South Africa // Free State //

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park was designated for its outstanding beauty rather than its wildlife. Although eland, zebra, mountain reedbuck and black wildebeest roam the hillsides, the real attraction here is the unfettered space, eroded sandstone bastions and seamless blue skies. These rocks, grassy plateaus and incised valleys belong to the Drakensberg range, characterized here by spectacular yellow and red cliffs and overhangs.

A number of hour-long rambles into the sandstone ravines start from a direction board near the footbridge at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp. There aren’t many medium-length hikes in the park, the only exception being a sometimes steep and physically challenging half-day walk up Wodehouse Kop, which offers great views. The most strenuous hike, available for groups only, is the demanding two-day circular Rhebok Trail, which reaches the highest and lowest points of the park; hikers need to book the basic overnight accommodation through South African National Parks. In the summer you can swim in a natural waterfall pool close to the Glen Reenen campsite; other activities at Golden Gate include horseriding, fossil tours, scenic drives and hiking trails, all arranged via the Glen Reenen reception. For those quickly driving through, two asphalted loops signposted off the main road take in fields populated by zebra and antelope, a carcass-strewn vulture feeding spot, and stunning views of the highest peaks of the Drakensberg.

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