Maluti Cave Trail

Phuthaditjaba, Free State

Mountains and in particular, the Drakensberg have always had a fascination for hikers. The mountain range that extends down the eastern side of South Africa from the Soutpansberg in the north to the Eastern Cape in the south attracts many thousands of hikers to explore on foot the many paths that dissect the mountain range. The Maluti Cave Trail has been laid out with the intention of introducing a new marked hiking trail experience to an area that almost exclusively consists of wilderness trails. Well constructed and appointed accommodation has been provided at three locations and this provides the hiker with the luxury of reaching the high berg without having to use a tent. The trail was laid out by Prof. Leon Hugo who is well known for developing high quality trails.


The basecamp for the trail is at Tseki, a suburb of Phuthaditjaba (Witsieshoek). A permanent guard is on duty to look after vehicles.

Other huts are situated at Mkhondo and Matsieng. These are not accessible by road. Each of the huts sleep eight people. At Mkhondo there are two huts there bye sleeping a total of sixteen people.

 There are two three and four day options for trailists.

Tseki Hut, basecamp and parking for cars Mkhondo Huts
Mkhondo Huts View from Mkhondo Huts



Solar power provides hot water at each of the huts. A septic tank provides drainage. There is also a two plate gas stove with cooking pots and a few plates and some cutlery. No lighting is provided. At the time of writing, no braai facilities are available but these are planned.


Day 1 Tseki - Mkhondo

The route from Tseki to Mkhondo is 9km long. However the route can be regarded as quite difficult and at least 5 hours should be allowed.




Along the route one passes a number of impressive caves including the Wetsi cave which must rank as one of the largest in the Free State. Many of the caves have San rock art in them. Several of the caves are used by local people for religious purposes and it is important to respect these.



Take time to enjoy the beautiful water features along the way.



Day 2 (optional)

The second day of the trail is optional and can be done with a day pack. One can either choose to follow the marked trail to the top of the berg and then retrace ones steps which makes the distance just over 10km or follow a guided circular route of 15km. This route is definately not for those with a fear of heights as there are some narrow ledges with shear drops.


The ascent to Dagga Nek is about 800m. Provision should be made for sudden change of weather. Warm clothing should always be carried. Sun block is also highly recommended. At least 2 litres of water should also accompany you on the route.



On the way up to Dagga Nek At the top looking back

After reaching the top it is a short walk to the top of the Tsehlanyane gorge with its magnificent waterfall it is time to take a rest and some lunch.


We were fortunate that there was very little wind while we were on the top but that is not always the case and it is important to make allowances for weather conditions.


After peering down on the source of the Caledon River and braving some rather precarious mountain paths we began our descent back to the Mkhondo hut.


From Mkhondo Hut the hiker has the option of either returning via the river route to Tseki Hut or follow the route to Matsieng Hut which completes the four day trail.


The river route is 10km long and will take about 5hrs to accomplish, more if you spend time swimming in the many pools along the way. Along the Matsieng route one passes caves with beautiful rock art. At Matsieng the is Thabana-Tshowana Dam with its many bird species.



Click for large version

Map to be updated Thabaputswa hut now Mkhondo Hut

Other Maluti pages on this site

Flowers of the Maluti Cave Trail

Rockart of the Maluti Cave Trail


The Maluti Cave trail is really an incredible route. As with most hikes in the Drakensberg it is not easy and is subject to adverse weather conditions.


'In a Nutshell'

Distance from nearest town Close to Phuthaditjaba about 50km from Harrismith
Access road status About 500m of dirt road
Trail type Overnight backpack trail. 2, 3 or 4 days duration
Difficulty Moderate to difficult
Marking When evaluated the trail was well marked. From Dagga's Nek on the second day the trail is unmarked and a guide is essential
GPS Co-ordinates Tseki Hut    -               S28 35.881 E28 46.108

Mkhondo Hut -           S28 37.012 E28 43.427

Top of Dagga Nek -    S28 39.279 E28 42.543

Cell phone reception No
Facilities Excellent facilities


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Thanks to Marie Rowntree for her permissions to use her photographs in the creation of this page

Footprint Hiking Club

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