A day of hiking in Golden Gate Highlands in the Free State

Golden Gate Highlands EntranceOne of the draws of my weekend in Clarens was the proximity to mountains and hiking. Just a short drive away from this small town is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park complete with multiple short hikes, perfect for a solo traveller. This park is located in the Maluti Mountains famous for their sandstone and epic views.
Driving to Golden Gate Highlands

My intention was just to hangout in Clarens all weekend, but after I quickly did a once over the majority of the shops in one afternoon then I got antsy and felt like venturing out to nature was a good plan. I didn’t know if hiking alone would be an issue, but I luckily realized tons of people were doing the hikes in GG Highlands and I had nothing to fear. Thus, I spent the whole day exploring the park and once I paid my admission fee I had the chance to hike up various trails. For some reason, the woman gave me the South African rate so my day was even economical.

Scenic Picnic Spot in Golden Gate Highlands

Stopping at a picnic spot

Trail Signage, Golden Gate HighlandsOnce in the park I needed to decide what hike to choose as many are available. The first trail I hiked was up the Brandwag Buttress because I wanted to take in some epic views over the Maluti Mountains. Plus this is a hugely popular trail and with good reason. It isn’t so long as to be exhausting and you get to take in all the incredible scenery. The hike is only an hour and with the clouds looming I didn’t want to chance getting stuck in weird weather and I had gotten a late start due to too much enjoyment of my coffee time at Highlands Coffee.
Lovely View, Golden Gate Highlands

Panorama of Golden Gate Highlands

Blue Skies on the Trail in Golden Gate Highlands

The trail is cool because you hike under a huge cliff face and start to see the incredible views.
Trail up toward Sandstone

Also, there is an amazing steep section where you hold on to a chain to make your way up the cliff face.
Crazy Chain up the steep section of Brandwag Buttress Hike

Straight up the Buttress

I made it all the way up without incident and was rewarded with blue skies and lovely views all around.

Panorama, Golden Gate Highlands

Panorama from top of Brandwag Buttress

View from the Brandwag Buttress, Golden Gate Highlands

View from top of Brandwag Buttress

Brandwag Buttress

View of Brandwag Buttress from the road

The Buttress hike was awesome, but I still wanted a bit more exercise so I also ended up doing the 1 hour loop to Mushroom Rock, which is a rock that is most definitely shaped like a mushroom.
Mushroom Rock, Golden Gate Highlands

Sun Shining on Mushroom Rock

Next up was driving through the park to catch more viewpoints and to drive the 2 loop drives in the park, the Blesbok Loop and the Oribi Loop.

View from the Blesbok Loop

View from the Blesbok Loop

Start of the Oribi Loop

Starting out on the Oribi Loop

Drakensburg Mountains

View towards the Drakensberg Mountains

View from the Oribi Loop

Another view on the Oribi Loop

Blue Skies again along with my shadow

Finally, later in the day I had some animal sightings including springbok, blesbok, and even some crazy baboons.

Springbok in Golden Gate Highlands

Springbok

Definitely a Blesbok in Golden Gate Highlands

Blesbok

Baboon in Golden Gate Highlands

Baboon Crossing in Golden Gate Highlands

Baboon Close Up, Golden Gate Highlands

More photos of Golden Gate Highlands National Park can be found here.

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