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3 Day Slackpacking Trail in the Eastern Cape Highlands

Join us for a four night hiking holiday in the beautiful Eastern Cape Highlands.
Tail end of the Southern Drakensberg, the area is a true mountain wilderness with summits reaching over 2,500 metres.  Enjoy three days of high altitude hiking, carrying only a light daypack, whilst evenings are spent relaxing in cosy farmhouse accommodation accompanied by a roaring log fire. Feast on hearty home-cooked meals which will include locally farmed lamb and beef - some of the finest in the country!

The Eastern Cape Highlands is often referred to as "the Wild Side of the Drakensberg" and is growing in popularity as a safe and uncommercialised mountain destination with spectacular scenery. If the climbs don't take your breath away, then the views certainly will. Quench your thirst from the crystal clear streams and fill your lungs with the purest air imaginable.

General Trail Description

Daily hike distances average around 15km, but are adjusted according to the varying altitude which will range from 1,700m - 2,750m. This tour is aimed at persons with a reasonable level of fitness, who want to enjoy mountain hiking, but with the luxury of comfortable accommodation, good food and the freedom of carrying only a small daypack.

On any given day you will finish the hike by mid-afternoon, offering the chance for relaxation, swimming in a mountain stream, birdwatching, fly-fishing or a gentle stroll around the farm.

An optional day can be added to the itinerary for those who fancy an extra day's hiking or change of activity. Choose from mountain biking, horse riding, river rafting (in summer months), or a visit to a local rock art site.



Trip Duration Standard Package: 4 Nights / 3 Hike Days

* Extra Days can be included either as an additional hiking day, rest day or to try another activity such as mountain biking, horse riding or river rafting (in season).
Daily Distances Distances can be adjusted according to the needs of the group, but Standard Trail:
Day 1: 14km    Day 2: 16km    Day 3: 13km
Trail Grading  
Physical Fitness Grade 3: Hiking at high altitude with some steep ascents means that a reasonably good level of fitness is required. However, the pace is leisurely and sufficient breaks are taken as needs be.
Technicality Grade 2-3: As far as possible we stick to jeep tracks and sheep and cattle paths. Some veld walking and rocky ascents is unavoidable, however there is no rock-climbing, ladders or technical terrain.
Trail Terrain Mountainous terrain at high altitude and roads through valley farmlands. As far as possible we stick to jeep tracks and sheep and cattle paths but there are some sections of veld walking and rocky ascents. Some of the ascents and descents are steep, but these are taken much slower.
Accommodation Comfortable guest farm accommodation. Hot water showers & communal dining area. Couples will have their own rooms, some sharing of bathrooms will be required for larger groups. * Extra nights can be spent at any of the overnight stays.
Logistic Support This is a guided and fully-catered trail with inclusive daily luggage transfers.
Tour Highlights Pristine mountain environment with alpine flowers and over 230 species of birds, mountain views, swimming in crystal clear mountain streams, Rock art paintings, charming guest farm accommodation with relaxing gardens and excellent meals. The 'Lost in Time' atmosphere of Victorian Rhodes Village. Very safe area in terms of crime.
Other Activities Mountain biking, River Rafting (summer months only), Horse Riding, Fly-fishing for wild trout & yellowfish, Birding (over 230 species in region). Visits to rock art paintings, farm activities, 4x4 trails and scenic drives of the region's mountain passes.
Fauna & Flora The trail traverses a range of habitats from high alpine plateaus, highveld grasslands, sandstone cliffs and well-managed farmlands. Smaller wildlife can be spotted e.g. Mountain Reedbuck, Grysbok, black-backed jackal, baboons, caracal, dassies, porcupines as well as over 230 species of bird including black eagle, cape vulture, crested crane and bearded vulture.
Climate Clean and invigorating is the best way to describe the climate in the Eastern Cape Highlands and 4 well-marked seasons occur (see below re seasonality). A typical highland climate with moderate summers and cold winters. The region has summer rainfall with afternoon thunderstorms, so we always aim to finish the day's hike by 3pm. All that said, the only thing that is truly predictable about mountain weather..... is that it's totally unpredictable! Come prepared for all four seasons in one day. Layers are your best bet and good sun protection is essential. That may seem bizarre advice given our snowy winters, but 'high altitude=high UV' and you can get severe sunburn at any time.
Seasonality & Best Time Year In summer, days are typically hot and sunny, with regular late afternoon thunderstorms. This is the time of year to come if you want to take an optional river rafting trip. Autumn is a time to enjoy magnificent colours, with the grasses and trees decorated in splendid shades of gold's and reds. The days are pleasantly warm and sunny - ideal for hiking. Winter brings regular snowfalls and sub-zero temperatures overnight, although days can be quite pleasant. The high peaks may be snow-bound at this time of year, though alternative routes are available. In spring the landscape blooms with fresh green grass and wild flowers. Birding in the Eastern Cape Drakensberg at this time of year is exceptional and the farmlands are bursting with new life in the form of lambs and calves. Again, the spring climate is ideal for hiking.

Availability: Is generally not a problem OUTSIDE of popular public holiday periods.
Group Size Preferred min of 4 persons - maximum 12 persons. If you are a larger or smaller group please still enquire. We will have to make some modifications on the Standard Trail, but will be may to provide a customised alternative. Non-hikers are welcome to join the group, space permitting, and we can arrange for daily activities to keep them entertained.
Price / PP
Price Includes
  • 4 Nights Accommodation in quality guest farms selected for their beauty and tranquillity
  • Farmhouse Breakfasts and 3 course Dinners + Packed Lunches on all Hike Days
  • Guiding on all hike days
  • Transportation of luggage between overnight lodges
Price Excludes:
  • Own transport to/from starting point of the tour
  • Insurance for medical emergencies - it is recommended that you are on a hospital plan
  • Alcoholic/cool drinks and snacks. You are welcome to bring your own and we will happily transport 'the bar' and nibbles.
Optional Extra Activities: for additional days:

Horse Riding or River Rafting - additional R300pp
Hiking additional day - R150pp
Activity cost only, EXCLUDES extra night accommodation

The Highlands Hike is a 3 Day high altitude slackpacking trail through wild mountain territory. Averaging 15km/day it is aimed at hikers with moderate good fitness looking for a trail with charming scenery, comfortable lodgings, hearty country cuisine and the freedom to walk 'free' without a heavy backpack.


View Highlands Hiking Trail in a larger map

Highlands hike traverses forgotton valleys in the Southern Berg Meandering through the New England & Rhodes Valleys.

farm building in the Eastern Cape highlands Dilapidated Farm Buildings in Wild Mountain Country.

 fly fishermen fishing the rivers near Rhodes, Eastern Cape Fly fishing for wild trout in the Rhodes district.