Golden Gate Highlands National Park is located in the central part of western South Africa. It is in Free State, South Africa just north of Lesotho. The park covers an area of 130 square miles (340 sq km).
QwaQwa National Park became part of Golden Gate Highlands in 2004 creating one park for the combined larger area. The park is located in the Maluti Mountains with the Caledon River serving as the southern border of the park.
Ribbokkop is the highest summit in the national park reaching a height of 9,281 feet (2,829 m). The majority of vegetation is comprised of either highveld and montane grasslands. Other vegetation includes Afromontane forest and the ouhout with the latter being the most prevalent.
The park is not known for its wildlife; however, it is there. Blesbok, eland, reedbuck, oribi, wildebeest, springbok, and zebra take advantage of the grasslands for grazing. They roam freely in the park which is void of any real predators.
There are over 210 species of birds that either nest or migrate through the park. Bearded and Cape vultures along with the Verreaux’s eagle are some of the larger species. There are poisonous snakes including the puff adder and the mountain adder that people should watch for as they explore the area.
The park is more renowned for the pristine wilderness and the landscapes created by the beautiful sandstone cliffs and fellow rock outcrops.
The national park is not known for its wildlife, however, that can be an added bonus to those taking in the landscape. The magnificent rock cropping and astounding sandstone cliffs are the highlights of the landscape.
The name of the park was generated by the sandstone cliffs that frame the valley. The sandstone cliffs display and variegated orange and yellow colors across their rock faces that are scattered throughout the park.
Rockcrops blanket the area and combine with the cliffs to create striking panoramic landscapes. Exploration of the landscapes has also led to discoveries of dinosaur remains. This adds to the historical significance of the terrain.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park Trails
One of the best ways to experience the national park is through scenic drives that traverse the remarkable landscapes with a variety of vistas and panoramic views. There are hiking trails that allow travelers to engage the splendor of these endless rolling hills blanketed with beautiful sandstone cliffs and rock formations.
Mushroom Rock Trail
This is one of the easier trails in the park ascending 938 feet (285.90 m) while traveling 2.4-miles (3.86 km) through the terrain taking in the glorious landscapes.
The panoramic views are stunning after ascending the 439 feet (133.81 m) across the 1.3-mile (2.09 km) trail. The terrain is rugged and gives the short hike a moderate rating. The views are the pinnacle feature of the hike while there are also chances of seeing wildflowers along the way.
Echo Ravine Trail
This is a 1.4-mile (2.25 km) trail that features an ascent of 583 feet (177.70 m) that meanders along a creek. The journey provides chances to see wildlife as well as wildflowers. The trail is used primarily to escape into the outdoors.
Brandwag Buttress Trail
This is a moderate rated trail that ascends 459 feet (139.90 m) over 1.5 miles (2.41 km) to vistas that provide panoramic views of the stunning sandstone cliffs and protruding rock formations.
This is a challenging loop trail that ascends up 2,142 feet (652.88 m) while circling 5.6 miles (9.01 km) through the rugged cliffside terrain. There are chances to see wildlife as well as wildflowers during the right time of the year. This is a difficult rated trail and hikers should be more physically fit to embark on the excursion.
Golden Gate Highlands Highlights
- Sandstone cliffs
- Rock outcrops
- All Trails, Best Trails in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, https://www.alltrails.com/parks/south-africa/free-state--2/golden-gate-highlands-national-park, retrieved July 2020.
- Britannica, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, https://www.britannica.com/place/Golden-Gate-Highlands-National-Park, retrieved July 2020.
- Lonely Planet, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, https://www.lonelyplanet.com/south-africa/golden-gate-highlands-national-park, retrieved July 2020.
- South African National Parks, Golden Gate Highlands, https://www.sanparks.org/parks/golden_gate/, retrieved July 2020.
- Wildlife Worldwide, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, https://www.wildlifeworldwide.com/locations/golden-gate-highlands-national-park, retrieved July 2020.