Giant's Cup Trail

I’m planning on walking the Giant’s Cup Trail in May 22 (North to South) and understand that you are not permitted to wild camp on this trail but must use the huts instead. A couple of questions:

  1. Is there also camping space available at the huts?
  2. If there is camping, does it require prior booking?
  3. Do you need to pre-book the trail permits or can you purchase them when you start, at Sani Pass/Makhahe Ranger post in my case?
  4. Does the Giant’s Cup Information Booklet still exist? The link on this site doesn’t seem to work.

Many thanks


Hi Mike

There is a proper campsite at Cobham (Pholela Hut/night one) and Garden Castle (Swiman Hut/night four). Both require booking in advance if you want to ensure you will get a space. You technically can camp near the other two huts - but it would be poor form to not book the huts but use their ablutions etc. There is a reason that wilderness camping is cheaper than a campsite or hut. If you pay for the huts and camp next to them, I don’t think anyone will have a problem with that.

Of course you can camp at spots that aren’t the designated ends of a day, such as on the Mzimude River instead of Swiman Hut, in which case that isn’t an issue.

If you are staying at the campsites or huts, you need to book in advance. If you are wilderness camping, you just need to buy your hiking permits before you start. You can’t buy hiking permits online, so you will need to get those at either Bushman’s Nek or Cobham before you start. You can book the huts online, though.

The start is at a sign on the Sani Road. It is very easy to miss - so remember that you will go through a large S-bend on the road and just after it you will see a staircase on the left with a small wooden sign at the top. The start of the trail is marked on google maps as well. I was last there in Feb last year, and they had just tarred to the start of the trail at the time - so access is much easier than it used to be.

The information booklet wasn’t overly helpful anyway. But have a look under the writeups on this site - Arno posted a detailed account of the route there. Here’s links to my writeups on the last few times I did the route as well:

Some important notes:

  1. All huts use the same combination on the locks. Make sure you get the combination before you start
  2. Mzimkhulwana Hut doesn’t have mattresses. So if you do decide to use the huts, just make sure you have some form of mattress for that night.
  3. Wintershoek Hut and Swiman Hut are both relatively close to restaurants, so you can go and get a nice supper on night 3 and 4 if you like.
  4. Baboons do sometimes raid the huts when they are left unlocked, so don’t think that leaving your food in the hut is safe.
  5. There are a few spots where people often lose the trail - the first is the unmarked left turn before you cross the river below Bamboo Mountain (south side of the ridge) and the second is the turnoff from the road which is next to the Castleburn Lake sign. The trail is marked with white footprints painted on the rock, if you haven’t seen one in a while, you are probably off route.
  6. Day 4 has no water till right at the end, so make sure you start the day with enough water. The other days are fine for water.

I have done the full trail 6 times, and parts of the trail many more times. If you have any further questions, please let me know.

That’s really useful so thanks for taking the time to get back to me.

You mentioned wilderness camping, I thought this was not permitted on the Giant’s Cup Trail? Have I got that wrong?


The general Drakensberg rule is that you can’t camp within 1km of a mountain hut or campsite without permission from the Officer in Charge. There are some official rules regarding the Giants Cup Trail, but the route is used to access certain other routes and thus these aren’t enforced.

If you are accessing the Pitsaneng or Stones Passes from Cobham, or the Mzimude or Wilsons Passes from either side, you have to use the Giants Cup Trail to approach them.

I have also often used the huts for overnight accommodation without doing the Giants Cup Trail. I have spent 3 or 4 days at Swiman Hut before.

The Giants Cup Trail is generally regarded as a regular hike by Ezemvelo - so they are usually very flexible with what they will allow. It’s not like the Otter Trail where you have to book months in advance and it is very heavily regulated.

Thanks again for your time, that was useful.

Sourcing hard facts/official line is proving tricky to say the least.


I get that - it is generally poorly marketed, which is why it isn’t nearly as popular as it should be. If I wanted to do the Giants Cup Trail next week with a group of 30 people, I could probably still book it today without trouble. For a high quality hutted trail with reasonably well maintained huts, that isn’t normal.

The Drakensberg in general is one of SA’s biggest gems, yet it gets surprisingly little tourism compared to capacity. Some things you will find in the Drakensberg:

  • Tugela Falls, depending on whose list you look at, either the highest or second highest waterfall on earth
  • Red Wall Falls, a 400m single drop waterfall off an overhanging cliff
  • Numerous other waterfalls, including multiple that are higher than 500m
  • Over 6000 documented cave paintings
  • Dinosaur footprints preserved in the rock
  • Over 140 documented passes in the high range (not counting passes in the lower range)
  • Various established hiking routes ranging from very easy (e.g. Rainbow Gorge) to very difficult (e.g. Ifidi Pass)