6 hiking trails that lead to the most picturesque waterfalls

It’s summer and time to go hiking along some magnificent trails.. Picture: Unsplash

It’s summer and time to go hiking along some magnificent trails.. Picture: Unsplash

Published Nov 30, 2023


The best views in life come during travel adventures. And there is nothing quite like a hike that ends with a waterfall and a rewarding dip.

As the land of plenty, South Africa has many such options to explore this summer.

And since it’s summer and the spirit of adventure has been ignited, many are using this opportunity to improve their fitness levels, too.

As such, hiking is the perfect solution as it allows you to be active, while also enjoying spectacular views as well as the outdoors and fresh air.

It is also suitable for all ages and there are many sites to marvel along hiking routes.

Whether you choose to run or walk, you can also explore each hiking trail at your own pace.

Either way, the reward at the end of the trail at most sites, is to relax and cool off in the water.

If you’re looking for a full day of exploration while raking up steps as you explore, here are some beautiful waterfalls to visit.

Augrabies Falls, Northern Cape

The powerful Augrabies Falls in Northern Cape. Picture: Unsplash

Although you will not be able to take a dip at this site, the waterfall is a magnificent spectacle to experience.

Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape is a popular stop-over for tourists who travel to or from the Kgalagadi Tranfrontier Park.

There are several observation points near to the waterfall from which visitors can enjoy spectacular views.

The game-viewing road network allows visitors to explore the reserve and enjoy sightings of the 48 mammal species found here.

This includes springboks, red hartebeest, greater kudu and giraffes. Steenbok are also common along the open sand-flats and klipspringer are also regularly spotted in the rocky areas.

Meanwhile, the Dassie Nature Trail is a five kilometre (km) self-guided hiking trail that leads to a circular route along the gorge to Arrow Point.

This trail continues across the landscape, before returning to the camp.

There is also a three-day hiking trail, the Klipspringer Hiking Trail, which visitors can pre-book.

There are 59 chalets and bungalows available as Augrabies Falls , as well as caravan and camping facilities.

Depending on the duration of your visit, a chalet starts from R1 490.

Tugela Falls Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal

Tugela Falls in the Drakensberg. Picture: Unsplash

As a challenging hike but rewarding hike, the Tugela Falls is the world’s highest waterfall.

It plunges a whopping 948 metres off the Mont-Aux-Sources plateaum and into the valley below.

And it comes as no surprise that The Tugela Falls, which includes a whopping five leaps, gets its name from the Zulu word “Thukela”, meaning “sudden”.

This site is located in the Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg.

And to experience the spectacular views from the top, you will need to hike through the Sentinel Peak, which takes you to the top of Tugela Falls.

During this hike, you will also need to climb up the Amphitheatre, via the famous chain ladders.

But once you get to this point, you will be rewarded with the sight of the incredible valley floor, which almost one km below.

The hike to the waterfall is 11.7km and is generally considered a challenging route, as it takes an average of around five hours.

There is also an opportunity to enjoy a swim, as well as bird watching.

For convenience, you can stay at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. Prices start from R1 430 for two.

Mac Mac Falls, Mpumalanga

Mac Mac Falls in Graskop Mpumalanga. Picture: Instagram

Mac Mac derived its name from the Scottish gold prospectors who joined the gold rush in this region in the late 1800s.

As Scots, many had surnames starting with “Mac” , and that’s how the waterfall got its name.

This 70 meter waterfall is situated next to Graskop Road, north of the town of Sabie.

Meanwhile, the hike is a 0.8km out-and-back trail.

It is regarded as a moderately challenging route which takes an average of 20 minutes to complete.

You can also explore the nearby Lisbon Falls, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and Blyde River Canyon.

This will require a day trip, but you can stay over at Beach Island Graskop, from R1 291 a night for two.

Magwa Falls, Eastern Cape

Magwa Waterfall in the Eastern Cape. Picture: Instagram

Magwa Waterfall lies in the middle of the 1800 hectare Magwa tea plantation, South Africa's last remaining tea estate just outside Lusikisiki.

It is one of few waterfalls on the rugged Wild Coast that is accessible.

The curtain of water falls 144m and drops into a narrow canyon, which has been formed by seismic movement.

Magwa Waterfall has been said to resemble Zimbabwe’s renowned Victoria Falls.

The drive to the Magwa Falls is just eight km’s, a worthwhile trip to experience the river lurch off the precipice, and down to the river bed in the gorge below.

You can stay at Louis at Magwa Falls from R700 a night for two people sharing.

Nursery Ravine via Skeleton Gorge, Western Cape

The Nursery Ravine Waterfall hiking trail near Table Mountain. Picture: Instagram

The Nursery Ravine via Skeleton Gorge is a 5.5km loop trail near Cape Town.

While it is generally considered a challenging route, this hiking trail is also a popular area for birding, hiking and running.

In addition, Skeleton Gorge is the most popular hiking route up the east side of Table Mountain.

In some areas, there are even ladders, which takes you up to an exquisite indigenous forest.

Meanwhile, it is recommended to keep warm clothes on you as the weather can change quickly on Table Mountain, with clouds often forming seemingly out of nowhere, and the wind picking up to reach gale-force speeds.

Consider an overnight stay at Harfield Guest Villa from R1 300 a night for two people sharing.

Cradle Moon: Green Trail, Gauteng

The Cradle Moon Green trail ends off at a man-made waterfall. Picture: Instagram

For adventurers in Gauteng, the Cradle Moon Green Trail is a 8.2km trail near Zwartkop.

It is generally considered a moderately challenging route and takes an average around two hours to complete.

This is a popular area for bird watching, running, and walking.

Meanwhile, there is an abundance of birds, wild flowers and insects as well as the odd zebra and impala, along the trail, which follows a circular route around cradle lake.

The lake, trees, bushes and waterfall are also a sight to behold.

There is also a restaurant at the end of the well-marked trail.

It is recommended to wear a hat and sunscreen as there isn’t much shade along the trail.

You can stay at Cradle Moon Lakeside Game Lodge from R 2 460 a night.