The rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains create a spectacular backdrop in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. While it is rewarding driving on the winding roads as they meander through the mountainous terrain, an even better way to experience this beauty is with a pair of sturdy hiking boots.
The park offers a variety of shorter day hikes as well as an existing overnight trail. Just recently however, work started on a brand new weekend base camp trail with the aim to get outdoor enthusiasts to areas in the park they’ve never been to before.
The new trail is different from the existing Rhebok overnight trail which has become run down and too expensive to repair. The new hike is not as challenging, but showcases some of the most spectacular vistas in the park. According to Albert Bossert of Boskamproetes who was involved with the planning and construction, the latest addition is definitely much more exciting.
The overall distance of the trail will be 24km. Day one spans over 16km and passes a number of waterfalls, crystal clear pools, overhangs and offer spectacular views of the Eastern Free State’s sandstone formations. “The trail crosses various ravines with approximately 15 ladders and lots of little bridges found on the way,” says Bossert. To add to this, you will pass through thick stands of indigenous vegetation. If you are quiet you can expect to see a number of bird species and game such as zebras, elands and red hartebeests. The second day of the trail is guided and heads to Cathedral Cave, a beautiful overhang where you will experience ancient rock art paintings and get closer to the iconic bald ibises breeding in the park.
Hikers will overnight at Wilgehof which is able to accommodate 40 people. It is furnished with bunk beds, electricity, stove, indoor fireplace, showers,toilets and bath.
The SANParks Honorary Rangers of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal raised funds for the project. The final name for the route has not been confirmed yet, but the most popular choice is the Golden Gate Hiking Trail.
The trail is expected to open by spring 2016, so keep your ears on the ground. Costs are to be confirmed.
Visit www.sanparks.org or contact the park on +27-58-255-1000
Pictures: Marguerite Vermeulen
Content courtesy of SANParks Times: www.sanparkstimes.co.za