Hogsback, Eastern Cape

The Amatola Trail is widely regarded as the toughest and best hiking trail in South Africa. A six-day and five-night hike starting at Maden Dam near King Williams Town, traversing the incredible Amatola Mountains, and ending in the iconic village of Hogsback.

The Amatola Trail is utterly amazing and very strenuous, so one needs to be prepared, however the views, remoteness, pristine indigenous forest and endless waterfalls make it a true bucket-lister.  You must be fit and capable of hiking 10 hours a day, never knowing what Mother Nature might throw at you. 

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 six day Amatola Trail, and the start and end point of the two day Zingcuka Loop.

The Amatola Trail is owned and maintained by The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), so all hikers require a permit through Amatola Trails. 

The Trail:

6 days, 5 nights – 100km – 4900 Ascent

Day 1: Maden Dam – Gwili Gwili Hut

11.9km, 763m Ascent

Day 1 is the shortest day of the whole trail, and the only day you don’t need to set off at Daybreak.  Our Shuttle takes you from Hogsback to Maden dam.  Day one involves a climb over 600m of vertical ascent through the Pirie indigenous forest, leaving the world behind for 6 days of bliss.  After heavy rain you may notice what looks like fresh dog poo everywhere, don’t panic, it’s digested soil from the world’s largest earthworms and they often grow to 1m in length and the largest ever was found nearby measuring 3.2m.  Gwili Gwili Hut is perched on the side of a hill with views forever and an excellent separate braai area and lovely hot showers.

Day 2: Gwili Gwili Hut – Dontsa Hut

19.14km, 633m Ascent

Day 2 looks on paper 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 has Pine on one side and indigenous forest on the other. It is simpler than the other huts but cosy and inviting with a lovely fireplace / braai and an impressive waterfall below it.

Day 3: Dontsa Hut – Cata Hut

20.62km, 1024m Ascent

This is the longest day, and is very tough, but there are lots and lots of outstanding views to make up for it. For the first time you leave the indigenous 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 rain. You go through the Hovald Forest and then descend past the Cata Forest Station before a leg destroying 550m vertical ascent climb in 5km through the absoluterly stunning Waterfall Forest

Day 4: Cata Hut – Mnyameni Hut

14.56km, 634m Ascent

The 2nd shortest day start with a cheecky 600m steep ascent to the highest point reached on the trail – The Mighty Geju Peak (1880).  The is an alternate route which bypasses the peak if it is misty – but if no, the awesome views are worth the extra sweat.  Cross over a meteorite crash site and then begin the steep descent throught the encanted Malan forest (1000m of knee jarring pain) into the Mnyameni Gorge.  Shorte than the other days, it’s a good opportunity to relax and swim in the many rock pools.  Mnyameni Hut is the most isolated which occasionally doesn’t have running water, but there is a stream 10m away where you can wash and drink (not in that order).

Day 5: Mnyameni Hut – Zingcuka 

19,42 km, 991m Ascent

My favourite day, but another toughie!  There are many swimming places 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 Schwarzwald Forest, so the pools are warmer and more inviting than usual. Zingcuka hut is truly special and like all the other huts has a braai and donkey boiler to ease those tired bones.

Day 6: Zingcuka Hut – Tyume River

16.2 km, 855m Ascent

The last day begins with another series of fantastic waterfalls in the Schwarzwald Forest before a long ascent of 800m almost summiting the main Hogsback peak (1845m), before descending into the Tyume river basin and the end of the trail. You can easily walk the 4km to Hogsback and Away with the Fairies or even better take the Amatola+ through the Auckland Nature Reserve past Madonna and Child Waterfall and The Big Tree and end up at Away with the Fairies Viewpoint. This is another tough day, but the views from Hog 1 showing the previous 6 days hike and then forward to Hogsback are incredible.

Book your Permit, Pre and Post hike accommodation, Shuttle to the start, Safe Parking and Hikers Assistance – all in one go – and SAVE money!

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the huts like?

The huts are constantly in a changing condition and are by nature considerably basic.  The huts have bunks with mattresses and a trellidor that locks at night, there are also braai facilities, firewood, long drop toilets and sometimes even hot running water.

Is there hot water and showers?

There is hot water at most of the huts through means of donkey boilers, but this changes regularly. There are hot showers at all the huts except Mnyameni at the time of writing this. There is a stream right next to Mnyameni (and near all the huts) where you can get water and wash.

Can I hike Alone?

I am afraid that due to the nature of the trail, intermittent cell reception and remoteness the minimum number of hikers is 3.

Is the trail safe?

Yes, the trail is very safe. You will be hiking through very very remote pristine mountains where you might not see another human being outside of your group for the full 6 days. There was an isolated incident around 4 years ago which was the first and only one in about 35 years since the trail started. The trail is remote and very tough, so it is only for someone capable of hiking for up to 10 hours a day for 6 days consecutively.

Can Children do the hike?

The hike is exceptionally long and very tough. It is recommended that no children under the age of 14 should attempt it and that they have completed several multi day hikes previously.

When is the best time of year to do the trail?

The best time to do the Amatola Trail, in my opinion is autumn and spring. Summer can be extremely hot and very cold and very wet sometimes all at once, but then again it can also be absolutely perfect. Autumn and spring have less chance of the extremes. Winter is the dry season, but there is the chance of snow and the days are shorter.

Do I have to carry all my water?

No, not all. There is water all along the trail with only day 2 being a slight concern where you will need to set off with around 2 to 3 litres for the day. The water is safe to drink all along the trail. There are no villages above the trail so the water is safe to drink untreated, but if you are worried then better safe than sorry as you never know what is in the stream further up. After heavy rain the water can be very muddy, so you can filter through your clothes or bring a filter with you if the forecast is bad.

Do I have to carry all my food?

Yes

Is there porterage?

Kind of, but not really. As an extra we can drop off supplies at Dontsa (R1500) and Zingcuka (R350) huts but we don’t offer a full Slack-Packing / Porterage service. 

Slack Packing/Goodie Drops

Due to the nature of the trail and accessibility to the huts we cannot offer a full Slack Packing Package. We can however offer a drop-off of your pre-packed (by you) goods to Dontsa Hut (after day 2) for R1500 (1 and 1/2 to 2 hours’ drive each way on shocking roads) and to Zingcuka Hut (after day 5) for R500 (you will have to walk the 300m to the road to meet us and carry your goodies to the hut).

We can also deliver anything sold at Away with the Fairies including pizza and beers

Frozen and Non-Refrigerated goods only please!!

What time do we have to start in the mornings?

I would recommend getting up before sunrise and be ready to hike by 6am. The days are long and there is lots to experience along the way. Leaving early allows you time to enjoy the places that you really love along the way.

How fit must I be?

You do not need to be a full-on athlete and hikers of all ages (14+), shapes and sizes complete the trail regularly. It does however help to be a physically active person and be capable of hiking up to 10 hours a day on 6 consecutive days.

Hikers Assist:

We give a Pre-Hike briefing going over all the points to look out for on the trail and giving advice on anything you may need to know. If once on the trail you are unsure of anything or run into difficulties, please feel free to call us and we will see what we can do to help.

Pre & Post Hike Accommodation:

We have 3 options of where to spend the night before and after the trail.

Striders Luxury Self Catering:

Is tailor made for hiking groups who want to have a touch of extra comfort before and after the trail. The views of the Amatola Mountains from Striders Cottage are incredible, and it is next door to Away with the Fairies.

The Striders Property:

Sleeps 14 people in total, comprising of 1 large thatched cottage that has 3 Self-Catering Apartments (sleeping a total of 10 people) and close-by 2 thatched Self-Catering rondavels all allowing you to have stunning a self-catering space in a peaceful location. This provides a perfect place to prepare / recover.

Room configuration within Striders Cottage:

  • X2 Self-Catering Rondavels – double bed
  • X2 Self-Catering Family Apartment – double and bunk
  • X1 Self-Catering Double Apartment – double

Dorms at Away with the Fairies Backpackers:

Our dorms at Away with the Fairies have access to a shared kitchen and bathrooms. Dorms have bedding and pillows though you will have to use your own towels. You have a choice of either a 9, 6 or 4 bed dorms. 

Camping at Away with the Fairies and Striders Cottage:

Our campsites at Away with the Fairies and Striders, are mostly located in and around the stretch of forest between the Fairies and Striders properties. You can find a space on the grass or in our own stunning forest. Unfortunately, we do not provide any camping equipment.  Choose a camping spot at R120.00 per person per night

Please let me know how many singles / couples within your group – so i can book your accommodation as best as needed but please note the price is per person sharing so 2 single hikers will be required to share a twin room.

 

Rates:

Basic Hikes:

  • R310.00 pp.pn – Adult
  • R140.00 pp – Hiker’s Assist – Adult
  • R130.00 pp.pn – Student scholar
  • R140.00 pp – Hiker’s Assist – Student scholar

Packages:

6 Day – 5 Night Full Amatola Trail.  The Amatola Package includes the permit for the full 6-day / 5-night trail, pre and post hike (dorm or camping) Accommodation at Away with the Fairies, Shuttle to the start of the trail, Safe Parking and Hikers Assistance.

Striders En-Suite per person sharing
  • R2880.00 per person
Fairies Dorm
  • R2500.00 per person
Camping Package
  • R2300.00 per person
Scholars* – Striders En-Suite per person sharing
  • R2100.00 per person
Scholars* – Fairies Dorm
  • R1760.00 per person
Scholars – Camping Package
  • R1400.00 per person

Please note that these options only apply to the pre and post hike accommodation. On the actual hike you will be sharing a hut at each of the stops with your fellow hikers

*Students and Scholars receive a large discount but must supply a copy of each students Photo ID before payment is made.

Documents to download:

Admin Fee:
  • R55.00 once off per reservation

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