Cathedral Peak Hike South Africa
Distance: ~14 Miles RT
Duration: All Day
View Factor: Absolutely Beautiful
Upon climbing Cathedral Peak in South Africa, I have determined this place to easily be entered into my top 10 most beautiful places on Earth if not top 1. The sun-rays shining through the jagged horizon and the rolling, grassy hills are not-of this planet and look like they belong in one of my dreams. What really adds to the splendor and impact of this environment is the complete absence of other-human presence. The benefit of being in Africa and a 7-hour drive from the city, through villages and dirt-roads, is that once you finally get here, you are alone. My brother and I were explaining to each other that if Cathedral Peak existed in America, it would be flooded with hundreds of thousands of visitors and its beauty would be diminished.
Plan lots of time to get here, as the drive through villages takes hours, depending on where you're coming from. The road is slow and full of school-kids, markets and speed bumps. It was hard to maintain a speed higher than 25 mph for dozens of miles as you get closer to the Drakensberg mountains/the base of Cathedral Peak. Once you get about 5 kilometers away from the trailhead, there are two, guarded gates you must drive through. There are friendly guards at each gate, and the price to enter is roughly 2-5 for the gates and 10-20 USD-equivalent for a hiking permit thing. Once you're through the gates, you arrive at an establishment called the Cathedral Peak Hotel. You are allowed to park here for free, though, you're not supposed to park here over night. Some guard guy and a guard dog woke us up at about 11 PM while we were trying to sleep in our car and told us we had to leave and where we could go instead. You are allowed to stay in your car 4 kilos down the road at the entrance to the first gate. (We slept there that night and drove North to Kruger Park early the next morning.)
Anyway, once we got to the Cathedral Peak trailhead to start our hike, it was already kinda late in the day, around noon. The sun was warm in a cloudless sky and got pretty hot as we hiked up in elevation throughout the day. Definitely bring a hat. I had a hat and covered my face in a scarf for most the hike. The sun was unrelenting at times but for the most part, the weather was very comfortable and perfect. (We did this hike in Early September.)
As we started our climb, right off the bat the trail got confusing and vanished. Eventually we figured out that we needed to cross a rocky small river. Once we got to the other side, the trail appeared again and was obvious for the next 2 miles. After some flat land, the hike starts to get vertical, sweaty, and hot. As we ascended, we got to a fork in the path and took the wrong direction to the right. This lead us to explore some cool caves, an oasis, and a small waterfall which we tried to climb to get back on the trail. Our efforts were fruitless and for the life of us, we could not get-up the cliffs and find the trail again. ..So we went all the way back to the fork in the trail and took the 'left' and after some hiking this path turned into the obvious route up the mountains.
We eventually made it up into the center of the mountains where the sun-rays shined like spotlights and the mountains surrounded us. At this point it became very obvious why this place was called 'Cathedral Peak.'
Because we started late in the day and spent a lot of time getting lost, the sun started to go down and we had to do the rest of the hike with our flashlights and didn't return to the base parking lot until late into the night. This was kinda spooky as this is African wilderness and we started wondering what type of animals frequently roam these areas. The day before this, we also climbed Sentinel Peak late into the night so we were both exhausted by the time we got done with Cathedral.
To see more of our trip to South Africa, check out my Instagram @1Lifeonearth
Have fun in the mountains, and remember your flashlights!