Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Located on the South African escarpment, Golden Gate is responsible for conserving some of the country’s last naturally-occurring grasslands, one of the most threatened biomes in the country. The golden sand-stone cliffs are the domain of the rare bald ibis and bearded vulture, while the veld below is home to the rare blesbok and oribi. There is plenty of San rock art, and some of the world’s oldest dinosaur embryos ever discovered come from this area. Size: 11 600 hectares. Situated near the town of Harrismith in the interior east of South Africa.


Blog posts

YITW 2013-14 – Golden Gate Highlands NP in summer

When the summer thunderstorms arrive, this protected area in the Free State province of South Africa turns into a green mountain paradise. The pristine grasslands are some of the last remaining in the country, with more than 50 species of grasses. This park is a vital water catchment area, supplying a large portion of the fresh water that flows into the Vaal and Orange Rivers. But for visitors, it's just a beautiful place, at a beautiful time of year...the tiny, colourful flowers are great to photograph with a macro lens.

Read more »

Hidden treasures revealed at Golden Gate National Park

If you drive the public road through the Golden Gate National Park, enjoying the tranquil scenery, it’s difficult to believe that the area was once a vast tropical floodplain, where dinosaurs roamed in their thousands.

In fact, this beautiful park is world famous among paleontologists because of the discovery in 1977 by Professor James Kitching of the oldest fossilized dinosaur eggs ever discovered, about 200 million years in age.

Not far from the park’s Glen Reenen restcamp, at a place called Rooidraai, workers were blasting into the hillside to build the new public road.  James was looking through the rubble, and found seven fossilized eggs, and when he was back in the lab studying them, he realized that two Read more »

Golden Gate under a blanket of snow

Park manager Johan Taljaard took these photos recently of the park under a blanket of snow...according to Johan, snow has been recorded every month of the year since weather records were kept...and the highest snow fall ever recorded was in January, the middle of summer! Just goes to show that you can never underestimate the weather up here. Thanks Johan for sharing these with me.

Read more »

Riding through a golden land

The plateau-topping Golden Gate National Park in the eastern Free State of South Africa is one of the smaller protected areas in the country – about 35 000 hectares, but it’s one of the most scenically beautiful, and one of the highest too.

The park is located on the northern border of Lesotho, which is the only country in the world whose altitude never falls below 1 000 metres. The nearby Drakensberg mountains are just to the south, and can be seen from the park’s spectacular Mountain Retreat log cabins, which have one of the best views I’ve seen on my journey.

Although the park has a distinct mountainous aura – thin air, big sky, cold winter weather including lots of snow – the landscape is more like a very Read more »