Golden Gate Highlands National Park – December 2012

Sandstone cliffs and rolling grasslands, painted in the warm golden glow of a Free State sunrise.

Golden Gate sunrise

Golden Gate sunrise

The Free State Province of South Africa has a reputation for being flat and featureless, and for the most part that is true. But in the east of the province the Maluti and Drakensberg mountain ranges rise to dizzying altitudes, and it is in the foothills of these majestic peaks that the Golden Gate Highlands National Park was proclaimed in September 1963.


Golden Gate scenery

Golden Gate is another of our favourite South African nature destinations and after a relaxed four hour drive from Pretoria we were overjoyed to be back at the quaint Glen Reenen Rest Camp, our home-away-from-home for three nights at the end of December 2012.


Glen Reenen


Glen Reenen


Glen Reenen

Glen Reenen, Golden Gate, December 2012

Rondawel in Glen Reenen

(Inside the Park accommodation is also available at the Golden Gate Hotel, the Highlands Mountain Retreat, and Basotho Cultural Village)

The mountainous landscape and grand sandstone rock formations, hundreds of millions of years old, is what Golden Gate is most famous for – with the iconic Brandwag Buttress standing guard over the Park being the star attraction.

Brandwag Buttress

Brandwag Buttress


Golden Gate scenery


Mushroom Rocks

This is a summer rainfall area and there was water in abundance throughout the Park during our visit – water as fresh, cool and crystal clear as only a mountain spring can produce.


The Little Caledon River


Mountain stream


Stream flowing past Glen Reenen


Pure mountain water

As with all mountain areas one needs to be mindful that the weather can change very quickly and misty mornings are a regular occurrence, making for hazardous driving along the Lichens Pass that snakes through the reserve.


Clouds rolling in over Golden Gate Highlands National Park


Misty valleys along Lichens Pass


The sun trying to break through heavy cloud

There are numerous scenic hiking trails of varying length and difficulty along which the park can be explored, and horse-trails are on offer for both novice and experienced riders. Two short, tarred game-viewing drives loop across the plateaus near Glen Reenen, while a recent addition that should prove very popular in years to come is a photographic hide built at the Park’s vulture restaurant where carcasses are laid out to supplement the diets of two endangered vulture species that occur in the Park: the Cape Griffon and the Bearded Vulture.


Scenic hiking trail


Vulture hide

Of course, the Park also harbours a variety of other birds and animals, all adapted to the highlands environment.


Black wildebeest, with Brandwag in the background


Black wildebeest




Baboons regularly forage through the camp


Secretary bird


Red hartebeest


This serval was a pleasant surprise


Plains Zebra


Black-backed Jackal, the most often encountered of Golden Gate’s carnivores


Grey rhebuck, a mountain-loving antelope endemic to South Africa

While at Golden Gate we posted some pictures on a daily basis – have a look if you’d like to see more:

26 December

27 December

28 December

Unusual rock formations

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park will remain close to our hearts for as long as those mighty golden cliffs and grassy peaks tower over the wooded valleys, rolling fields and crystal streams in their shadow below!


17 thoughts on “Golden Gate Highlands National Park – December 2012

  1. Pingback: Golden Gate Highlands National Park, July 2013 | de Wets Wild

  2. mjculverphotography

    Hi Dries and Marilize,

    Another beautiful post. Such great images take me back to the country that I love. I live vicariously through your blog as it transports me back to Africa. I was just explaining to Marks what our rest camps in these parks are like, and there was your post and I could just show him. Makes me so happy to be able to show him exactly what a rondawel looks like with the beauty of thatched roofs. Great captures on the animals as well. You guys truly do the country proud with your informative and well thought out blog. Lovely. Enjoy the weekend.

    Marks and Joey


    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks very much Friends!

      You’ve actually given us an idea now: to do another blogpost or two focusing on specific rest camps in the coming weeks: we did one months ago on Shingwedzi but nothing since, so it may be high time for another.

      Hope you have a great weekend as well!



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