The Drakensberg Northern Traverse Route.

Drakensberg Northern Traverse Route.

If you are like me then you will like to know what to expect on a hike so read the Drakensberg Northern Traverse route description here. This is certainly one of the best hikes you can do anywhere. I do this hike over 6 days so no rush. We are in Africa you know.

Night 1 is camping right next to the Highest waterfall in the world. Yes we are quite proud of that.

So after 4 hours and 8km we arrive at our camp.

This epic hike starts at the Sentinel car park. Already at 2500m above sea level means we have a relatively easy day. But first we pay for our hiking permits at Witsieshoek lodge. Then an 8km drive up a rather rough dirt road to the car park. The hike starts off fairly flat but we are in the mountains so that doesn’t last for long. Soon we are zig zaging past the Witches for our first great views and lunch. After lunch with a view we carry on around and past the mighty Sentinel peak way above us.

The famous chain ladders are up ahead.

So far we have ascended 300m and walked 4km. There are 2 rows of chain ladders firmly attached to the rock so very safe. Many people are out of their comfort zone here but get a huge sense of accomplishment when sitting on top. Now we are on top of the roof of Africa. It is a 2km saunter to the top of the Tugela falls where we have to stop and check them out. Mind blowing. However we are not at our camp just yet. Just around the corner along the Amphitheatre wall is Bilanjii falls. Check here to see when I am doing this hike again.

I like this spot because we can look back and see the whole Tugela falls.

After waking up to one of the best sunrises ever we carry on to our final destination at Cathedral peak. Day 2 is longer than day one with a total distance of 14km. Don’t worry though because it only takes us 6 hours.

Campsite number 2 is at one of the most photographed places in the Drakensberg.

But first we hike over a little saddle and suddenly we are in Lesotho. The border of South Africa and Lesotho is the watershed. You will have to join me on this hike to hear my lecture on how this works. Anyway enjoy a few km of flattish walking to our lunch spot by a lovely mountain stream. Good for a dip?

Good thing we have eaten because it is uphill after lunch. I always say that the best views come after the hardest climbs. You will see. After arriving  on top of a hill we can see all the way to Cathedral peak far in the distance. Also down in the valley we can see our porters already setting up the tents.

Madonna and her worshipers put on a good display.

Just wait until morning. Okay so after a huge supper and then breakfast in the ‘mug and bowl’ restaurant we are off again. Day 3 is a similar distance to day 2 but better views. This hike keeps getting better and better.

Today we start off with a tiny hill and then around and past Fangs pass and down into the valley below Rwanqa pass. After filling up with crystal clear water it is up another hill. We are in the mountains.

Up here we can spot Letseng diamond mine in the distance.

It’s claim to fame is it is the highest diamond mine in the world. 3112m altitude. Anyway we are on top of a ridge with spectacular views down into KwaZulu Natal on the left and Lesotho on the right. Past Pins pass to a tiny stream at the Mnweni cutback for lunch.  The afternoon is a downhill and crossing the biggest river in South Africa. Here however the Orange river is still a youngster. 45 minutes later we arrive at one of my favorite places in the world.

Camp number 3 is at a huge Cape vulture colony.

Not only do we enjoy watching graceful vultures soaring on 2.2m wings but we also have stunning views down into the Mnweni area of the Drakensberg. Today was another 15km with around 500m of ascent. Easy peasy.

Day 4 is a great day. We start off with another uphill and then back down. Yup but then we get to one of the nicest pools in the Drakensberg. Perfect for a dip. After a cool down we hike up another hill but it is certainly worth it because we sit on a hill with ridiculous views all the way South to Champagne castle and the Devils tooth in the North.

After enjoying these views we head to the top of Ntonjelana pass for lunch.

Our camp for the night is only 2km away so we can take our time and enjoy a relaxing lunch. Here we have 2 choices. Either camping in tents on the banks of the Kwakwatsi river or over the hill and sleeping in Twins cave. Today ends up being 12km long with probably the best views on this hike. We take up to 5 hours today.

Also this is where the route can change a bit. Some people do this hike in 5 days which means all the way down Mlambonja pass in 1 day or hiking along the Bell traverse or even carrying on along the escapement to walk down Organ pipes pass on day 6. There are a couple options on the Drakensberg Northern Traverse route.

Most of the time I hike down Mlambonja pass over 2 days.

This makes my Drakensberg Northern Traverse a 6 day hike. Day 5 is heading down Mlambonja pass with lunch at the contour path junction. We will have descended from 3000m down to 2000m over 4km. Short and steep. Lunch is enjoyed at a stream and we can feel the change in altitude.

Luckily our camp is only a 2 hour walk away following the contour path. I really love this campsite.

For a change we are now looking up at huge cliffs 1000m above us.

This day is just 7km but takes us up to 6 hours because of the 1200m descent. This is why  I like to take 2 days to walk to the finish at Cathedral peak hotel from the top of Mlambonja pass. We are here to enjoy the mountain views.

The final day is 9km long as we walk down the Mlambonja valley to arrive at Cathedral peak hotel in time for a snack around 11am. Most people have left their car at the hotel and we pick you up there before the hike starts. That way you are at your car and can just jump in and drive home. Of course there are  other options for transport because this hike finishes at a different place to the start. Let me know and we can make a plan.

So that is it. The Drakensberg Northern Traverse route description. See you in the mountains.

Drakensberg grand traverse
Sentinel to Cathedral peak Northern Drakensberg traverse
Drakensberg northern traverse hike report
Drakensberg Hiker tents near The Sentinel and Cathedral Peak