Top 5 KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Day Hikes To Try This Summer

by | Nov 3, 2023 | Where To Hike, Adventure, Featured, Hiking

KwaZulu-Natal in summer is a hiker’s haven, offering various day hikes from coastal strolls to mountainous treks. Here are a handful of our favourites:

1. Drakensberg: Tugela Gorge Trail

Day Hikes

Located in the Royal Natal National Park, this trail takes you through indigenous forests leading up to the base of the spectacular Tugela Falls.

Technical details:

  • Total distance: 14km (round trip)
  • Hiking Fee: R45/Adult, R25/Child
  • Total elevation gain: +/- 390m
  • Suitable for kids: Above 10 years
  • Pet friendly: No
  • Swimming conditions: YES, in rock pools along the route.

2. Tugela Falls/Amphitheatre Day Hike, Drakensberg

Kwazulu-Natal Day Hikes
Chain Ladders to Tugela Falls lookout

While it is true that most of the Berg’s most magnificent treasures are accessible only to those who know how to cook on a small propane stove and live on Cup-a-Soup for days, there are many places in the dragon’s lair you can enjoy without becoming a mad pack-carrying mountain man. For the best day hikes, base yourself near the Royal Natal National Park in the northern Drakensberg. Most trails are well mapped and marked, and range from hour-long strolls to McKinley’s Pool or the Cascades, to more strenuous treks to the Mahai Falls. Stay a couple of days and ease into the mountain rhythm with short walks, then tackle the Thukela Gorge. It’s a 14km round trip through mountain forest and protea grassland that will take you from Tendele Camp along the Thukela River and into the arms of the imposing Amphitheatre. Or, if you want to take it up a notch, you can tackle the hike to the Tugela Falls lookout. The route can be approached from the Sentinel car park, leading hikers up the chain ladders onto the plateau, where a short walk will bring you to the edge of the falls. The raw power and tranquillity of the area make it a must-visit for any hiking enthusiast.

Technical Details:

  • Distance: Approximately 14km round trip from Sentinel car park
  • Fee: R89 permit fee.
  • Elevation gain: About 600m ascent
  • Child-friendly: Suitable for older children, but parents should be cautious due to steep drop-offs and the chain ladders.
  • Pets: Not allowed, as this is a protected area
  • Swimming: Yes! Top of the highest waterfall in the world.

3. Marble Baths, Injisuthi

Kwazulu-Natal Day Hikes

Tucked away in the southern region of the majestic Drakensberg mountains, the Marble Baths hike in Injisuthi trail leads you through indigenous forests, across open grasslands and ends at the stunning Marble Baths – a series of natural rock pools perfect for a refreshing swim. 

Technical  Details:

  • Distance: Approximately 7km one-way
  • Fee: Permit fee of R89.00
  • Elevation gain: Varies, with some steep sections along the way
  • Child-friendly: Suitable for older children with hiking experience
  • Pets: Not permitted due to the protected status of the area
  • Swimming: Yes, in the Marble Baths rock pools

4. Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve: Baboon’s Castle

Oribi Gorge, renowned for its dramatic landscapes, offers the Baboon’s Castle trail. This hike grants splendid views of the Mzimkulwana River below and the surrounding cliffs. The trail also features unique flora and potential sightings of Cape vultures.

Technical details:

  • Total distance: 7km (round trip)
  • Hiking Fee: R30/Adult, R20/Child
  • Total elevation gain: +/- 240m
  • Suitable for kids: Above 10 years
  • Pet friendly: No
  • Swimming conditions: No

5. Nandi Falls, Monk’s Cowl, Drakensberg:

Situated in the Monk’s Cowl Reserve, which forms a part of the greater Drakensberg World Heritage Site, the hike to Nandi Falls offers a beautiful and relatively accessible journey to one of the area’s enchanting waterfalls. The trail is well-maintained and winds through indigenous forests, grasslands, and alongside streams, offering a fresh mountain ambience and an abundance of natural beauty.

Technical  Details:

  • Distance: Approximately 7km  round trip, depending on starting point
  • Fee: An entrance fee is required for the Monk’s Cowl Reserve. R50 day pass. 
  • Elevation gain: 450m elevation gain
  • Child-friendly: Yes, the trail is suitable for families, though always supervise children near water features.
  • Pets: Not permitted within the reserve to protect local wildlife and habitats.
  • Swimming: While the pool at the base of the falls can be inviting, always exercise caution when considering swimming.

More Info On Day Hikes

If you’re based in the Western Cape, check out some epic day hikes, here. And for Gautengers, get your list here.

Learn about mountain safety here.

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