Subscribe to our newsletter!

Fern Forest Trail

Enquire Now

33km from Winterton

-29.0083, 29.4192


+27 36 468 1000

Easy trail; Suitable for children.


This walk starts at the far end of the chalets on the Drakensberg Sun property, which replaced the old Cathkin Park Hotel. The hotel is hiker friendly, working on the wise assumption that they'll see you in the bar afterwards. The hike basically follows the Kwa-Ndema River upstream from the dam on the hotel grounds, which it feeds.

With a low shoulder of the Little Berg on your left, you soon enter the Kwa-Ndema forest. If you are a keen photographer, bring a tripod and take your time playing with long exposures in the river bed, creating rich tapestries with the flowing water and the many ferns and overhanging branches.

At times, you might have to clamber over rocks and climb over or duck under fallen boughs. Take a walking stick to break the cobwebs that festoon the trees: spiders love to spin their traps across paths, which small flying creatures use like aerial highways. After about 1,5 kilometres, there is a fork in the gurgling stream; follow the valley to the left. In another kilometre or so you will reach the Grotto - a deep overhang that has carefully built low rock walls and seating places and was once a popular entertaining place.

Cross the stream here and walk out of the forest into open grassland, which might be covered by wattle, depending on how recently the team from Working for Water has been here. Several hundred metres from the Grotto, you'll come to a stone circle with a sandstone boulder in the middle and a brass plaque fixed to it. This is something of a shrine for mountaineers. It was here, with the tip of Monk's Cowl just in view, that Richard Vincent Merriman Barry was buried in 1938.

Barry was known as The Tiger among his rock-climbing peers but met his Waterloo on the slippery cliffs of the Cowl on a rainy day in January that year. The route he was attempting is still considered one of the hardest and most dangerous in the Drakensberg.

You can return the same way or continue around to the right onto a protea-studded grassy spur back to the hotel: it's pretty much the same distance either way. The nice thing about the latter option is that you get grand views of the mountains, dominated by the square bulk of Cathkin Peak, or Mdedelelo (the bully), as the Zulus know it.

There is no entry fee or permit required and since you walk in the shade of the forest for most of the way, it's a good summer hike.

uKhahlamba Drakensberg

KwaZulu Natal


The Drakensberg mountain range begins its rise in the Eastern Cape, running along the length of KwaZulu-Natal’s western border. It also extends in fits and starts into Mpumalanga and covers a vast area stretching into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

It is generally agreed that the ‘Dragon mountains’ got their name from their ragged, irregular silhouette that looks like a dragon’s back from a distance. It was so-named by Dutch settlers. Another, albeit less popular, explanation is that early settlers were told by the locals that dragons lived in the mountains. This theory was given a bit more credence when numerous dinosaur footprints were discovered in the Eastern Free State.

The Zulu tribe has given the mountains its own, equally descriptive name – Ukhahlamba, or ‘the barrier of spears’. Whatever the language and whatever the explanation, there is no argument that the Drakensberg mountains are evocative and mysterious. It is a wild and beautiful area that can change from sunny to snowy in mere moments.

In 2001 a park was established that encompasses a huge tract of the mountains. Known as the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area, it covers 13 000km² of Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal. It includes the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site that by itself covers some 2 400km² and is 150km long.

The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a place of immense beauty and enormous spaces. It is one of the few true remaining wildernesses where hikers can walk for days without encountering other people.

It is no surprise, then, that this place is as dangerous as it is beautiful, and one must be well-prepared if tackling it on foot.

In the very north of the park is Royal Natal National Park. It is one of the jewels in the crown of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the proud guardian of the world famous ‘Amphitheatre’. This can be easily viewed from the road to the main camp of the park. A short walk along the river gives amazing photographic opportunities. The attractions of this park are many, from pleasant walks to fly-fishing and swimming in clear mountain streams. It is also home to the 850m-high Tugela Falls, the highest waterfall in Africa and the second highest in the world.

Other notable parks within the greater Drakensberg Park are Giant’s Castle, Kamberg and Loteni Nature Reserves. Each has its own attractions, capable of keeping the tourist busy for days on end.

The Drakensberg was declared a World Heritage Site for a number of reasons. It is an area of incredible natural diversity with over 2 100 plant species, more than 200 of which are endemic to the area. It is also home to over 60 species of mammal, including the threatened oribi and herds of eland and black wildebeest. It has nearly 50 species of reptile and more than 300 bird species. The naturalist will definitely find a visit to the Drakensberg incredibly rewarding.

No less interesting is the human history of the area. A prime drawcard is the San rock art. Excellent examples can be seen in Giant’s Castle. There is also a recreation of how these people prospered in the mountains until they were ruthlessly hunted out of existence by both black and white settlers.

Look out for

The Bushmen paintings are a unique art form that shrouded in mystery and deserving of at least an afternoon’s attention. The fact that they are almost always to be found in remote, beautiful caves adds to their allure. And the walk there adds to the attraction.

Hiking is one of the most popular pastimes in the Drakensberg. Depending on fitness and time, hikers can choose from short but beautiful walks to multi-day hikes. On the latter one needs to be entirely self-sufficient and equipped for inclement weather - including snow - no matter what time of the year it is.

The Giants Cup Hiking Trail is the premier ‘Berg hike, totalling almost 60km and usually taking five days to complete. It runs from Sani Pass to Busman’s Nek in the south.

The Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park is one of the first things that should be put on the ‘To Do’ list. You haven’t really been to the Drakensberg until you’ve viewed it from below - and then again from the top. Here you will encounter one of the most breathtaking views in South Africa.

Fly-fishing is another excellent reason to visit the Drakensberg. KZN-Ezemvelo has a collection of very good trout waters in their reserves. Other dams and rivers are privately owned, but many are accessible to fisherman for a day fee.

The Lammergeier Hide at Giant’s Castle is an amazing place from which to get incredible sightings and photographs of birds. Highlights are the bearded vulture, Verreaux’s eagle, white-necked raven, lanner falcon and Cape vulture. Many smaller species can also be spotted. Booking is essential.

Sani Pass is one of South Africa’s great drives. In winter the pass is often closed due to ice and snow and can be a very hazardous drive. Remember that a passport is necessary to get onto the pass and a 4x4 vehicle is required by law.

When to go

To Do

Welcome Message


Welcome to our website. South Africa is awesome and you've come to the right place to help you explore it!

Enjoy the site