The Amatola Hiking Trail
Our motto: Hike more, worry less…
The Amatola Hiking Trail is a 6 Day 5 Night hiking trail starting at Maden Dam near King Williams Town, traversing the incredible Amatola Mountains and ending in the iconic village of Hogsback. The trail is truly amazing and very strenuous so one needs to be prepared, however the views, remoteness, pristine indigenous forest and endless waterfalls make it one of, if not the, best hikes in South Africa. You must be fit and capable of hiking a minimum of 10 hours a day, never knowing what Mother Nature might throw at you. Almost to a person, weary returning hikers always say it is the hardest but best trail that they have ever done.
The Zingcuka Loop 2 Day 1 Night hiking trail starts and finishes in Hogsback. This is an incredible trail, but not to be underestimated. Very tough and very long, this is for experienced hikers, but it is absolutely incredible for those without a full 6 days at their disposal.
The beautiful village of Hogsback is the perfect place to safely base yourself before and after your epic Amatola adventure as it is the end point of the full 6 day Amatola Trail, and the start and end point of the 2 day Zingcuka Loop.
6 Day, 5 Night Amatola Trail
Maden Dam – Gwiligwili Hut (11km)
Day 1 is the easiest and shortest day of the whole trail, and the only day you don’t need to set off at Daybreak. Get our shuttle to Maden dam and then you climb 700m on the first day. You climb through the Pirie indigenous forest and leave the world behind for 6 days of bliss. You will notice what looks like fresh dog poo everywhere, don’t panic, it’s digested soil from giant earthworms and they often grow to 1m in length and the largest in the world was found nearby measuring 3.2m. Gwiligwili Hut is perched on top of a hill with views forever and an excellent separate braai area and lovely hot showers.
Gwiligwili Hut – Dontsa Hut (18km Or 19.6km)
Day 2 looks a relatively easy day as you traverse through indigenous forest the entire distance with the Keiskammahoek valley below, but don’t be fooled. It’s a long day of undulations which can be exhausting for the less than fit. Dontsa hut is in one of the few patches of pine plantation that you will pass through. Pine on one side and indigenous forest on the other. It is simpler than the other huts but cosy and inviting with a wonderful fireplace, hot shower and an impressive waterfall below it.
Dontsa Hut – Cata Hut (16.8km Or 19km)
This is a very long tough day, with lots and lots of outstanding views to make up for it. For the first time you leave the forest behind as the trail ascends to the plateau, where macchia grassland and a myriad of wildflowers grow. Be careful of the waterfall at the 4km point if there has been any rain. You can either summit Doornkop or go through the Hovald forest and then descend through the Waterfall forest or stay on the contour before you reach Cata Hut.
Cata Hut – Mnyameni Hut (13.5km)
The 2nd shortest day starts with a 600m steep ascent to Geju peak(1880m) the highest point reached on the trail. There is an alternate route which bypasses the peak if it is misty but if not the awesome views are worth the extra sweat. After 8km in the open you begin the steep descent into Mnyameni gorge and the Malan forest. A good day to relax and swim in the many rock pools in Mnyameni gorge as you have more time than the other longer days. Mnyameni Hut is the most isolated hut and doesn’t have running water at present, but there is a stream 10m away where you can wash and drink (not in that order).
Mnyameni Hut – Zingcuka Hut (18,2 Km)
Another tough day with the trail rising and falling 400m. There are many swimming places on this day so get a really early start to make the most of them. Most of the day is out in the open except the last few kilometres through the dense wolf river forest, so the pools are warmer and more inviting than usual. Zingcuka hut is truly special and has a donkey boiler to ease those tired bones.
Zingcuka – Tyume River (15 Km)
The last day begins with another series of fantastic waterfalls in the Schwarzwald forest before a long ascent of 800m to the main Hogsback peak (1845m) and then descending into the Tyume river basin and the end of the trail. You can easily walk the 3km to Hogsback to Away with the Fairies. This is another very long tough day, but the views from Hog 1 and the indigenous forest to finish off the trail are absolutely incredible.
2 Day, 3 Night Amatola Trail
From Hogsback – Zingcuka – Hogsback. This is a great opportunity to do a longer hike than a day hike, but without the time constraints of the full 6 day hike.
We Have 2 Options
A WORLD CLASS DAYS HIKING. Harder than any of the 6 days of the main Amatola Trail you have to set off from Away with the Fairies very early and walk along Wolf Ridge Road to the end point of the 6 day trail just past Madonna and Child. Follow the stream up a steep path and hike between Hog 1 and Hog 2 Mountains. Follow the footprints to meet up with Day 5 of the Amatola Trail, following the stream to waterfalls and swimming holes. Then you walk along the edge of a precarious cliff path with breath-taking views and then down an incredibly steep precipice to the Indigenous Forest and onto the Zingcuka Hut to overnight.
This day is around 22km, and very strenuous, through intense terrain and at high altitude. It must only be undertaken by fit and well prepared hikers. Once you start there is no option of being pulled out, it’s impossible due to its remoteness.
Beginner / Bad Weather
You leave from Away with the Fairies, hike through the Auckland Nature Reserve, then around two contour paths with valley views, then down a forestry road through Eucalyptus and then indigenous forest to get to the Zingcuka hut. Spend the night at Zingcuka Hut in the indigenous forest.
This route keeps a low altitude so avoids the worst of any inclement weather, while it is also easy to pull out most of the way around if there is injury.
Day 2 is the final day of the 6 day trail. Set off as early as you can, low in the indigenous forest at Zingcuka Hut and work your way up the back of Hog 1 Mountain. You skirt the side of the peak of the mountain then work your way down the face. The views are unbelievable. You find yourself following a stream down a steep mountain pass with its many waterfalls and swimming pools to the end of the 6 day trail. Those staying at Away with the Fairies, if they have time, may opt to hike through the Auckland Nature Reserve visiting Madonna and Child, Bridal Veil and Swallow Tail Waterfalls and The Big Tree to end up at the hostel. This makes a big days hiking huge. Alternatively follow Wolfridge Road back into Hogsback.
This is a long days hike too, over high altitude prone to adverse weather conditions and with a lot of hard hiking both up and down a mountain.
Beginner / Bad Weather
Once you are on the advanced trail there is no exit other than the beginning or the end of the trail. If the weather is bad on either Day 1 or Day 2 then the Beginner / Bad Weather option mentioned above is advised, even if you do it both days (day 2 in reverse from Zingcuka to Hogsback). Both day 1 and day 2 are in high altitude (apart from the beginner / Bad Weather option) and will be in clouds if the weather is bad, so both days should only be attempted in perfect weather conditions. Both days are also extremely strenuous so should only be attempted by people with a reasonable level of fitness, with suitable hiking gear and carrying all their supplies.
The Amatola Forest in the Hogsback area is often claimed as J. R. R. Tolkien’s (who was born in South Africa) inspiration for The Lord of the Rings, in particular for his fictional forest of Mirkwood. The link between Tolkien and Hogsback would seem to be a back formation from the establishment in 1947 of Hobbiton on Hogsback, a holiday and educational camp for underprivileged children. This was ten years after the publication of The Hobbit which was a huge success and which would have inspired the camp’s founders as they set up in such an evocatively forested area.
Shuttle to the Start of the Trail
It is not recommended to leave your vehicle at Maden Dam for 6 days for security reasons. We offer a Shuttle service from Hogsback to the start of the trail (included in the package) we depart between 07.30 and 08.00 on the morning of your hike. Departure time will be confirmed when you arrive at Away with the Fairies for your pre-hike briefing.
Whenever we can, we use The Mzansi Experience to get you to the start of the Amatola Trail which is at Maden Dam. The drive to the start of the trail is 1 ½ hours, on some pretty treacherous roads.
The Mzansi Experience has brand new Mercedes Sprinter Buses so they get you there in comfort and with lots of space. For larger groups it might be necessary to use Mzansi and other vehicles too.
The 2 Day Zingcuka Loop starts at the end point of the 6 Day Amatola Trail right here in Hogsback, 4km along a dirt road from Away with the Fairies.
Please Note: there are no Mzansi Busses leaving Hogsback on a Wednesday, so any Wednesday morning hike starts will be shuttled to Maden Dam in Amatola Trails and Away with the Fairies vehicles.
Price available on Request
All information adapted with permission of owner