Change in land use has had major impacts on natural resources. Mountain terrains and their associated natural resources are especially vulnerable to extensive changes in land use. We evaluated climate, demographic and socio-economic changes for two study areas in the Drakensberg Mountains, as possible drivers of land use change in each study area. The most notable change in land use within the study areas was the increase in urban areas despite the fact that the study areas are located within areas dominated with primary economic activities. Trends in climate change were not consistent between the various weather stations with the majority of the weather stations experiencing no significant changes in temperature and rainfall. Although there was a relatively slow positive population growth in the two study areas, it was not a main driver of the changes in land use. We found that socio-economic factors, including increased formal employment, income and migration to urban centres were much more important in driving land use change in these rural environments.