Things To Do in Monks CowlMonk's Cowl and Champagne Castle Hikes
Where? Start and finish at Monk's Cowl or Champagne Castle in the central Drakensberg of KwaZulu Natal.
When? Daylight Hours.
How much? Price on request
Start: Monk's Cowl or Champagne Castle, central Drakensberg
Finish: Monk's Cowl or Champagne Castle, central Drakensberg
Our tip: hikes in this area are particularly popular because Monk's Cowl is so close to Winterton
The area is known as the Champagne Valley, not least for its many waterfalls and spectacular scenery, and consists of three impressive peaks - Monk's Cowl, Cathkin and Champagne Castle.
Monk's Cowl and Champagne Castle resorts are relatively close to one another (1.7 km on the R600). Best to pick up a map from Monk's Cowl office as it details quite nicely the day hikes in the area.
The hikes below are mostly moderate day hikes:
An easy short walk from Champagne Castle Hotel and into a fern forest. It will take you an hour, at the most.
Reaching Injasuti from Monk's Cowl is an arduous full-day hike. There are various paths linking the two. One option is to hike from Injasuti up Van Heining's Pass, along Shada Ridge to the Vlei, on to Blindman's corner and then down to Monk's Cowl (you can do this in reverse as well). Another route, said to be the most difficult, is the contour path to Monk's Cowl and then on to Injasuti. You can also do the hike as two teams – one leaving Monk's Cowl, the other Injasuti, meeting half way to swop car keys. The route from Injasuthi has a well marked path.
Keith Bush Camp
It is a good seven-hour hike to get to Keith Bush Camp from Monk's Cowl, taking the path to Blindman's Corner and then along the contour path to Hlatikulu Neck. You then follow the path into the river valley, heading to the river and following its course until the base of Gray's Pass. Keith Bush camp is close by.
Mhlwazini Valley Trail
This is a good nine-hour hike from Monk's Cowl camp site. The route usually forms the first part of the Champagne Castle (a multi-day) hike via Gray's Pass.
Stable Cave Trail
The most popular route to reach the cave is via Jacob's Ladder, but one can also climb the Steilberg to the top of the little 'Berg to find Stable Cave - a massive overhang that was used on horse trails to overnight. The views from here out over the northern 'Berg are worth the climb.
Sterkspruit Falls (Nandies Falls)
Head off from the entrance, following the path to Sterkspruit falls, branching for Nandies Falls just before you reach them . The rock pools here are worth the effort. Takes three to four hours.
The Sphinx and Crystal Falls
This is an easy return walk that takes you past Crystal falls and up the Sphinx. You can add Breakfast stream to the mix as well, if you want to. To make it a little more difficult continue past the stream and on to Blind Man's Corner with incredible views out onto Wonder Valley. For an even more strenuous a hike, head back from Breakfast stream via Kirtland's Pass (taking roughly six hours).
Head uphill to the Sphinx (you reach the Sphinx after about 2 km), past Crystal Falls and up towards Blind Man's Corner (a good halfway mark). A gradual climb takes you to the highest point of the hike at Hlatikhulu Neck.
The path to Zulu Cave from here is indistinct and others have created alternatives through the bush. The Mhlwazini River, in the area, offers the respite of a quick swim. Zulu cave sleeps up to 10 people and is a good overnight option. It has a waterfall that falls in front of the cave – a good shower and water supply. Return via the same route.