south summit (3256m) via a “C” grade climb and the north summit is a walk (3251m).
(note: Hodgson’s Peaks are sometimes referred to as the Giant’s Cup)
Download Info Sheet here (PDF 394kb)
Cathedral Peak Summit 2 day Trek (high altitude)
This hike starts from the Nature Conservation office at Cathedral Peak wilderness area, elevation 1300m. The route follows a good taril to the foot of the main peak, then ascends the final few hundred meters to the summit, via a short scramble section where clients are roped up.
Cathedral Peak can infact be climbed in one day, but most people prefer to break it into one-and-a-half days by having an over night stop at “Sherman’s” Cave, which is located 2 hours from the starting point. There are also two hotels nearby from which hikers can base themselves. These are
Cathedral Peak Hotel and the Ndidima camp. Both are up market establishments. Staying in a hotel usually means doing the entire peak in one day.
Download Info Sheet here (PDF 359kb)
The Grand Traverse (high altitude)
This trek is from the Freestate border in the north to the Eastern Cape border in the south. It is a trek which traverses the entire Drakensberg and takes 10-12 days to complete. Food drops are made along the route prior to the trip and usually there is a change of guide at about halfway. Normal
prices do not apply. Please ask for a quotation.
Catering is shared between the guide and clients.
Also view our Expedition Trekking page for fully catered trips.
What to bring:
(Note some of these items can be rented from PEAK HIGH. See the Equipment Hire section)
* A large back-pack
* Trekking boots
* Sleeping bag (3 or 4 season depending on time of year)
* Outer shell clothing
* Polar fleeces
* Down jacket (optional during months May to September)
* Sun hat
* Sleeping mat
* Mountain tent
* Water bottle
* Summer trekking clothes
* Head-lamp (flash-light)
* Cup, spoon, plate
* Water bottle/bladder
Please contact us for a quotation.