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The best time to hike the Drakensberg Mountains

May 23, 2023

“When is the best time to hike the Drakensberg Mountains?” we asked our ambassador, mountain guide Zee Ndaba. It turns out it is the most frequently asked question Zee receives.

She would smile and answer, “Any time!” According to Zee, any time of the year is suitable for hiking up the Drakensberg’s mountain passes as long as hikers know the possible conditions and are well-prepared and equipped.

Each season offers a different experience and unique views of the majestic Drakensberg.

So, according to the time of year, what should you expect during your hike in the Drakensberg Mountains?

Drakensberg in summer

Longer hot days mean more time to explore the lush green slopes of Drakensberg, and warmer temperatures at night make camping in the mountains pleasant. Summer is the rainy season in the Drakensberg Mountains, and thunderstorms may occur daily.

But, thanks to the rain, the seasonal rivers and waterfalls are at their best, perfect for those chasing waterfalls! There is also a high chance of seeing a rainbow over the escarpment once the dramatic cloudy skies open (any photographers here? 😉)

Hikers should look out for electric storms that occur around December. “We rarely cancel the hike due to bad weather conditions unless they become life-threatening. Electric storms are one of those moments when we may call the hike off,” says Zee.

Drakensberg in winter

Clear skies, cold temperatures, and a chance of snow are characteristics of the winter season in the Drakensberg Mountains.

The air may feel pleasantly warm on sunny days, but get ready for freezing temperatures at night, especially at higher altitudes.

There will almost certainly be no clouds obstructing the views of the mountains’ peaks and the night sky. On the other hand, due to little rain, the slopes of the mountains turn brown, Drakensberg’s rivers shrink into narrow streams, and seasonal waterfalls disappear.

However, the waterfalls flowing year-round can offer a unique view to the hikers who brave the cold. When the temperatures drop below zero, some waterfalls may freeze. Tugela Falls is one such waterfall that may get covered by long icicles, creating a fantastic winter wonderland feature.

Drakensberg in spring and autumn

“Spring and Autumn are my favourite seasons. The weather is the most stable during those months.” But even then, you can be surprised by unexpected changes in conditions. After all, you are heading up into the mountains, and there you can experience all four seasons in one day!

Growing up in the mountains, Zee learned to read the signs and tell what the weather would be like just by looking out the window in the morning. But even she can be taken aback occasionally by an unexpected weather turn. “Last year in October, we were surprised by the snowfall on top of the escarpment!”

Autumn is the peak hiking season. It is due to a mix of favourable hiking conditions and South Africa’s April holidays. During this time, Zee may spend weeks in a row up in the mountains, guiding groups. “For March and April hikes, I am getting booked as far as a year in advance,” Zee adds.

If you’d like to explore the Drakensberg during this time, especially in April, plan ahead to secure your guide and accommodation.

Please note that the Drakensberg Mountains cover a large area with varying elevations, and weather conditions can differ depending on the specific location within the mountain range. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check the local weather forecast and pack appropriate clothing and gear when visiting the area.

Are you in need of quality hiking gear? We have a wide range of outdoor clothing perfect for Drakensberg’s trails. Be sure to check them out!

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