The Drakensberg, known in Zulu as Ukuhlamba, the “Barrier of Spears” is South Africa’s highest mountain range.
It is also a World Heritage Site, renowned for its dramatic scenery, well preserved mountain splendor and diversity of fauna and flora.
The home of South Africa’s highest point: Mafadi peak and the highest mountain south of Kilimanjaro: Thabana Ntlenyana. Other well know peaks and places include Giant’s Castle, Monk’s Cowl, Cathedral Peak and the Tugela Waterfall – the second highest waterfall in the world.
On the high altitude routes, hikers need to be fit and strong and able to carry a large backpack. On the low altitude routes, the walking is easier and the hike will be less challenging. On most trips it is unlikely that any other hikers be seen during the time.
Peak High Mountaineering guides many different routes in the Drakensberg. We run our trips mostly on request, where we cater for small groups and are also happy to take one client at a time.
Personal Guided Hiking Trips + Trekking Tours offered by Peak High
Mafadi, the highest peak in South Africa (High Altitude Trekking Peak)
This peak is one the more challenging hikes and needs a good level of fitness, as the route traverses high alpine areas on rough trails. It is a serious challenge for hikers, but the rewards are great.
Mafadi has only in the last twenty 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 Injasuthi area is one of the best preserved areas of the uKhahlamba/Drakensberg Park. There are few paths 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 more leisurely pace. It is possible to hike it in three days, if done returning the same way.
Amphitheatre and Mont-aux-Sources hike
(2 or 3 days easy High Altitude trek)
This hike is for those looking to get to the top of the Drakensberg and experience wilderness camping without too much effort. The hike takes in features like summiting Mont-aux-Sources peak, traversing the Amphitheatre wall and looking over the Tugela Falls. The Tugela Falls is the second highest waterfall in the world and is one of the feature sights to see in South Africa. On the hike to the summit the famous chain-ladders must be ascended up the final cliffs. A challenging undertaking and only for hikers with a good head for heights.
Devil’s Knuckles Hike
(3 days, High Altitude Hike)
If a gentle mountain landscapes is what you want, this is the hike. The walking is not too hard and we sleep both nights in huge rock overhangs, the first night with breathtaking views of the Devil’s Knuckles Peaks. On day 2 we do the steep hike to summit the middle of the three peaks and then descend down to low altitude to view Bushman rock art on the hike back to the start.
Cleft Peak to Cathedral Peak Trek
(3 days, High Altitude Trekking)
Perhaps the finest hiking route in South Africa! It is a challenging hike over some of the finest mountain scenery to be found. If you only have a limited time available and are fairly fit, this is the best hike to see what the Drakensberg is all about.
This hike starts from the Nature Conservation office at Cathedral Peak wilderness area. This circular route traverses through large mountains and is usually completed in three days of hard walking. The route on the second day is steep and exposed in a few places and ends in camping in a beautiful rock overhang looking east over plains of Africa. The final day is simply spectacular as one walks along the Twins – Bell Traverse and then scramble up to the summit of Cathedral Peak. Clients can be roped over the few exposed sections.
The Didima Traverse
(5 days, High Altitude Trekking)
This is a gentler route taking 5 days to complete but still traverses high alpine regions and two spectacular passes. We camp below Monk’s Cowl and Champagne Castle on the second night and then move slowly up to the summit plateau before heading back towards Cathedral Peak. We spend two days high on the Lesotho plateau with beautiful views of the northern Drakensberg.
The Mini Traverse- Monte aux Sources to Cathedral Peak
(5 days, High Altitude Trekking)
This route has become well known internationally and several books describe this route as one of the finest hikes of the world. It is a strenuous 5 day hike mostly on the Lesotho/Drakensberg plateau. It also forms the first section of the Grand Traverse Hike. It is a must for any serious hiker to tick-off.
The route is from Monte-Aux-Sources in the most northern area of the Drakensberg, south to Cathedral Peak. One of many features is going to the lip of the Tugela Falls, which at over 850 meters, is the world’s second highest waterfall. On day 3 we also view a vulture colony situated on the high cliffs of Rockeries Pass. These rare and endangered birds are a sight to behold as they catch thermals in the early morning.
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.
Depending on time and fitness of the clients, the last 1.5 days can incorporate doing the “Bell Twins Traverse” and ascending Cathedral Peak. The route is very spectacular, but clients must have a good head for heights as there are steep drop-offs below the path on this final section.
(2 days, Low Altitude)
This is an easy two day hike and a good introduction to hiking in a wilderness area. Participants get to stay in a large sandstone overhang once inhabited by the San/Bushmen. The walking is easy and trekkers can enjoy the abundant flora and fauna of the northern Drakensberg. There are good views of Cathedral Peak and Monk’s Cowl.
Rhino Peak hike
(2 days, High Altitude Trekking and Scrambling)
If peak bagging is what appeals to you, this is a great one to have under your belt. Rhino peak is very distinctive and appears to require rope to get to the summit. However it is simply a rugged walk and the summit forms the top of the rhino’s horn. Very spectacular hiking.
The trek starts from the Nature Conservation office at Garden Castle in the mZimkhulu wilderness area. The night is spent in a rock overhang before tackling the peak the next day.
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 trek takes place within the Drakensberg World Heritage Site. Traditional Lesotho herdsmen and boys are often seen along plateau area.
Hodgson’s Peak Circuit Trek
(3-4 days, High Altitude Trekking)
If stunning beauty and easy hiking is what you are looking for, this is the hike for you. 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 trek starts from the Nature Conservation office at Cobham in the mZimkhulu wilderness area. The route follows good paths to the foot of the Hodgson’s peaks, then ascends the final few hundred meters on a rough trail 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.
Cathedral Peak summit trek
(2 days, High Altitude Trekking and Scrambling)
One of the most popular peaks to bag and one of the most distinctive peaks of South Africa. A must if you would like getting to the top of a sharp peak but are not a rock-climber.
This trek starts from the Nature Conservation office at Cathedral Peak wilderness area, elevation 1300m. The route follows a good path 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. We either sleep in a cave or in tents high on the mountain. On this hike there are great views of Monks’ Cowl, Mafadi and Champagne Castle.
The Grand Traverse
(10 days, High Altitude)
The longest and most challenging hike offered in South Africa. It is only for the fittest hikers who have spent time on other long distance treks. To many this is the ultimate hiking challenge.
This trek is from the Free State border at Mont-aux-Sources in the North, to the Eastern Cape border in the south at Bushman’s Nek. It is a trek which traverses the entire Natal Drakensberg and takes 10-12 days to complete. Some of the features along the way include ascending the famous chain-ladders and also standing on the lip of the Tugela Falls. We hike past Cathedral Peak, Monk’s Cowl and Mafadi, the highest point in South Africa.
Two food drops are made along the route by Peak High staff and two nights before the end we stay in comfortable accommodation at Sani Pass. Normal prices do not apply. Please ask for a quotation.
Injisuthi low altitude hike
(2 or 3 days easy hiking)
This is an easy 2 or 3 day hike into the heart of the Injisuhti Wilderness area. A great way to see the lower Drakensberg, with not too much effort. On the first day we hike approximately 8kms up the river to the Lower Injisuthi Cave where we camp for the night. The walk travels along below huge sandstone cliffs and deep river pools. Day 2 we walk back the same way or divert north via Marble Baths pools and Grindstone Valley. It is possible to take this second day very easily and stay the night at Marble Baths Cave, where swimming can be enjoyed in the remarkable, natural water-feature.
Giant’s Castle Trekking
(2 or 3 days, High or Low Altitude hiking)
One of the most famous areas of the Drakensberg. It is an area of wide open spaces and beautiful views of areas such as Monks’ Cowl and Mafadi, the highest point in South Africa. The main summit of Giant’s Castle is a high peak which juts out in an easterly direction into the province of KZN. There are two different 3 day options for hiking in this area. Either a high altitude hike up a major pass to the summit or a 3 day gentle hike along the contour path below the main peaks.
Bell-Twins traverse, incorporating Cathedral Peak
(3 days, High Altitude Hiking and Scrambling)
A beautiful and challenging hike which gives views of the entire northern range, from Monks Cowl to the Tugela Falls and Amphitheatre. The hiking is fairly strenuous, especially on days 1 and 2. The path follows a route between jagged peaks and there are areas where hikers need a good head for heights. The final scramble section to the summit of Cathedral Peak is quite dramatic and is usually done with a safety rope. We usually sleep in rock overhangs on both nights.
Giant’s Cup Wilderness Trail
(5 day, Low Altitude Hike with hutted accommodation)
This is a must for people wanting to do more comfortable hiking and not carry huge loads on their backs. At low altitude the Southern Berg is traversed, this hike enjoys stunning scenery and beautiful views of the Berg. All the days are easy hiking along a good path with a rustic hut for accommodation each night.
(2 day, High Altitude, but easy hiking)
This is southern Africa’s highest point, south of Kilimanjaro at a height of 3482m. It is a small and insignificant peak within the borders of Lesotho. The hiking is relatively easy and we spend one night in tents in the Lesotho Highlands. The hike starts from the top of Sani Pass.
Rhino Peak Circuit Trek
(3 or 4 days, High Altitude hiking)
A great way to explore the southern Drakensberg. We summit the main peak and then hike south to take in the magnificent and strange sandstone formations of the area. This wilderness hiking at its best.
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 (King Skaka) is a regional airport (Emirates). There is also a small regional airport at Pietermarizburg serviced by SA Airlink.
The Drakensberg 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 point 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.
Most of the range is in a protected wilderness area preserved firstly for water conservation and secondly for it’s fauna and flora.
Catering is shared between the guide and clients. Also view our Expedition Trekking page for fully catered trips.
- 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 cloths
- Head-lamp (flash-light)
- Cup, spoon, plate
- Water bottle/bladder