Mpumalanga is best known for being home to the Kruger National Park. It’s where most tourists flock to for their great South African safari, and where locals run away to for a serene bush holiday. But few may know that there is a lot more to this province than safaris.
The areas surrounding the Kruger National Park feature magnificent mountains and forests, and they offer many adventure activities — from white-water rafting and canyoning to mountain biking, ziplining and quad biking. There are also great hiking trails scattered throughout the province, which range from short, day hikes to longer, several day hikes.
There are also many lesser-known hiking trails near Graskop and along the Panorama route that avid hikers will love. It’s best to base yourself near Sabie, Hazyview or Graskop, depending on which trails interest you. These areas also have a good range of accommodation, going from the budget friendly to more high-end options.
Did you know that some of the oldest rocks on earth can be found in Mpumalanga? These ancient greenstones and metamorphosed granites form the Crocodile River Mountains in the southeast of the province.
Below is a list of popular hiking trails in the region.
1. Belvedere Day Walk
The Belvedere Day Walk is a 10km circular hiking trail to the Belvedere hydroelectric power station. It is fairly strenuous but the views of the Blyde River Canyon during the 400-meter descent to the power station are well worth the effort. The power station, which was built in 1911, is no longer in use but was once the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
You will need to register beforehand to get a permit, which is available between 8am and noon at the Bourke’s Luck Potholes trailhead (R55 per person). There is also an entrance fee of R55.
2. Loerie Trail
The Loerie Trail, one of the most popular day trails in the area, is situated just outside Sabie. You can start the 10km circular route from either the Castle Rock municipal caravan park or the Ceylon forest station. It’s an easy, level trail along the Sabie River, and passes through pine and eucalyptus plantations. You will also pass through some sections of natural forest and grassland.
You will need a permit, obtainable for a nominal fee from Merry Pebbles (next to the caravan park) or from the Lowveld tourism centre in the Main Street, Sabie, where you can also collect a trail map.
3. Fanie Botha
Fanie Botha is one of the longer, several day hiking trails in Mpumalanga. As you trek along the Drakensberg escarpment, you will encounter several waterfalls, such as the Lone Creek and Mac Mac falls.
Some sections can be strenuous, especially in midsummer, so this hike is best done in the autumn or spring months, when it is cooler. There are two-, three- or five-day versions of the hike; the shortest is 17km and the longest is 59km.
4. Graskop Day Trail / Forest Falls Trail
This day trail isn’t as strenuous as many of the others but it still covers a decent distance (13.3km). Starting off at the Graskop hut, it goes through pine and indigenous forests and ends at the Forest Falls. It also takes you across the Mac Mac concrete bridge.
The Forest Falls are relatively wide, with a large pool beneath it, which is a great swimming spot to cool off in after the hike. Tip: remember to pack your swimming clothes!
Before starting the hike, you need to get a permit (it costs R20 a person) at the Graskop information bureau and you will have to sign an indemnity form.
5. Num-Num Trail
This is another multi-day hike. The self-guided route takes three to five days and goes through the vastly diverse terrain — from indigenous forests to sandstone mazes, ancient grasslands and magnificent waterfalls — of the Highland Escarpment. There’s also plenty of wildlife and birds to see along the way. For the less energetic, there is the option of slackpacking (someone else will carry your baggage between the camps).
The trail requires moderate fitness and agility, with a few steep up and down sections when navigating the gorges. The five-day Num Num Hiking trail covers a distance of 36.5km, although there are three- and four-day options. You can get more of the details on its website.