Tugela Canyons Hike

"I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding." John O’Donohue

Explore the Tugela River Gorge by foot (or bike) on our 3 day slackpacking trail. Just 4hrs from Johannesburg and 2.5hrs from Durban, the Tugela Canyons trail can make an easy long weekend break.

On arrival day, you will hike into your fly camp on the banks of the mighty Tugela. Tents and mats will be provided along with delicious campfire cuisine. The next day you will continue downstream, following old jeep tracks and animal paths and onto the handcrafted trail network around Tugela Bushcamp, where your next 2 nights will be spent.

On this trail, you can expect wild terrain, diverse game and bird encounters, delicious campfire cuisine, and conscious re-wilding. This trail will also be perfect for trail running, mountain-bike groups, or wild river fishing explorations.

  • Trip Duration3 Nights / 3 Days
  • Daily DistancesDay 1: 12km / 4hr (564m descent / 200m ascent)Day 2: 16km / 5-7hr (650m ascent)Day 3: 16km / 5-7hr (422m ascent)
  • Trail Grading3 / 5 - Fitness.A moderately good level of hiking fitness will make the trip more enjoyable.2 / 5 - Technicality. Much of the walking is done on old jeep tracks and single track trails built for mountain bikes, so whilst there are some steeper ascents and descents, the trails themselves are good.
  • Trail TerrainThukela Thornveld and Valley Bushveld – aloes and shepherd trees, rocky outcrops, tugela valley riparian
  • AccommodationWild Camping on the first night – tents and mattresses providedBushcamp – lodge accommodation, for 2 nights
  • Logistic SupportA fully-catered and professionally led walking trail with luggage support, transfers and conservation levies included
  • Group SizeMinimum 2 (but preferred min 4 persons) – no maximum
  • PricingFrom R6000/pp based on 7 or more persons
At a Glance

Wake to the call of a fish-eagle, and reminisce around a blazing campfire by night. The Tugela gorge has always hold much allure as a little explored, wild frontier. Our 3 nights Tugela Gorge Slackpacker will let you explore much of this ‘wild’ by foot.

Trailist’s will begin at a meeting point, accessible by sedans. Approx 4hrs drive from Johannesburg. You will be guided down into the valley and then follow the river to our first night – a wild camping night. Tents and mattresses and full catering will be supplied, so it’s just your sleeping bag you need to bring. Enjoy the night awash with stars, far from any light pollution.

The next day, after a hearty breakfast, we will continue downstream and link onto the incredible network of paths created for an annual trail running event. Be on the lookout for game – giraffe, antelope, baboons and excellent birdlife.

The next two nights will be spent in stone-thatch and canvas lodgings at Tugela Bush camp, with a third days hike route planned in the former-biosphere reserve. The hiking days and distances can be customised or adapted to the fitness and requirements of your group. It can also be made into a 2-3 day trail-running tour, if that is what your group is after, or for the technically proficient – a multi-day mountain-bike tour.

On this trail, one will pass many an unfished pool, where the KZN scalies (yellowfish) enjoy unfettered freedom.

So if a wild hike is on your agenda, but with some creature comforts and a requirement to NOT slog a backpack, then you need not look much further than a 2-4hr drive from Durban or Johannesburg.

  1. Tugela Canyons Slackpacking TrailArrival Day / Hike Day 1

    Self-drive to meeting point just beyond Colenso (approx. 4hr from JHB and 2.5hr from Durban)

    Meet for lunch and then hike down the valley and downriver to the wild camping site (approx. 12km). Luggage transferred to mobile camp.

    Overnight: Wild Camping Site – on the river (lunch & dinner provided)

  2. Hike Day 2Elephant paths & Soggy Lows

    Breakfast in camp

    Trail along the river and onto the expansive trail network – Sunset Rock – Marks Pass – Soggy Low – Elephant Path: 10-16km route options

    Luggage transferred into Tugela Bush Camp

    Overnight: Tugela Bush Camp Camp (breakfast, lunch & dinner provided)

  3. Hike Day 3Woodlands & Wildebeest Lookout

    Another guided hike day over different terrain – woodland trails up to Wildebeest lookout and back to camp across the other side of the valley (14-16km)

    Overnight: Tugela Bush Camp Camp (breakfast, lunch & dinner provided)

  4. Hike Day 4Return

    Final Breakfast. Transfer OR hike back to vehicles

That might be camp ahead

Old 4x4 roads along some of the river trail

Flat Rocks, Tugela River

Makes a lovely lunch spot in winter months, but would be fully submerged in summmer.

Your first night will be spent in a mobile camp on the river. Meals, tents and mattresses will be supplied - just bring your own sleeping bag. Enjoy the starry night’s sky and a camp fire.

The next two nights will be spent in Tugela Bushcamp – expect unique lodgings built around the natural environment, outdoor showers, and the birds to be a part of your home. Bedding & towels are provided here.

Wild Camp - Night 1With meals prepared for you, this is not really 'roughing' it.
Breakfast in campA bowl of oats to kickstart the day
  1. Do we need to bring any ‘camping’ equipment?

    NO, just your own sleeping bag for the wild camp-out night. We’ll provide tents and mattresses.

  2. Can we make this trail shorter or longer?

    We do need a minimum of 2 nights spent at the Bush Camp, but it is possible to remove the first wild camping night if you want to.

  3. What is the food like?

    Excellent. Think oxtail stew, potjies, delicious salads and veg, and full cooked breakfasts. Vegetarians and even vegans can be equally well catered for.

  4. What is the best time of year to do this trail?

    The best months for this trail would be the shoulder months: Mar - June, and Aug - Oct

  5. Are there set departure dates or minimum group sizes?

    There are no set departure dates, you get a group together and we will run the trail for you, availability permitting with the lodge. We prefer a minimum group size of 4 persons, but have costed the trail if there are only 2 or 3 of you (but we pay min 4 person rates).

3 Day/ 3 Night Slackpacking Trail

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
3 Persons
4-6 Persons
7 or more persons
Whats included in this tour
  • 3 Nights accommodation – 1 night in mobile tented river camp, 2 nights at Tugela Bush Lodge
  • All meals – from lunch on arrival day to breakfast on departure day (3 dinners, 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches)
  • 3 Expertly guided hike days – daily distances and routes can be adjusted to the groups requirements
  • Luggage transfers / support
  • Return Transfers
  • Conservation & Trail Levies