Added by Bryan Young
This hike has something for every adventurer so long as you enjoy dramatic mountain viewpoints, climbing 50-foot chain ladders and the lucky baboon troop sighting. But just in case that’s not enough to satiate your adventure needs, the hike also ends atop the world’s second highest waterfall!
Sentinel Peak is a great day trip, but if you can spend the night it will reward you will magnificent sunset and sunrise views! The 7.5 mile (12 km) roundtrip hike begins from the Sentinel Peak Car Park just up the smooth dirt road past the sign for the Witsiehoek Mountain Lodge. (They are in the process of paving the road to the top!) After you park make sure to check in and pay the rangers fee before you set out.
You begin by passing through a chain link fence and slowly begin your ascent toward the massive Sentinel Peak rock tower standing 10,384 ft (3165 m) in front of you. As you hit the initial series of switchbacks you’ll come to a sign pointing left toward a scenic overlook – take it! It’s short, but the views are stupendous!
Once back on the trail you’ll finish the set of switchbacks before you eventually traverse around the Sentinel tower, taking you toward the crux of the hike. As you traverse make sure to stop and take in the views!
The highlight of the hike comes around the 5 km (3 mile) mark when you enter a narrow gully and come face to face with the famed steel chain ladders. Each ladder is about 50 rungs high and includes handles to aid your grip. While the ladders are daunting to stand below, if you take your time to and carefully place each foot and hand, you’ll be on top in no time!
From the top of the ladders, the trail veers up and to the left, leading you out into a high altitude plateau along the riverbed. Follow the river (often dry) to the top of the Tugella Falls and try to absorb the outstanding views of the Drakensberg amphitheater of Royal Natal National Park.
If you decide to camp there are numerous spots. You can set up your tent along the riverbed, or ascend a little higher of river left, setting yourself up for beautiful sunrise views from the fly of your tent. If the weather takes a turn for the worse you can always hunker down in the stone hut that sits river right. It’s a great safe place to sit, make some tea/coffee and watch the afternoon storm roll through. During our trip we encountered hail, which is not too uncommon here.
Whether you decide to make it a day trip, or an overnight, Sentinel Peak will surely not disappoint. As with any high altitude hiking be sure to start early in the morning to avoid the afternoon thunderstorm, and remember to be prepared for all sorts of weather!
- Park Fees (30 Rand per car / 120 per person overnight camping)
- Day Pack
- Water (minimum 2 L)
- Rain gear
- Tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad (If camping)
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