Because of its various national parks, South Africa is a beautiful country for nature lovers. Golden Gate Highlands National Park in Free State is certainly no exception. The park gets its name from the sandstone cliffs that take on a golden-yellow glow in the evening sunlight. You can go on hikes with amazing panoramic viewpoints along the way, or take your rented car and drive several different loops to spot wildlife. The unique thing about this national park is that it’s relatively unknown; there’s a chance you won’t run into anybody while hiking.
Hiking trails in Golden Gate Highlands
The starting point for all hikes in Golden Gate Highlands NP is at ‘Glen Reenen Restcamp’; a beautifully situated camping, hotel, gas station and parking lot. This is also where you buy your permit that gives access to the national park. From this location, you can choose between six well-marked trails, five of which can be covered in under half a day. There’s also a multi-day trail of 33 km: the Ribbok hiking trail.
The Brandwag Buttress Trail is perhaps the most beautiful route among these short hikes. This hike of about an hour might not bring you right to the top of the mountain range, but it does offer an hour worth of beautiful panoramic views. You can easily spend two hours on the hike, so that you can take your time to enjoy all the beauty surrounding you along the way.
The well-marked trail eventually leads you to some steep stairs that you climb while holding on to a steel chain. Once you’ve reached the top, you can enjoy the view.
Spotting wildlife on the loops
Your park permit also gives you access to the two ‘loops’ in Golden Gate Highlands National Park. You can simply drive these loops with your rented car and spot various animals along these routes.
The Blesbok loop is a one-way loop of almost seven kilometers that takes you through a green landscape. As the name suggests, you can spot blesbok here, as well as animals such as zebra, right next to your car!
The four kilometers long Oribi loop is truly beautiful in and of itself, but the highlight of this route has to be the view of the Drakensberg. The Drakensberg marks the border between Lesotho, an independent country in the middle of South Africa, and South Africa itself. The 3482 m high mountains make you feel really small, as you’re surrounded by all of nature’s grandeur.
The Free State province
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park isn’t the only beautiful thing in this region; the whole area is actually well worth the visit. For example, check out our safari in Pilanesberg experience. The undiscovered South African province of Free State, with its capital ‘Bloemfontein’ has, together with the neighboring province of North West, so much to offer! Watch our inspiring video too: