Duration: 5 to 6 hours
Total Distance: ±13.8km
Total height gain: ±772m
What makes this special: Mt Gilboa at 1765masl is one of the highest points in the KZN Midlands with an almost 360° uninterrupted view and home of the Grey Mares Tail Falls.
Route: The route forms part of the well-known 3 Crains Trail run that usually takes place in February every year. The walk starts at Shawswood farm, on the Karkloof road, which has been in the same family for a number of generations and the old stables have been converted into rooms and the kitchen-dining room was the old workshop. There is a small entrance fee payable before heading off and remember to just tell Bundy or Wendy of your plans for the day. Meeting Bundy Shaw is an experience as he has a wealth of knowledge about the area and its history. You can spend hours listening to his stories.
The walk starts from here and you walk first through the plantation before entering the indigenous forest. The path is well marked but you can take a wrong turn if you don’t take notice of your surroundings but once you are in the forest the path is easy to follow. The path goes uphill for most of the way. Luckily there is enough place to have a rest. In the forest look out for the elusive Knysna Turacan (Loerie), the Narina Trogon and very shy Samango Monkey. You will hear the monkeys as they hide and jump from tree to tree. Before long you will be out of the forest and as you exit the forest you will be greeted by the first breath taking view of the day. On the top of the plateau you will reach a junction, left leads you on to the ridge that eventually takes you to the top of Mt Gilboa, and right will take you to the top of the Grey Mares Tail Falls.
The falls is an impressive 100m drop and when standing at the edge to admire the view, take care as one may miss a step which can lead to a tragedy. There is a path that leads around and from here you have an unobstructed view of the total drop of the falls, and after good rainfall the falls is a sight to be seen.
The river crossing is a good spot to have a break and a number of cups of tea have been brewed at this spot.
Walking to the top of Mt Gilboa will take you about 1 ½ to 2 hours and is worth the effort and on a clear day you will have a view over the Midlands to Pietermaritzburg and turning around will give you a view from Devils Tooth to past Giants Castle. It is said that on a clear night you can see the glow of Durban from the top.
The walk back follows the same route that you took up and when going down take care as it can be quite slippery especially in the rainy season. Remember to pack a rain jacket, something warm, sunblock, water, snacks and some lunch, and don’t forget your sun hat as the weather can be a bit temperamental at times.
The alternative to walking to the top is to walk to the bottom of the falls. The route starts and follows the same route and in the plantation there is a right turn that will follow the plantation and leads you into the forest. The path enters the forest and once you are in the forest a well maintained path will lead you all the way to the top. The going gets a bit tricky and at one section there is a small scramble but once on top you can just pick your way up and over the rocks. From here it gets difficult, care needs to be taken as the rocks are very slippery and the path gets very iffy. A short rope is a good idea for the more adventurous and when reaching the end of the road you will be greeted by a water spray that falls 100m from the top. There is a small swimming hole under the falls, and the water is cold in winter or summer but worth the visit. Take care on returning and leave only your foot prints and carry all your trash out with you. This is not a nature reserve and it is up to us to maintain the environment and keep it pristine for others.