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Policeman’s Helmet Hike from the Tugela Gorge car park.

Royal Natal National Park is part of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park world heritage site. The magnificent amphitheatre, flanked by the Eastern Buttress and the Sentinel, dominates the scenery, with the Policeman’s Helmet standing proud in the foreground. This sandstone structure is visible a long way a way and really is well named.

Distance : 10 to 12 kms return. Takes about 3 hours each way.

Altitude: 1,811

An easy hike and a good for spring flowers and children. There are 2,153 plant species in the park, 98 of which are endemic, including the rare Protea nubigena (cloud protea), found on high ridges in the Royal Natal National Park.

Start at the Tugela Gorge car park below Thendele camp and follow the Tugela Gorge trail. The trail goes past the ablution block through a section of forest. Pass the Tugela Gorge trail turn to the left and keep going straight. The Vemvaan River will be on your left. A short distance further, a path comes in from the Thendele camp on your right. Keep going, winding up above the river. Ignore a second path from the right (also from Thendele).

Follow the main trail for about 300 metres and then take a path to the left. You are now hiking up the Vemvaan Valley which is known for its protea and spring flowers.

The trail now swings to the left and begins to climb, eventually reaching the ridge with the Policeman’s Helmet; Follow the ridge to the Policeman’s Helmet.

To return you can either retrace your steps or take the more direct but much steeper track down. For the latter, walk to the end of the ridge facing Thendele camp. If you look down, you will see a small track zigzagging downhill. It connects with the trail coming from the Tugela Gorge just before the Vemvaan River. Cross the river and turn right onto the same trail you came in on earlier and head back to the car park. Cross the river and continue for about a kilometre to the car park.