Tugela Gorge Trail

The Tugela Gorge hike is the finest one-day hike in South Africa. A guide with packed lunches provided by The Cavern enables you to make a full day of this trip. This walk should not be missed and is a must do in KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg and South Africa.

Sensible walking shoes are required for this walk and it may be useful to take along a lighter pair of shoes/sandals to walk through the river to get to the Gorge. In summer make sure you take a costume for a lovely swim in the rock pools. Drink plenty of liquids and take along a hat.

This walk from the Tugela car park is a wonderful experience of ‘climbing’ into the mountains. Although it may seem a flat walk do not let this distract you from the magnificent scenery. For the first 4 km there is a very good path and no special directions are needed, the path winds along, above and parallel to the Tugela river. Not long after crossing the intersecting stream from Devil’s Hoek look out for Policeman’s Helmet on the high ground to the right overlooking Vermaan Valley.

tugela gorge tugela gorge hike

The scenery is spectacular, and in spring and summer the valley is a carpet of indigenous flora. The path meanders in and out of lush forests cascading down the hills into the river below. View sites of the Amphitheatre wall get increasingly more magnificent as you approach the Gorge – the wall rises over 1800m from the valley floor.

The last km through the Gorge entails three boulder crossings of the river – simple enough unless in flood. Do not make the mistake of turning back at this point. With a little bit of effort the most picturesque scenery in the park lies at the far end along with a welcome cup of tea from The Cavern guide.

tugela gorge trail

At this point there are a number of things to look for. The Devil’s Tooth, the tunnel ahead and the chain ladder. Pause for a swim in the crystal clear white sandstone rock pools before attempting the chain ladder.

Once at the Gorge, one encounters the Tunnel where the river flows through an impassable rock formation. This can be bypassed by a scramble up a chain ladder to the right. Use the chain ladder to skirt the tunnel and get into the Amphitheatre and boulder hop up the Tugela for about half a km, where for each step you are rewarded with a complete change of scenery.

Remember to keep an eye out for thunderstorms which quickly brew above the Amphitheatre wall, but all else remember to enjoy yourself in this special place. The return down trip to the carpark is faster than the uptrip so make sure that you enjoy yourself and the scenery.

tugela gorge stream
 tugela falls

2 thoughts on “Tugela Gorge Trail”

  1. Ill be visiting family in Bergville i want to come for a day hike with kids age 13 and 16. Will they survive?
    How many kilometres from Bergville to the place? Im from Johannesburg. Need to taste a touch of Drakensburg.

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Hi Ntefeleng
      The Gorge hike begins at the Thendele car park in the Royal Natal National Park. It is approximately 7kms to the Gorge but the path follows the Tugela River on a fairly easy gradient, meandering up towards the sandstone cliff line. It is a hike that a 13 and 16 year old should manage quite easily and so worth while. The views are truly magnificent and this remains one of the most enjoyed hikes in our region.
      All the best! Take a long a packed lunch and even a costume. The pools are gorgeous for swimming in if the weather is good!
      Best wishes,

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