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Situated in the Northern Drakensberg, Sentinel Peak is probably the most frequently climbed peak in the area. The one day hike offers dramatic viewpoints, a climb up 15-meter chain ladders, and a sight of the world’s second highest waterfall. The whole trip takes only 5 hours return, not counting additional ones which you’ll spend soaking in the surrounding beauty.
You don’t necessarily need to be in top form as the hike is not too long nor too strenuous, so just make sure to dress appropriately, stick some liquids in your backpack, and pack a camera to record this amazing journey.
Sentinel Peak Trail is the only 1-day hiking trail to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment, and the view from there is said to be one of the most beautiful ones in the world. The spectacular 12 km hike to the top of Mount-Aux-Sources begins from the Sentinel Peak Car Park, and the initial walk takes you up a 5-km path to the famous steel chain ladders. Having overcome a potential fear of heights, you’ll see the scenery flattening out, and following the river will lead you to Tugela Falls. This is where you’ll get to absorb amazing views of the Royal Natal National Park and the Drakensberg Amphitheater.
The latter is considered to be one of the most impressive cliff faces in the world. Over 5 kilometres in length, the Amphitheater is bordered by 1,220 meters high steep cliffs. A near perfect symmetry adds significantly to the aesthetic appeal of this World Heritage site, as do the Tugela Falls, second tallest waterfalls in the world plunging 948m over the face of the Amphitheatre down to Royal Natal Park.
Royal Natal National Park boast some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Africa. It provides many trails to explore on foot or on horseback and enjoy thrilling views and sightings of resident wildlife. Trout fishing can be done in the Park’s dam or in the Mahai and Tugela rivers. Picnicking is another popular activity while in the area, as is going for a swim in the fresh mountain streams.
Having enjoyed all of the above, you can either head back the same way or return via the Beacon Buttress gully. Be warned though that the latter is pretty steep and it’s not advised to take it in wet and slippery conditions. The third option is to camp on the plateau and wake up to a breathtaking sunrise.
The best time to experience Sentinel Peak Trail is now, as the daytime temperatures can be very high during summer, and overnight ones very low in winter. Going on the hike after a rainfall will ensure the Tugela is flowing and you won’t find the falls disappointingly dry. Even though it’s a relatively short hike, it’s highly advisable to pack food and water, and even a tent might be a good idea in case of an unexpected storm.