The Blyde River Canyon is right at home on every list of top places to visit in South Africa. This natural wonder is the second largest canyon in the world, trailing only the famous Grand Canyon in Arizona. Thanks to its remote location and lack of developed tourist infrastructure, it remains a relatively unknown destination. In this article, you’ll learn all about hiking on Blyde River Canyon and which trails are best for beginners, intermediates and advanced hikers.
Hiking Blyde River Canyon Basics
There are two things any hiker planning on hiking Blyde River Canyon should know. Firstly, the hike is divided into two sections. The first section ends at the halfway point of the canyon, and the second finishes at the end of the canyon. The second thing to know is that the Blyde River Canyon is one of the few places where a permit is required to hike.
The South African National Parks Authority (SA Parks) manages the Blyde River Canyon and various other national parks in South Africa. To hike in Blyde River Canyon, you’ll need to obtain a permit from the SA Parks website. This is more than just a “get out of jail free” card.
The permit is valid for five days and covers the whole southern Drakensberg range, including the Blyde River Canyon, Royal Natal National Park, and The Amphibian Trail in Prince Edward and Lesotho. The permit costs about $100 and can be purchased online. It’s good for up to six people, but there is a non-refundable fee per person. These fees cover the cost of conservation and also help to fund the park's authority.
Which trails are best for hikers?
The Blyde River Canyon offers a wide variety of hiking trails, all of which are suitable for hikers. The best trails for beginners are the Blyde River Canyon Hiking Trail, the Boulders Hiking Trail, and the Amphibian Trail. For intermediate hikers, the Midway and Upper Blyde Canyon Trails are good options. The more advanced hikes include the Blyde River End to End Trail and the Blyde River Canyon Trail.
Note: The Blyde River Canyon Hiking Trail, the Boulders Hiking Trail and the Amphibian Trail are all wheelchair-accessible. All trails are also suitable for prams and pushchairs.
The Best Time to Go Hiking in Blyde River Canyon
The Drakensberg range, and therefore the Blyde River Canyon, are mountainous areas that are prone to wild weather. Blyde River Canyon is especially sensitive to changes in temperature, and snowfall is common at the top of the canyon. For these reasons, it’s important to plan your hiking activities in Blyde River Canyon for the best time of year.
The best time of year for hiking in Blyde River Canyon is from October to April. During these months, the rain is less likely and it’s cooler than the warm summer months. The winter months from May to September are good for visiting Blyde River Canyon if you’re looking to enjoy some winter sports like snowshoeing, skiing, or cross-country skiing in the Drakensberg Mountains.
Blyde River Canyon hiking tips
- Take time to visit the Blyde River Canyon Scenic Drive. This 2-kilometer drive is a self-guided tour that’s a great way to get to know the canyon and its surroundings.
- The Blyde River Canyon is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the iconic African Buffalo. Keep a safe distance from all wild animals, and if you see a Buffalo on the road, let it cross.
- If you plan to hike the Blyde River Canyon Trail or End to End Trail, you’ll need to obtain a permit from the SA Parks website. These two trails are closed during the rainy season (June to September).
- All trails are also suitable for prams and pushchairs.
- The best time of year for hiking in Blyde River Canyon is from October to April.
- Take care to respect the local wildlife and nature, and use eco-friendly trail etiquette.
3 easy day hikes on Blyde River Canyon
- Blyde River Canyon Hiking Trail - The Blyde River Canyon hiking trail is a fantastic trail for all skill levels and abilities. It’s also wheelchair-accessible and is a great option for families and groups.
- Boulders Hiking Trail - The Boulders hiking trail is a stunning loop trail that takes you through a stunning landscape of colourful Blyde River Canyon. The trail is easy but offers stunning views.
- Amphibian Trail - The Amphibian Trail takes you on a challenging hike through the Blyde River Canyon. It’s a difficult trail but is rewarding and stunning.
2 moderate day hikes on Blyde River Canyon
- Midway Trail - The Midway Trail is a great hike that takes you on a challenging trail to the halfway point of Blyde River Canyon.
- Upper Blyde Canyon Trail - The Upper Blyde Canyon Trail is a demanding trail that leads you from the top of Blyde River Canyon to the bottom.
1 advanced day hike on Blyra River Canyon
- Blyde River Canyon Trail - The Blyde River Canyon Trail is a challenging trail that takes you from the top of Blyde River Canyon to the bottom. It’s an extremely demanding trail that’s best for experienced and fit hikers.