Only 20k from Clarens, The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is well known for its scenic beauty and interesting geology as well as its wildlife and birds. Click here to see the full list of mammals found in the park. Click here to see the list of birds found in the park  Click here to see the list of plants found in the park Self-drive: (Maps available at the Information Centre opposite Glen Reenen Rest Camp). The R712 connecting Harrismith to Clarens passes through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.   The route winds its way through Lichens Pass (2041m) past interesting sandstone rock formations.    The Golden Gate is aptly named, and makes for a scenic drive, especially in the late afternoon when the setting sun shows off the sandstone colours at their most vibrant. There are two loop roads off the R712 which are worth exploring:    The Blesbok Loop  (6.7km) features the Zuluhoek lookout point and Generaalskop view point.   The Oribi Loop (4.2km) offers views of the Drakensberg, and a stopping point at the Vulture Feeding hide.    For more information  See Self Drive route Clarens to Vulture Feeding Site. Activities: Hiking Choice of various hikes ranging from a 45 minute walk to the 2 day Rhebok Hiking Trail.  To read more about the hikes available in the Golden Gate National Park visit our Hiking page.  You will also find excellent descriptions of the unguided hikes written by Falko Buschke The Solitary Ecologist. Horseriding Golden gate offers 1 hour rides along a scenic trail within the park. Riders are escorted by a guide.   Morning (9h00, and 10h30) and afternoons (14h00). To book phone:  (058) 255 0951. Swimming There is a natural swimming pool near the Van Reenen’s Camp site.  (Ask at the information office.) Mountain Biking Cycle from Clarens and then take the Blesbok and Oribi Loops.  Tar all the way. (Click here for more information on Mountain Biking in the Clarens area) Basotho Cultural Village While you are in the park you should visit the Basotho Cultural Village.   Click here to find out more. Tours: The following companies offer tours in The Golden Gate Highlands National Park Maluti Tours Tour of Golden Gate (half day) which takes in parts of The Golden Gate Highlands National Park which are not open to the general public.   Lots of opportunity to photograph game and birds. A visit to the Basotho Cultural Village included. Contact details Clarens Xtreme Tours of the Golden Gate Hilghlands National Park and the Basotho Cultural Village.   Contact details Sethuthuthu Tours Game drive  (4×4 game viewing vehicle) through what used to be the Qua Qua National Park (which now forms part of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.)  A chance to explore one of the last untamed wilderness areas in the Free State. Lots of plains game to be seen.  Contact details  Further reading:   Golden Gate National Park (Article by Mary Walker) Golden Gate National Park Geology:  (Sanparks website) Life Lines: Layers of the Past in Stone   (Article Supplied by: Nikki Tilley – media@malotidrakensbergroute.com)Historical incidence of the larger mammals in the Free State Province and Lesotho (Clarens News) Exploring the Golden Gate with Maluti Tours (Clarens News)
 If beauty and the vastness of nature is what you seek, the Golden Gate Vulture Restaurant, located in the Oribi Loop in the Golden Gate National Park, is just the thing for you.  The drive of 58 km’s will spoil you with tremendously beautiful views of the Rooiberg and landscapes stretching as far as the Drakensberg. Leave Clarens on the R712  towards the Golden Gate National Park.  Continue straight and allow your eyes to follow the hypnotic lines of farmfields whilst the mountains overhead carry the whispers of ancient voices straight to your heart.  If you fancy some horse riding, why not stop at Bokpoort on the way, or if you have a rumbly tummy,  lunch at The Trout & Mallard (Kiara Lodge), Cafe Moulin, Di Bus Stop, Sugar & Cinnamon, or the Golden Gate Hotel. After 19 km’s you will reach the first Gate to the National Park. Friendly staff will kindly ask for your trip details and a short wait of 2-5 min can be expected. The majestic Golden Gate mountains have lured many from far and near and it’s golden splendor will surely be engraved in your memories for many more years to come. The Wilgenhof Enviro Centre which hosts learning camps will follow shortly after and at 20 km’s into the drive, the Van Reenen Family Graveyard can be visited on the left. Not far from the nostalgic graves is the Meriteng Picnic Site. The river, horses and mountains make the site the perfect treat for one and all.  The Golden Gate Hotel will peak its head out from the mountains as you enter Lichen’s pass at 2014m above sea level. Close by one can cross the Echo rivine to enjoy the sounds and vibrations of the Echo Cave, whilst having a quick breather at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp. Here lie the offices of the park and for a mere R32 p/person, permits can be bought to enter the Oribi Loop leading to the Vultures Restaurant. The Oribi Loop will start at 26km’s into the drive from Clarens. The path to the Vulture’s Restaurant will await you after 3km’s. Be on the lookout for a path leading over the mountain and parking space on your left hand side. The short 5min walk along the path will lead you straight to the lookout point. The very neat and functional bird hide will provide hours of entertainment –given that there is fresh carcasses of course.  If you are lucky, the Cape Vulture and the endangered Bearded Vulture can be seen scavenging; a sight that will leave you breathless. Click here to go to the Sightseeing/Self-Drive Routes page  Article and research by Genevieve Blignaut       Further reading:   Golden Gate Highlands National Park Golden Gate National Park (Article by Mary Walker) Golden Gate National Park Geology:  (Sanparks website) Life Lines: Layers of the Past in Stone   (Article Supplied by: Nikki Tilley – media@malotidrakensbergroute.com)Historical incidence of the larger mammals in the Free State Province and Lesotho (Clarens News) Exploring the Golden Gate with Maluti Tours (Clarens N