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The Amatola Hiking Trail

Once upon a time the only thing tougher than hiking the Amatola Trail, was organising everything else you needed to hike the Amatola Trail!  No More!!!

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 truly 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. 

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About Us

Based at Away with the Fairies in Hogsback, we specialise in selling Packages which make the toughest hiking trail in South Africa a whole lot easier. A package includes a Hiking Permit (either for the 6 Day 5 Night Amatola Trail or the 2 Day 1 Night Zingcuka Loop), Pre and Post Hike Accommodation at Away with the Fairies, Shuttle to Maden Dam (the start of the Trail), Safe Parking and Hikers Assistance.  

If you require more than a regular package then please go to EXTRAS where you can choose things such as an Airport Pick up and Goodie Drop off, and a hopefully never to be used Extraction Service.  If you don’t need everything in the package, then you can pick and choose any part of it (but this works out more expensive than a discounted package!)

The concept is to book your package through Amatola Trails, and have your permits organised and waiting for you at Away with the Fairies the day before you begin the trail. Accommodation at Away with the Fairies the night before you start and on your return.  The shuttle to the start of the trail departs from Away with the Fairies and you can safely leave your vehicle with us for the duration of the hike. Hiker Assistance which entails giving a Map Briefing before you set off and then being on the end of a phone (or WhatsApp) in case of problems during the trail and assisting you in sorting any problems out.

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Trail Details Amatola Trail - 6 Day 5 Night - 100km - 4900m Ascent

Day 1: Maden Dam – Gwili Gwili Hut

11.9km, 763m Ascent

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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 worlds 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

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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.

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Day 3: Dontsa Hut – Cata Hut

20.62km, 1024m Ascent

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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 absolutely stunning Waterfall Forest.

Day 4: Cata Hut – Mnyameni Hut

14.56km, 634m Ascent

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The 2nd shortest day starts with a cheeky 600m steep ascent to the highest point reached on the trail – The Mighty Geju Peak (1880m). There is an alternate route which bypasses the peak if it is misty – but if not, the awesome views are worth the extra sweat.  Cross over a meteorite crash site and then begin the steep descent through the enchanted Malan forest (1000m of knee jarring pain) into the Mnyameni Gorge. Shorter 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).

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Day 5: Mnyameni Hut – Zingcuka 

19,42 km, 991m Ascent

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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

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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 absolutely incredible.

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Trail Details Zingcuka Loop - 2 Day 1 Night - 38km - 1896m Ascent

Day 1 – 22km – 1041m ascent

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Advanced

A WORLD CLASS DAYS HIKING. With more ascent than any of the 6 days of the Full Amatola Trail.  Set off from Away with the Fairies very early and hopefully get a lift along Wolf Ridge Road to (the end point of the 6-day trail / start of the 2-day trail) just past Madonna and Child Waterfall. Follow the stream up a ludicrously steep path and then hike between Hog 1 and Hog 2 Mountains. Follow the footprints to meet up with Day 5 of the Amatola Trail, following the stream to waterfalls and swimming holes. You then walk along the edge of a precarious cliff path with breath-taking views, and then down a steep precipice to the stunning indigenous Schwarzwald Forest and onto the Zingcuka Hut to overnight.

This day is around 22km, and very strenuous, through intense terrain and at high altitude. It must only be undertaken by fit and well prepared hikers. 

Beginner / Bad Weather

Depart Away with the Fairies, hike through the Auckland Nature Reserve, then around two contour paths with valley views, and down a forestry road through eucalyptus and then indigenous forest to get to the Zingcuka hut.

This route keeps a low altitude so avoids the worst of any inclement weather.

Day 2 – 16km – 855m ascent

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Advanced

Day 2 is the final day of the 6-day trail. Set off as early as you can, starting low in the indigenous forest at Zingcuka Hut and work your way up the back of Hog 1 Mountain. You skirt the side of the peak of the mountain then work your way down towards Hogsback. The views are unbelievable. Towards the end you find yourself following a stream down a steep mountain side with its many waterfalls and swimming pools to the end of the 6 day trail. Maybe opt to do Amatola+ which is to hike through the Auckland Nature Reserve visiting Madonna and Child, Bridal Veil and Swallow Tail Waterfalls and The Big Tree to end up in the Away with the Fairies Viewpoint. This makes a big day’s hike – huge. Alternatively follow Wolfridge Road back into Hogsback.

This is also a long day of hiking, over high altitude prone to adverse weather conditions and with a lot of hard hiking both up and down a mountain.  It’s as good as it sounds!

Beginner / Bad Weather Option

If the weather is bad on either Day 1 or Day 2 then the Beginner / Bad Weather option mentioned above is advised, even if you do it both days (day 2 in reverse from Zingcuka to Hogsback).

Both day 1 and day 2 are in high altitude (apart from the beginner / Bad Weather option) and will be in clouds if the weather is bad, so the main route of both days should only be attempted in perfect weather conditions. Both days are also extremely strenuous so should only be attempted by people with a reasonable level of fitness, with suitable hiking gear and carrying all their supplies.

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Packages Prices & Extras

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

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.
  1. Amatola – Striders En-Suite per person sharing – R2500 per person
  2. Amatola – Fairies Dorm- R2200 per person – Special Offer – R2100`
  3. Amatola – Camping Package – R1900 per person
  4. Amatola – Scholars* – Striders En-Suite per person sharing – R1700 per person
  5. Amatola – Scholars* – Fairies Dorm – R1400 per person  – Special Offer – R1300`
  6. Amatola – Scholars – Camping Package – R1100 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.

2 Day – 1 Night Zingcuka Loop

The Zingcuka Package includes the permit for the 2-day/ 1-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.
  1. Zingcuka – Striders En-Suite per person sharing – R1300 per person
  2. Zingcuka – Fairies Dorm – R1000 per person – Special Offer R900
  3. Zingcuka – Camping Package – R800 per person
  4. Zingcuka – Scholars* – Striders En-Suite per person sharing – R1000 per person
  5. Zingcuka – Scholars* – Fairies Dorm – R800 per person – Special Offer R725
  6. Zingcuka – Scholars* – Camping Package – R575 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.

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Terms & Conditions

Indemnity

Amatola Trails offers only a service and no physical product and works as an independent Booking Agent linking Hiking Permits, Accommodation, Shuttle Services, Parking Venues and offering advice for the Hikers Assist – and as such cannot be held responsible or liable for any injury, death, loss, cancellation or unforeseen circumstance coming from any of these products for whatever reason or under whatever circumstance. All advice given before, during or after the Amatola Trail is taken completely at the hikers own risk.

Cancellation Policy

Permits

COVID-19 – If the trail is not open when your hike is due to commence then it will be postponed to a future convenient date (as dictated as being available by The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries or if no such date is known then moved exactly one year into the future, at no penalty to the hiker.  We regret that no refunds of deposits are available. 

The regular cancellation process for permits is a long and tricky one involving lots of paperwork that needs to be processed. The 25% deposit paid upon booking is non-refundable under any circumstances.  Any payments made in full result in the extra 75% (over and above the deposit) is fully refundable if cancellation is made 30 days or more before the trail is due to commence.  Cancellation made within 30 days will result in all payments being lost.  Please remember that bookings can be postponed and the hikers can be transferred.

Conditions*

Click here to read conditions
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Friends of the Amatola Trail

With it’s world famous bath on the edge of a cliff and friendly staff Away With the Fairies Backpackers is your best destination for a fulfilling Hogsback experience.

Check out their website over here

Having moved from East London to Kleinemonde in January 2008 Dave saw the opportunity to start a canoe trail on the Kleinemonde West River. The canoe trail was established in October 2008

Check out some awesome hiking and canoe trails over here

Hiking South Africa aims to serve and grow the South African hiking community as a central, national community resource.

Check out Hiking South Africa here for info on all things related to hiking in South Africa

Join a network of conscious travelers and let Kamooni guide you through your adventure. It’s a easy way to find amazing destinations

look for their app on Google Play and iOS App Store

Let’s Hike – East London. True friends to the Amatola Trail

Check out their Facebook page over here

Images © Daniel Cornick © Charley Lewis © Mark Eifler
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