Key information: Amatola Trail
- A stunning multi-day traverse of these high, golden-grassed, huge-viewed plateaus and peaks, dipping into superb indigenous forest.
- This is pedestrian royalty.
- Walkopedia rating82.5
- Natural interest17
- Human interest3
- Negative points1
- Total rating82.5
- Note: Negs: heavyish loads.
- Length: 42.5 km
- 4.5 days
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
The Amatola Mountains in the Eastern Cape boast open, golden-grassed, huge-viewed plateaus and peaks, superb indigenous pristine forest, waterfalls, and gorges. The mountains boast fascinating wildlife (much of which you are, needless to say, unlikely to see): leopards; genets and caracal; buck; monkeys and baboons.
There are various walking options here.
The pedestrian royalty here is the 6 day Amatola Trail, which traverses the range, from Maden Dam (near King Williams Town) to the charming village of Hogsback.
Day 1 – climbs 700m through Pirie forest to the lovely hilltop Gwiligwili Hut with its huge views. 11km.
Day 2 – up to 20km through fantastic, rich, varied, beautiful indigenous forest and across undulating slopes to the Dontsa Hut.
Day 3 – to Cata Hut. You emerge from the forest onto the high plateau grasslands today, with huge views, before dropping back into forest to the hut. 19km.
Day 4 – to Mnyameni Hut. Climb a steep 600m to Geju, at 1,880m, the route's high point. Then drop steeply into the Malan Forest and the Mnyameni Gorge (plan to bathe in the enticing pools). 13.5km.
Day 5 – 18km to the Zingcuka Hut: and undulating day, with time out of the treeline, but some in the wolf River Forest. More swimming opportunities.
Day 6 – a final 15km, in the Schwarzwald Forest (enjoy the waterfalls), then climbing 800m to Hogsback Peak at 1,845m. Then a long descent to the Tyume River area. 3km on to Hogsback town.
You can also walk a 2 day Zingcuka Loop from Hogsback, which is also a remarkable route: a demanding day 1 to the Zingcuka Hut, then a return on Day 6 of the Amatola Trail.
These are demanding and remote trails where, while you will not be camping, you will need to be experienced and self-sufficient. You have to carry all your kit. Bring your own food, cookers, sleeping bags, water bottles and purification tablets. All huts bar one have running water and showers. So, come prepared. Experienced backcountry walkers only.
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Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist.
Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk
[Pick up the National Park’s leaflet on the trail, which has a basic map showing escape routes.]
South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland - Lonely Planet
South Africa – Footprint
The Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Doable all year. Driest are June and July, wettest May and October.
Temperate, but with quite high rainfall.
The park is in the east of the Eastern Cape, near(ish) to East London.
Car is the most realistic way here. Shuttle bus from Hogsback to the trailhead.
Permits are needed to do this walk.
As it is popular and places are very limited, you will need to book well ahead, at popular times, at least and probably for all times.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Variable weather: rain and cold are possible. Come prepared.
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
- Dangerous animals of all shapes and sizes, including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
- This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies and help will be hard to get if things go wrong.
- Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
- Law and order can be problematic. Take appropriate precautions
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You have to do this walk independently. You can get some food dropped off at the Dontsa and Zingcuka huts, to lighten loads. See amatolatrails.co.za.
Huts on the trail as described above. You will need to reserve them ahead.
Good accommodation at Hogsback.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- https:amatolatrails.co.za has lots of great info, including about permits and shuttles.
- Try www.flickr.com for pictures of this walk.
- https://www.hikingsouthafrica.co.za/amatola-hiking-trail/ has good information
Other things to do in the area
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more