Drakensberg-Royal Natal National Park

Northern Drakensberg, KwaZulu Natal

Situated in the northern region of the Natal Drakensberg is the beautiful Royal Natal National Park. The park lies 50Km from Bergville and is best reached from Gauteng via the N3 to Harrismith and then via the Oliviershoek Pass. The park offers the hiker, both experienced and novice, unrivaled opportunities to explore the breathtaking scenery that is difficult to rival anywhere in the world. Camping at Mahai Campsite is a popular way of staying over in the park and there is also a more rustic campsite at Rugged Glen. For those who prefer their home comforts then Thendele Hutted Camp is ideal.


The reception centre at Royal Natal handles booking details in a friendly and helpful way. The souvenir shop stocks a wide variety of books, maps and other items including a limited selection of food and beverages.

  The camp at Mahai is spacious and offers campsites with or without electricity. The ablutions are clean and well maintained. Hot showers take away the aches and pains after a long days hiking.  

There is a wide variety of hiking opportunities in the park, from easy walks that are suitable for the whole family to quite strenuous all day hikes.

  A popular walk is the 23Km hike along the Thukela (Tugela) River to the tunnel. Although long the trail is not particularly strenuous and most people should be able to manage it.  

The trail follows the river right up into the Amphitheatre. Towards the end of the hike there is a natural tunnel that has been carved out of the rock by the river. Above the tunnel it is possible to continue following the river until the spectacular Thukela Falls comes into view. The falls at a total height of 850m is one of the highest waterfalls in the world. The word Thukela comes from Zulu and means "Startling One"


On a hot day, a swim in one of the numerous rock pools is enticing. The backdrop of the Amphitheatre is awesome.


Interesting rock formations add interest to the days walk


Near the tunnel


Another popular trail that can be regarded as strenuous is the 11Km circuit that takes the hiker up "The Crack" and down The Mudslide". Please note that this route should not be attempted by those who suffer from vertigo.


The steep ascent through "The Crack" is aided by a chain ladder.


The views from the top are magnificent and well worth the toil of the climb.


The pools at the top of the Gudu Falls is an ideal lunch spot.




In hot weather the pools provide an ideal way of cooling off.


The return route by way of "The Mudslide" is very steep and is aided by the use of chains and ladders.

  The flora of the area is very beautiful especially when the Natal Bottlebrush (Greyia Southerlandii) is in bloom.  

Some other popular routes

Mahai Falls, Basotho Gate and Witsieshoek Mountain Resort 22Km

Surprise Ridge and Cannibal Cave 22Km

Vemvaan Valley and Policeman's Helmet 9Km

Rugged Glen Forest Walk 11Km

Amphitheatre Summit and Mont-Aux-Sources 45Km (Strenuous and needing a minimum of two days)


There are two things that the human race never seems to get tired of and that is mountains and water. The Royal Natal National Park has both in abundance. There is hiking here for every level of fitness and even the paraplegic has been catered for as far as possible.


Bookings for Mahai Campsite and Rugged Glen can be made directly with the park office

Telephone Number +27 (0) 36 438 6310 Fax +27 (0) 438 6231

Postal address: Private Bag X1669 Bergville 3350, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Footprint Hiking Club

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