The Best Long Hikes in the Drakensberg Mountains

Sunrise over the Drakensberg Mountains
Emil Von Maltitz/Getty Images

I often contend when hiking in the Drakensberg that I am not having fun unless I am lost. These are my four best hikes that take more than two days in the Drakensberg Mountains. The last one is something a little more special and should provide more than enough chance of getting lost. Enjoy!

Mnweni Circuit

Any hike in the Mnweni area is going to be a tough one, and this is by far my favourite of hikes that takes you up one of the Drakensberg's major major passes and down another. From the Mnweni visitor's centre, it's a 21 km slog to the top of the Mnweni Pass, but it is magnificent every step of the way. Once at the top you're in a wide basin, where the Senqu, or Gariep or Orange river rises. You might want to spend an extra night in one of the caves available, before attempting the 17 km down Rockeries Pass back to the info centre.

I suggest you hire a guide, and maybe also a porter. You can choose one of two good caves to overnight, but you'll need someone to locate them. There is a local guiding organization; you can hire community guides, some equipment, as well as porters.

 

Giant's Hut

You can do this as a two or three-day hike, starting at the Giant's Castle rest camp. In fact, there are three possible paths up to the hut, which lies on the Contour Path that skirts the bases of the high peaks almost the entire way from Giant's Castle north to Mnweni. The hut is nicely comfortable, so you need to take only a sleeping bag and food. Extend the hike a day or two by going home via Bannerman's and Centenary huts.

 

Giant's Cup Trail

This is the only official hiking trail in the Drakensberg, with marked paths and rustic trail huts. It takes five days from the bottom of Sani Pass to Bushman's Nek at the very south of the range. One thing to bear in mind is that for the most part, the trail does not run close to the mountains. In fact, at times they are but a distant view, but hot showers at the end of each day make up for it.

 

The Grand Traverse

This is an extra sting in the dragon's tail that I have added for hikers looking for something really special; nothing quite as exhausting as the Appalachian Trail, but a good slog nonetheless.

Every mountain range worth its name should have one - a major challenge for people who like that kind of thing. The Grand Traverse is an informal route, starting at Mont-aux-Sources in the north and ending at Bushman's Nek, some 300 km south of that. The idea is to keep as close to the edge of the escarpment as you can without falling over the edge. These are sometimes paths, sometimes not. Sometimes you land up deeper inside Lesotho than you should.

If you are keen to do it and would like some assistance you can get hold of a copy of my hiking guidebook, Best Walks of the Drakensberg, published by Random House/Struik in Cape Town.