Amatola trail is an amazing hike near Hogsback, a small town in Eastern Cape province, South Africa. The trail length is 100 km, it starts at Maden Dam and finishes in the town. You hike Amatola trail in 6 days and 5 nights, every night you sleep in a hut, average walking time 7 hours per day and distance between 14-20 km. In 6 days you walk through the rain forest, mountains and fields, pass many waterfalls, pools and look outs on the way. If you like hiking, exploring and observing the nature you’ll definitely enjoy Amatola trail. We hope our Amatola trail hiking guide will be helpful and inspiring for you to do this wonderful hike.
How to book Amatola trail?
You can book it directly through Amatola trails office as we tried first but it didn’t work for us. We phoned there and they promised to send an email with banking details that we could make a payment but we never got it. They aren’t opened at weekends we had to wait till Monday. In the end we booked and paid through Away with the fairies hostel it was easy and fast they booked the trail for us and the price was the same.
Cost of Amatola trail
The trek itself costs ZAR 1120/US$80 per person for six days, the price includes entrance fee and 5 nights accommodation on the trail (huts). To get to the starting point you can take a shuttle, the cheapest option is shared shuttle ZAR 165/$12 that leaves every day at 8.30 am from Away with the Fairies Hostel in Hogsback. On food for the hike we spent about ZAR 225/$16 per person. In total ZAR 1510/$110.
Where to stay in Hogsback?
Hogsback is the nearest town to the trail so most people stay there before and after the hike. As I said we booked Amatola trail through Away with the fairies hostel where we stayed for two nights. The place is amazing, beautiful, peaceful with nice vibe and very friendly people. For more info on Hogsback town itself, things to do there, places to stay go HERE.
What is the best time to hike Amatola trail?
You can hike the trail all year around though in winter (June to August) days are shorter and temperatures are lower. Snowfalls can occur high in the mountains. Summer months (December to February) are known as rainy months though its warmer than in winter and the days are longer but heavy rains can be a pain. December is as well a peak season due to Christmas holidays so it can be crowded and you’ll probably have to book a trail some time beforehand. October and November is good time for hiking; the weather is nice and there are very few people on the trail.
We did it at the end of November – beginning of December and were the only people on the trail. It was very easy to book we did it just 2 days before the hike. In 6 days we didn’t see any other hikers or even people (only locals from far away). The trail is well-marked and easy to follow just always check for yellow foot prints that you can find painted on trees or rocks.
Accommodation on the trail
Every night you sleep in a hut so no need to carry a tent and sleeping pad. All huts have beds with mattresses, showers, toilets, running water, fireplace, rubbish bin and outside or inside dining area. No electricity on the trail don’t expect to charge your devices or read with electric light.
What to pack for Amatola hike?
Good hiking shoes, we both had Hi-Tec hiking boots and were very happy with them. Long hiking pants (the trail goes through the bush), rain jacket, fleece, 2-3 T-shirts, flip-flops, sleeping clothes, 4-5 pairs of socks, cap/hat, sun glasses, swimming costume, underwear. If you hike in winter you’ll need more warm clothes.
Sleeping bag, depends when you hike we did it in summer and had light summer sleeping bags. Pots, stove, gas, cups, lighter, plates (we ate from pots lids), utensils, can opener (if you have any cans), water bottle, towel, firelighters (to make fire if you plan to use fire places), first aid kit, toilet paper, torch, sun screen, mosquito repelletn (we didn’t have many mosquitoes though), sponge to wash dishes, soap, tooth paste and brush, book or/and playing cards.
Every day for lunch we had biltong (dried meat) with crackers; for breakfast oats with sugar and coffee with cookies; for dinner spaghetti or instant mashed potatoes with a can of tuna and a can of curry beans/vegetables. We had just enough food and were quite hungry every day before dinner but the good thing about it was that our backpacks were quite light.
How to get to the starting point of Amatola trail?
The trail starts at Maden Dam which is about 1h30min. drive from Hogsback. There is no parking place near the entrance so most people take a shuttle bus from Hogsback. You can leave your car in Hogsback at safe parking of Away with the fairies hostel as we did. It’s free if you stay with them if not you pay ZAR 50/US$4 for the whole period.
Amatola trail hiking guide
Always follow yellow foot prints they are everywhere along the trail, you can see them every 50-100m.
Day 1. Maden Dam (starting point) – Gwili Gwili hut, 13 km, 5 hours.
Practical info for Day 1.
The start of Amatola trail is on the right side of the fence, don’t go through the gate, check for a yellow foot print on the tree;
At trail splits always take the right ones;
Long up, about 500 m, from Maden Dam to Gwili Gwili hut.
Our shuttle bus left at 8.30 am from the hostel and after 1h30min. drive we arrived at Maden Dam. There was nobody at the entrance we found foot prints and started walking. The first day is the shortest one only 13km but don’t let it fool you there is a long sometimes steep up from 600m to 1100m. First 3km were flat and easy through the indigenous forest with many small streams and rivers on the way where you can get fresh water. Then we had a steady uphill till 7km and from there steeper up all the way to Gwili Gwili hut. It took us just over 4 hours to get there with some short stops on the way to refill water bottles and take photos. We arrived at the hut at lunch time. This day you walk in the shadow of the forest no need to worry about the sun.
Gwili Gwili hut
A big wooden house with two bedrooms and one dining room with tables and benches. Each room has 10 beds with mattresses. There are two toilets, four showers and a donkey (hot water boiler) so you can get hot water. A big fire-place with enough wood to make a fire. The place is nice neat and clean and has a beautiful view over the hills and forest. Uphill behind the hut there is a dining table where you can eat breakfast and enjoy an amazing view. The main door can be locked from the inside as well as both rooms’ doors and the windows. In order to get running water open the valve on the left of the hut.
Day 2. Gwili Gwili hut, 19,6 km, 7,5 hours.
Practical info for Day 2.
Long but easy day not real ups mostly down but no steep neither long, about 200 m for the day;
Lack of drinking water on the way, make sure you bring enough water with you for the day, we had 2,5l and refiled twice on the way. The first stream is about 45 min. walk from Gwili Gwili and the next one is 15km later.
It was a long day. We started at 7.30 and arrived at Dontsa at 3 pm on the way we stopped several times for resting, lunch and photos.
The trail goes mainly through the indigenous forest sometimes through pine plantations. Many ups and downs but not very long or steep. On the first half there are several look outs with stunning views over the mountains and the valley. This day in the forest about 6km from Gwili Gwili hut we saw many Knysna Louries.
It is very similar to Gwili Gwili one; a big house with common dining area and four rooms with 4-5 beds each. Some beds didn’t have mattresses. There is a fire-place and some wood behind the house. As well as one shower and one toilet a bit away from the house. You can get hot water using a donkey (heater).
The hut is next to the gravel road that goes to the pine plantations. We saw workers driving away at 3 pm and driving back at 7.00 am next day after that there was nobody around. The main door can be locked from the inside, as well as the windows but the rooms’ doors don’t have locks.
Day 3. Dontsa hut – Cata hut, 19 km (or 16,8 km), 9 hours.
Practical info for Day 3.
Long ups and downs; first 500 m up, then 500 m down, then 300 m up;
First trail option at 5 km you can go over Doorn Kop mountain (harder) or around it (easier);
If you go over Doorn Kop always follow yellow foot prints it’s easy to confuse the trail with one of many cow paths there;
Second trail option at the bottom of Eseka Valley; Upper trail (shortest and easiest); Middle trail (a bit longer) and Lower trail (the longest and the hardest but the most beautiful through Waterfall Forest);
Refill your water bottles at the second waterfall from the hut next water source is hours away.
It was a long and quite tough day. We started at 7.30 am and arrived at Cata hut at 4.30 pm but we stopped several times for swimming, lunch and photos. During this day we had two long ups and one long down.
The first up starts right at the beginning after the first waterfall and continues till the second waterfall and a bit more further. Here we saw many monkeys. At 5 km there is a split we took the right path that goes over the top of Doorn Kop. The view from there was stunning. After the top you start long descend to Eseka Valley. On the way down we saw many dassies running around and Black Eagles gliding above.
Once at the bottom you have three options; to take upper, middle or bottom paths. We took the bottom one that goes through Waterfall Forest. It’s the longest and the most difficult though the most beautiful way. We saw many small and big waterfalls the last two were especially beautiful. After the waterfalls you have quite long steep up to the hut. If you arrive early enough and aren’t very tired you can go and check some pools that are 5-10 min. walk from Cata hut towards Mnyameni.
The hut has four rooms each with four bunk beds with mattresses. There is a toilet and a shower with donkey for heating water outside. An old half-destroyed brick hut is now serves as a dining room and fire-place. The hut is in the middle of nowhere between mountains and fields. The entrance door and the windows can be locked from the inside, rooms’ doors have no locks. The hut’s roof makes a lot of noise especially if the wind blows.
Day 4. Cata hut – Mnyameni hut, 13,5 km, 8 hours.
Practical info for Day 4.
First 5 km steep up, about 500 m;
Half way up there is a short cut in case the weather is not nice or you feel tired;
After up you have long down, about 800 m, till you reach the hut;
Sunscreen, a hat and sun glasses are must you walk all day in the sun;
Prepare a swimming costume there are many nice falls and pools;
Refill your water bottle in one of the waterfalls in the beginning you’ll need it for a long climb up.
We started a bit late at 8 am because the walking day promised to be short. Right from the beginning we had a long and quite steep ascend all the way to the top of the mountains. On the way we passed several waterfalls with nice pools for swimming. The view from the top was amazing! Here we saw many Black Eagles gliding around the cliffs and many other smaller birds.
From the top we started descend first to the pasture fields with some stunning views over the canyon. Again we saw many eagles here gliding along the canyon as well as dassies running away like crazy.
After a short flat part there was a second descend for the day, down to the river, about 3,5 km to Mnyameni hut. We walked through the forest with many beautiful waterfalls with pools. That was the main reason why we took so long we stopped at every second pool for a short dip and photos. Over all the fourth day was the most impressive for us.
It is very similar to Cata hut just everything is a bit more dilapidated and unattended. When we were here there was no running water so no shower or washing. Luckily there is a river right next to the hut we could get some water for cooking and drinking. The hut has four rooms with bunk beds and mattresses, toilet, shower and fire-place are outside. The lock at one entrance door was broken so we used a big log to keep it closed. The windows can be locked from the inside but the rooms’ doors have no locks. This hut was the hottest we had to leave windows opened for some fresh air. The hut is in the middle of nowhere no road or houses nearby.
Day 5. Mnyameni hut – Zingcuka hut, 18,2 km, 8 hours.
Practical info for Day 5.
First 2 hours uphill, about 300 m;
Last 2 km down all the way to the hut, quite steep in the beginning;
Use sunscreen, hat and sun glasses;
Long hiking pants and long sleeve shirt is preferable some parts you walk through the bushes with thorns;
At Zingcuka hut to get running water open a valve (behind the shower).
This day we started earlier at 7.00 am in order to have more time for swimming in pools and arrived at Zingcuka hut at 3 pm. First two hours or so it was quite steep up through the bush. Here for the first time on the trail we heard and saw baboons, they we screaming at us from far but never came closer or bothered us.
Once the up is finished here comes the most beautiful part of the day many waterfalls with nice pools for swimming. Near the first fall we saw a deer in the forest. The best were the first and the third waterfalls. In total there are about five or six but not all are easy to access. After the last waterfall you walk about 2-2,5 hours to the hut. This day we again saw no other persons.
It is located in the forest, in a beautiful and tranquil place, there is no road access to it. The hut has two big rooms with 10 beds with mattresses each, two showers, one toilet, open air dinning area and a fire place. We tried to use donkey to get hot water in the shower but it didn’t really work. The doors of both rooms have no locks so we had to move one bunk bed to keep it secured.
Day 6. Zingcuka hut – Hogsback, 16,5 km, 7 hours.
Practical info for Day 6.
Long and steep up, about 800 m;
Long and steep down for 700m;
The last place you can refill your water bottles before the steep up is at the wooden bridge;
The end of the trail is 1,5 km from Hogsback where you walk along the gravel road for about 30 min.
We wanted to see a bit of Hogsback before leaving the next day so we took an early start. We left the hut at 6.15 am. First little bit was down to the waterfall. There is a split 15 min. after the hut where you can choose to go down to the waterfall or just keep walking through the forest, we took the first option. Once down at the waterfalls it was time to start steep long up. Here you again have two options to climb over Hogsback 1 peak or to follow the gravel road and skip the tough part. We went over the peak though it was very cloudy in the morning but by the time we climbed it cleared up and we had an amazing views. It took us about 3,4 hours to get to the top and then 2 more hours down and to Hogsback.