Golden Gate Highlands National Park lies nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north-eastern Free State and is the only national park in the province.
The park is a natural habitat to a variety of mammals, including black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra. And while there’s no big game viewing on offer, the park makes up for it with the scenic views of the landscape and picturesque Maluti Mountains.
It’s a must-visit for bird-lovers as it is home to over 140 bird species which includes the rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis, which breed in the ledges of the sandstone cliff.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock. A sight to behold when visiting the park at sunrise or sunset.
The highest point in the park, Generaalskop, reveals a breathtaking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards evening, so pack your camera as an iPhone won’t do this view justice.
Places of interest at Golden Gate Highlands National Park include:
- the Van Reenen family graveyard
- the impressive Brandwag buttress rock formation
- a bird hide at the Langtoon Dam
- interesting lookout points and viewpoints – Zuluhoek lookout point, Generaalskop viewpoint, the third highest point in the park; Oribi basin and Drakensberg view.
The park is home to a variety of glorious hiking trails to choose from, depending on the fitness and age-groups of the hikers. The Ribbok Hiking Trail Golden Gate Highlands National Park This two-day, one-night trail can take a maximum of 18 people per group to the very top of Brandwag Buttress.
Undeservedly low on the parks-to-visit pecking order, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a great day out for the whole family, with stunning views of some of the most beautiful landscapes South Africa has to offer.