Rugged Glen Nature Reserve, located in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is a hidden gem that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and history. Nestled just 4 kilometers from the Royal Natal gate, this relatively small reserve boasts a myriad of nature trails and world-class trout-fishing opportunities.
But Rugged Glen is not just about outdoor activities, it is also one of the most important archaeological areas in the country with evidence of human presence dating back to over a million years ago. The reserve is part of the Drakensberg uKhahlamba Park, a World Heritage Site that spans 243,000 hectares and stretches from Underberg in the south to Bergville in the north. This breathtakingly beautiful area is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Africa.
Rugged Glen Nature Reserve is home to two well-trodden hikes: the Forest walk and the Camel’s Hump. The Camel’s Hump, a rock formation that offers panoramic views of the reserve and the entire Drakensberg escarpment, is a must-visit for all nature enthusiasts. Other popular activities in the reserve include mountain climbing, birdwatching, and picnics.
The Rugged Glen Nature Reserve, which was once a farm of the same name, is situated in the upper reaches of the Drakensberg Ukhahlamba Park, a 200-kilometer-long wonderland that is renowned for its grandeur and natural beauty. The 150-million-year-old basalt mountain range, known as the ‘barrier of spiers’, will leave you awestruck with its incredible beauty, peace, quiet, and majesty.
Popular activities and tourist destinations at Rugged Glen Nature Reserve
Rugged Glen Nature Reserve is a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The reserve offers a wide range of activities to suit all interests and abilities, from easy nature walks to more challenging hikes and mountain climbs.
One of the most popular activities in Rugged Glen is trout-fishing. The reserve’s streams and rivers are home to some of the best trout-fishing in the region, and visitors can enjoy both fly-fishing and traditional angling. The reserve also has several well-maintained fishing dams that are open to visitors.
Hiking is another popular activity in Rugged Glen. The reserve has several nature trails that range from easy to moderate, including the Forest walk and the Camel’s Hump. The Forest walk is a gentle stroll through the reserve’s indigenous forest, while the Camel’s Hump is a more challenging hike that offers breathtaking views of the reserve and the Drakensberg escarpment.
Mountain climbing is another popular activity in Rugged Glen. The reserve is home to several peaks that offer challenging climbs for experienced mountaineers, including the Amphitheatre, which is the second-highest peak in the Drakensberg range. The reserve also offers guided climbs for those who are less experienced.
Birdwatching is also a popular activity in Rugged Glen. The reserve is home to a wide variety of bird species, including the endangered Cape parrot, the black eagle, and the bearded vulture. Visitors can also enjoy picnics in the reserve’s beautiful surroundings.
Phansi-Phezulu Horse Trail
Rugged Glen Nature Reserve is not only a popular destination for nature walks, hiking, and mountain climbing, but also for horseback riding. The Phansi-Phezulu Horse Trail, located near the reserve, offers visitors an opportunity to experience the beauty of the Drakensberg on horseback.
The Phansi-Phezulu Horse Trail is a 2-hour trail that takes riders through a verdant river valley, past a cave with a waterfall (in wetter months), and along the bubbling Putrill Stream. Along the way, riders will also pass a rock face where rock rabbits make their home. The trail then climbs the Montusi Ridge, offering panoramic views of both the High and Little ‘Berg.
Experienced riders will enjoy several good canters and a phenomenal gallop, as well as some technical riding. The trail is also suitable for beginners, as the horses are sure-footed and the pace can be adjusted to the rider’s comfort level. The trail is led by experienced grooms who take groups of up to ten riders.
Phansi-Phezulu Horse Trail is a great way to explore the beauty of the Drakensberg and Rugged Glen Nature Reserve. It offers an opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the reserve from a different perspective, and to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the area in a unique way. Horseback riding is a fun and exciting activity that is suitable for riders of all ages and abilities.
Cathedral Peak Hike
The rugged beauty of Rugged Glen Nature Reserve offers visitors a variety of outdoor activities to explore and experience. One popular destination for hikers is the Cathedral Peak hike, which starts and ends at the Cathedral Peak Hotel. This 19 km hike is not for the faint of heart, and requires a high level of fitness as it is an arduous climb. The trail winds through the lower berg, follows the Mhlambonja River, and then heads up a formidable ridge, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. There are sections of rock scrambling and walking on knife-edge ridges, making the hike a thrilling challenge for seasoned hikers. The summit of Cathedral Peak stands at 3005 meters above sea level and is surrounded by the towering peaks of the main Drakensberg escarpment. This area is also home to the Drakensberg’s largest indigenous forest and is considered the richest rock art area in the world, with over 4000 paintings found in 17 different sites. For those who prefer a guided hike, there are service providers who offer the option of breaking the hike over two days, with an overnight stay in one of the many caves in the area. Another popular activity in the area is the Phansi-Phezulu Horse Trail, where groomed horses take groups of up to ten riders on a 2-hour trail that descends into a verdant river valley, meanders past a cave, and climbs the Montusi Ridge for panoramic views of both the High and Little ‘Berg. Whether it’s hiking, horseback riding, or simply taking in the stunning views, Rugged Glen Nature Reserve has something for everyone to enjoy.
Sandford Park Restaurant
In addition to Rugged Glen, there are several other popular tourist destinations in the surrounding area. The Royal Natal National Park, which is adjacent to Rugged Glen, is a popular destination for hiking and camping. The park is home to the famous Tugela Falls, which is the second-highest waterfall in the world. The Drakensberg Boys Choir, located near the park, is also a popular destination for music lovers. The nearby towns of Underberg and Bergville are also popular destinations for visitors, with a variety of shops, restaurants, and accommodations.
The Drakensberg Ukhahlamba Park is also an outstanding center of plant diversity and is home to the world’s second-highest waterfall, the Tugela Falls, which adds yet another dimension of beauty to the park. Rugged Glen Nature Reserve is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and experience the beauty of nature.