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Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa,
place of golden beauty

The landscape of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa is characterized by massive, colourful sandstone formations, wooded ravines, indigenous grasslands under wonderful sunshine sky.


Dark caves and deep shelters displaying ancient rock paintings, all add to its mystery and splendour.

The Park derives its name from the spectacular shades of gold cast by the sun on its gigantic sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Sentinel rock formation, which keeps vigil over the main rest camp.

Below the cliffs the mountain slopes are covered in green vegetation and wild flowers.

The many ancient rock paintings in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, leave no doubt that the "Khoi" and the "san" people were the first inhabitants in the area.

They moved away when the Basotho people and later the European settlers arrived on the scene, amongst them the "Van Reenen" family. They had bought the farm "Vuurland" in the valley.

Learn more about the golden beauty of this fascinating national park:




The two rock formations forming the Golden Gate in the Golden Gate Highlands National park
The two rock formations forming the Golden Gate in the Golden Gate Highlands National park
copyright © South African tourism

General info,...

Impressed by two gigantic sandstone rocks gold-colouredby the late evening sun and standing 76 meters high forming a kind of a gateway, they called their new land "Golden Gate". In 1962 the “Golden Gate Highlands” region was proclaimed a National Park.

Landscape near the town of Clarens, 20km from the Golden gate park
Landscape near the town of Clarens, 20km from the Golden gate park
copyright © South African tourism

You will find the Golden Gate Highlands National Park situated in the rolling foothills of the Maluti mountains in the north-eastern Free State near the Lesotho border. It occupies a conveniently central position on the major tourist routes, 320km from Johannesburg, 390km from Durban and 305km from Bloemfontein.

The Park lies on the breathtaking scenic route from Ficksburg via Fouriesburg and Clarens to the Qua Qua National Park, with the picturesque town of Clarens only 20km away form the Park.The Caledon River forms the southern boundary between the Park and Lesotho. The nearest major towns are Betlehem and Harrismith, approximately 40km away.

Flowers in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Flowers in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Photograph by Marc Ashwell

The vegetation in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park consists mainly of indigenous grassland, with more then 50 grass species, each one having its own flowering time. Wild flowers put on a delightful springtime show in the Park when Watsonias, Arum Lilies, Red-hot Pokers and an array of bulbs and herbs burst into bloom.

There are beautiful indigenous trees in the secluded ravines, while Poplars and Willow trees line the banks of the Little Caledon river. Characteristic for the Park are the "Oldwood" (Ouhout) trees with their "old" appearance of twisted trunks and their flaking bark and silky-haired leaves. They are usually found above the 1000 meters elevation mark.

Burchell’s Zebra, a subspecies of the common or plains Zebra
Burchell’s Zebra, a subspecies of the common or plains Zebra
Photograph by Arno Meintjes

This beautiful 12,000 hectares of highland habitat is home to a number of wild animals ranging from the tiny Oribi to the Giant Eland and in between the Grey Rhebok, Common Duiker, Blesbok, Springbok, Steenbok, Mountain Reedbuck, Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest (Gnu) and Burchell’s Zebra.

Many nocturnal creatures such as Aardwolves, Porcupines and African wild cats also make their home here. More commonly seen are the Marsh and Cape Grey Mongooses, Spotted Genets, Striped Polecats, Black-backed Jackals, and, surprisingly, Cape Clawless Otters.

The Bearded Vulture
The Bearded Vulture
© SANParks.org

140 bird species have been identified in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The Park is the perfect place for observing a variety of raptors ranging from Black Eagles to Jackal Buzzards. Birds which are scarcely seen anymore, such as the Bearded Vulture, Cape Vulture and Bald Ibis can be found nesting on the rocky ledges of the steep sandstone cliffs.

Closer to the ground, keep and eye out for Blue Cranes, South Africa’s national bird, which is also rare and for common Guinea Fowls. When hiking across the grass-covered hillsides you may well spot the long-legged Secretary bird. A visit to hide at the Vulture restaurant where bird lovers can view the rare Bearded Vulture and others from nearby, is a "most do".

Skeleton of the massospondylus at the Natural History Museum in London
Skeleton of the massospondylus at the Natural History Museum in London

Dinosaurs did occur in the area and the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is world renowned for one of the first finds of fossilised Dinosaur eggs in 1978. These eggs were said to be from the "Triassic Period", about 220 to 195 million years ago, containing fossilised foetal skeletons of the Massospondylus, a Prosauropod Dinosaur.

More examples of these eggs have since been found in the park. Other fossils found in the park include those of advanced Cynodontia (canine toothed animals), small Thecodontia (animals with teeth set firmly in the jaw), bird-like and crocodile-like Dinosaurs.

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Maps,...

The map below shows South Africa with the locations of all its National Parks. Number 8 is the location of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State province

1 Mapungubwe 6 Augrabies Falls 11 Karoo 16 Bontebok
2 Marakele 7 Mokala 12 Camdeboo 17 Wilderness
3 Kruger 8 Golden Gate 13 Mountain Zebra 18 Knysna
4 Kgalagadi 9 Namaqua 14 Table Mountain 19 Tsitsikamma
5 /Ai-/Ais/Richtersveld 10 Tankwa 15 Agulhas 20 Garden Route
21 Addo Elephant 22 West Coast 23 iSimangaliso Wetlands

The map below shows South Africa with the marker indicating the location of the Golden Gate Highlands National park.

If you zoom in, you will see a close up view of the Park

Tips for navigating the map

  • Use the plus/minus button in the left-hand bottom corner or the the scroll wheel of your mouse to zoom in and out.
  • Alternatively, put the mouse cursor on any location on the map that you want to explore and click repeatedly with the left hand mouse button to zoom in or out, without moving the mouse.
  • Moving the mouse cursor on the map with the left hand mouse button clicked in, will allow you to move the map up and down and left and right.
  • The button on the left in the title bar at the top will take you to a satellite view of the map
  • The button on the far right in the title bar will take you to a larger map
  • Click on the refresh button of your browser to return to the original map.


Tips for navigating the map

  • Use the plus/minus button in the left-hand bottom corner or the the scroll wheel of your mouse to zoom in and out.
  • Alternatively, put the mouse cursor on any location on the map that you want to explore and click repeatedly with the left hand mouse button to zoom in or out, without moving the mouse.
  • Moving the mouse cursor on the map with the left hand mouse button clicked in, will allow you to move the map up and down and left and right.
  • The button on the left in the title bar at the top will take you to a satellite view of the map
  • The button on the far right in the title bar will take you to a larger map
  • Click on the refresh button of your browser to return to the original map.

Click Here to view a map of the Glen Reenen rest camp (© SANParks.org) in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, showing its internal lay-out and infrastructure.

Click Here to view a map of the Highlands Mountain Retreat rest camp (© SANParks.org) in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, showing its internal lay-out and infrastructure.

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Accommodation,...

Click on any of the rest camps below to find out more about each one's accommodation facilities.



Rondawel in the Glen Reenen rest camp decorated in the traditional Basotho way - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Rondawel in the Glen Reenen rest camp decorated in the traditional Basotho way - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
copyright © South African tourism

Overview

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park offers a large variety of accommodation, ranging from luxury Hotel suites and self-catering Cottages to scenic and comfortable camping and caravan sites. Hotel accommodation, as well as cottages, are available at the luxury Brandwag Hotel and rest camp.

Fully equipped self-catering bungalows and cottages which can accommodate a maximum of four people, can be found at the Glen Reenen rest camp, while youth groups will feel at home in the four dormitories that can sleep up to 92 people at the Wilgenhof Environmental Education Centre.

Traditional Basotho house decoration
Traditional Basotho house decoration
copyright © South African tourism

There is also a beautiful refurbished farmhouse called Noord Brabant Guest House near the western entrance to the park. The QwaQwa rest camp near the Basotho Cultural Village should be opening soon, with traditional rondavels in a very rural setting (but still with all modern comforts) with great views over the plains.

The Highlands Mountain Retreat rest camp is really something special. Right up at 2260m, the chalets open out onto the most amazing views right across to Harrismith, 60kms away. It is so high that when weather conditions are right, you can look out over a sea of clouds below. The snow up there in winter is something to see as well.

The Brandwag Hotel and rest camp in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
The Brandwag Hotel and rest camp in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
copyright © South African tourism

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Glen Reenen rest camp (© SANParks.org)

Rondavels, Longdavels and Guest Cottages with either one double and two single beds or two single and one stack bed, bathroom (shower) and kitchen with basic equipment. There is also a great campsite at Glen Reenen with shady sites, next to the Little Caledon river in amongst the mountains.

The Glen Reenen rest camp accommodation comprises the following;
    Camp Site (CK6) - No power

    Camp Site (CK6P) - PowerPoint
Golden Gate landscape with the Glen Reenen camping site down below
Golden Gate landscape with the Glen Reenen camping site down below
copyright © South African tourism

    Rondavel (HKD4)...1 double bedroom, 2 single beds on a loft, Kitchen, Wc and shower.

    Rondavel (HKB2)...1 bedroom with double bed, Kitchen, Wc and shower.

    Longdavel (LD2)...2 single beds, Barbeque Facilities, Kitchen, Television, Wc and shower.

    Longdavel (LD2D)...1 double bed, Barbeque Facilities, Kitchen, Television, Wc and shower.

    Family Cottage (FA4D)...1 bedroom with double bed, 1 stack bed (sleeps 2), Barbeque Facilities, Fireplace, Kitchen, Television, Wc and shower.
Rondavels in the Glen Reenen rest camp decorated with the traditional painting of the Basotho people - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Rondavels in the Glen Reenen rest camp decorated with the traditional painting of the Basotho people - Golden Gate Highlands National Park

    Family Cottage (FA4B)...1 bedroom with 2 single beds, 1 bedroom with double bed, Barbeque Facilities, Fireplace, Kitchen, Television, Wc and shower.

    Family Cottage (FA4)...1 bedroom with 2 single beds, 1 bedroom with double bed, 2 en-suite bathrooms (w/c and shower), Barbeque Facilities, Fireplace, Kitchen, Television.

    Farm House (GH6)...1 bedroom with 3 single beds, 1 bedroom with double bed, 1 sleeping couch in living room, Kitchen, Lounge/dining room with fireplace, Six kilometres from Glen Reenen Rest Camp, Vehicles with high ground clearance recommended, Wc and bath, Wc and shower.
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Brandwag Hotel resort

The Golden Gate Brandwag Hotel is a unique retreat situated in the heart of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the scenic north-eastern Free State. The Hotel offers luxury and comfortable accommodation with unequalled views in the self catering chalets and in the hotel rooms.

Chalets at the Brandwag Hotel resort
Chalets at the Brandwag Hotel resort
copyright © South African tourism

    Chalet (Ch2/4b)...1 bedroom with double bed, 2 single beds, Barbeque Facilities, Fully equipped open plan kitchen, Hairdryer, Telephone, Television, Under roof parking for one vehicle per unit, Wc and bath.

    Chalet (Ch2/4s)...1 bedroom with double bed, 2 single beds, Barbeque Facilities, Fully equipped open plan kitchen, Hairdryer, Telephone, Television, Under roof parking for one vehicle per unit, Wc and shower.

    Chalet (Ch2/4z)...1 bedroom with double bed, 2 single beds, Barbeque Facilities, Fully equipped open plan kitchen, Hairdryer, Telephone, Television, Under roof parking for one vehicle per unit, Unit accessible to the mobility challenged, Wc and shower.

    Twin Room...bedroom with 2 single beds, Breakfast included, Hairdryer, Kettle, cups and coffee &amp; tea, Small balcony, Telephone, Television, Wc and bath.
The Brandwag Hotel in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
The Brandwag Hotel in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
copyright © South African tourism

    Family Room...1 Room with two double beds, Breakfast included, Hairdryer, Kettle, cups and coffee &amp; tea, Small balcony, Telephone, Television, Wc and bath.

    Double Room (B)...1 bedroom with double bed, Breakfast included, Hairdryer, Kettle, cups and coffee &amp; tea, Small balcony, Telephone, Television, Wc and bath.

    Double Room (S)...1 bedroom with double bed, Breakfast included, Hairdryer, Kettle, cups and coffee & tea, Small balcony, Telephone, Television, Wc and shower.

    Suite...Breakfast included, Hairdryer, Kettle, cups and coffee & tea, King Size Bed, Private lounge with bar (unstocked) and fridge, Small balcony with view over mountains, Telephone, Television, Wc, shower and bath.
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Highlands MountainRetreat

The recently released Highlands Mountain Retreat, is a luxury camp in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park that has certainly been worth the wait. The eight luxury log cabins nestling in the foothills of Golden Gate, can accommodate 4 families of 4 each (2 bedrooms each en-suite) and 4 that can accommodate 2 persons each (1 bedroom), making this camp, a definite "must visit".

Log cabin at the Highlands Mountain Retreat in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Log cabin at the Highlands Mountain Retreat in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
© SANParks.org
    Log Cottage (FT2/4)...Check-in at Glen Reenen Reception, Double Sleeper Couch, not suitable for adults, Fireplace, Kitchen, One bedroom with double bed, One en-suite bathroom (wc and shower), Television, Verandah with Weber "braai" (barbecue).

    Family Log Cottage (FT4...)Check-in at Glen Reenen Reception, Fireplace, Kitchen, One bedroom with 2 single beds, One bedroom with double bed, Television, Two bathrooms (en-suite, with wc and shower), Verandah with Weber braai.
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Wilgenhof Environmental Education Centre

Wilgenhof Environmental Education Centre has been offering professional and dynamic educational programmes for over 20 years. The well-maintained facilities include a large hall with kitchen and accommodation for 92 people. The Centre is located in a beautiful setting overlooking the Golden Gate Park and the mighty peaks of Ribbokkop and Snow Hills. There is even a rock art site just a few minutes walk away.

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Facilities,...

The Brandwag (sentinel) rock formation near the entrance to Glen Reenen rest camp - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
The Brandwag (sentinel) rock formation near the entrance to Glen Reenen rest camp - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
copyright © South African tourism

The rest camps have wonderful facilities to make you feel welcome and ensure that you enjoy your visit. Excellent restaurants and coffee shops will cater for your needs at all times. There are shops that sell basic necessities and also scenic picnic sites where the guests can enjoy their meals whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery around them at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

The camping and caravan sites are equipped with excellent ablution and barbecue facilities. The facilities at Glen Reenen include a shop, a filling station, natural swimming pool and a picnic area for day visitors, next to the range of self-catering facilities available inside the bungalows and the cottages.

Close up of a Bearded Vulture
Close up of a Bearded Vulture
copyright © South African tourism

Facilities at the Brandwag Hotel and rest camp include a restaurant and bar, coffee shop and curio shop. A picnic spot is available for day visitors, while conference and banqueting facilities cater for up to 150 guests. The Hotel has a variety of guest services available, including babysitting, safety deposit boxes, laundry service and open and undercover parking.

Conference facilities are available at three separate conference venues, complete with central heating and panoramic views of the impressive sandstone cliffs. Between 15 and 120 delegates can be seated.

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Activities,...

Great Bird and Game viewing to be enjoyed from the comfort of your vehicle. You will spot many species of animals like the Burchell's Zebra and Red hartebeest amongst others. The courses offered by the Wilgenhof Environmental Education Centre will help you to learn more about the wildlife and surroundings in the Park.

Some 140 bird species have been identified in the park, including the rare Bearded Vulture, Bald Ibis and Black Eagle. A hide at the vulture restaurant enables bird lovers to observe these scavengers closely without being detected.

Burchell’s Zebra, a sub species of the common or plains Zebra - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Burchell’s Zebra, a sub species of the common or plains Zebra - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Photograph by Arno Meintjes

Fantastic scenery with amazing views. The "Zuluhoek" lookout point, "Generaalskop" viewpoint, the third highest point in the Park and the "Oribi basin" are some of the top spots offering you exceptional views of the scenery with great photographic opportunities, allowing you to take home your memories and share them with friends and family.

For those who enjoy history and culture, visiting the impressive and ancient "San" rock art sites will be a highly educating and memorable experience. Some of these paintings are so lifelike that you can almost feel the presence of the ancient painter.

Canoeing in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Canoeing in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
copyright © South African tourism

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a hikers paradise. A visit to the park should always include at least one leisurely walk along one of its winding nature trails, some of which start at the Glen Reenen camping site. There are many hikes available, ranging from easy to difficult.

Most of the day hikes are no too challenging, offering some stunning views. The Brandwag Buttress, Echo Ravine and Mushroom Rock hiking trails for instance, offer a great display of the Park’s scenery and geology. They all start from the Glen Reenen rest camp.

Starting point of the Rhebok Hiking Trail
point of the Rhebok Hiking Trail
Photograph by Mike Gerhardt

For the fit and not so fainthearted visitors, there is the two days and one night 31km Rhebok hiking trail. According to many visitors this trail gives you the best views in the park, such as the place called Lesotho View at the highest point of the trail and the vista across the Caledon river into Lesotho, which is just amazing.

The Maluti mountains rise right up to the clouds (and beyond!) and a picnic up there is accompanied by Jackal Buzzards, Rhebok sightings and the faint jingling noise of the cow-bells from just over the border, absolutely magic.

Horse riding in the mountains
Horse riding in the mountains
copyright © South African tourism

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Climate,...

Located in the eastern highveld region of South Africa in the north-east of the Free State province, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park experiences a dry and sunny climate during the winter period June to August. Average daily winter temperatures vary from a maximum of 16°C during the day to a minimum of -2°C at night, sometimes dropping as low as -9°C to -15°C, with frequent snow falls.

Snow on the Maluti mountains
Snow on the Maluti mountains
copyright © South African tourism

The summers are mild, often with thunderstorms in the afternoon. Average daily summer temperatures during the period October to April vary from 27°C during the day to 13°C at night. The Park primarily falls in the summer rainfall area (September to April) and the annual rainfall is approximately 760mm per year. In very wet years this figure can rise to 1250mm.

Sentinel (Brandwag) rock in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Sentinel (Brandwag) rock in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
copyright © South African tourism

The Searchable and interactive weather indicator below delivers weather condition, temperature, pressure, and wind information of the town of Betlehem, nearest weather station to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, about 40km away.

It tells the time, changes colours depending on weather severity (the blue bar turns red to indicate importance), and allows you to instantly click over to detailed forecast information, radar images, and travel information.

Should the weather conditions being reported in this indicator show severe weather or weather warnings, the blue bar the top becomes red to draw attention. To top it all off, there's a search box that will let you jump to any location of your choosing.

Accommodation availability,...

Bald Ibis with her young
Bald Ibis with her young

Click on the name of one of the three rest camps in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park below, to view the Accommodation availability page of the South African National Parks organization’s (SANparks) website. It will show you the accommodation available for that particular rest camp on any given date.

  • If you click on the accommodation type, you will see the facilities and content of that particular accommodation unit.


  • The accommodation code enables you to book a specific type of accommodation - if you provide it with your request for booking.


  • The figure between the square brackets [ ] is the number of units at the specific time and date of visit to the accommodation availability page.


  • Please Note that the information is updated and therefore changing real-time on a continuous basis and that requests for reservations are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
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Tariffs,...

Landscape in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Landscape in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
copyright © South African tourism

Go to SANParks.org to view the tariffs applicable for the Golden Gate Highlands National Park on the official tariff page of the South African National Parks (SANparks) website.

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Reservations,...

The Eland, largest of the Antelope species - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
The Eland, largest of the Antelope species - Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Go to SANParks.org to book your reservation for the Golden Gate Highlands National Park on the official reservations page of the South African National Parks organization's (SANparks) website.

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How to get there,...

Farmhouse near the town of Clarens - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Farmhouse near the town of Clarens - Golden Gate Highlands National Park
copyright © South African tourism

BY AIR:

The domestic airports nearest to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park are situated at Johannesburg (320km), Bloemfontein (305km) and Durban (390km). From there you would have to travel by road, unless you charter a light aircraft to take you to a nearby landing strip.

BY ROAD:

Travelling by road it is a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg, 4 hours from Bloemfontein and 5 hours from Durban. The roads are all tarred and in excellent condition.






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