Golden Gate National Park: Hiking in the Golden Hour Is Not to Be Missed

Golden Gate National Park, South Africa

Baboons greeted us to Golden Gate National Park, shouting out noisy greetings as they raced across the road.

It was a perfect welcome to South Africa for a monkey lover like me.  Our group of German journalists and myself decided that we would quickly check into the Golden Gate Hotel and then go for a hike.  These were my kind of people.  I couldn’t wait to start exploring the park  –  and see my first wild Burchell’s Zebra.

Golden Gate National Park Holkrans hike

Golden Gate National Park – Holkrans Hike

We choose the Holkrans hike since it started within steps of our hotel and was only 45 minutes long – perfect considering that the sun was already starting to set and that we weren’t up for a long hike.  We kept our eyes out for the rare Bald Ibis which nests in the sandstone cliffs, but they remained well hidden.

Holkrans hike, Golden Gate National Park, South AfricaHolkrans was an easy hike, relatively flat hike with views overlooking Golden Gate National Park. Anyone with a minimal level of fitness could do it, assuming that you could climb this ladder  which was easily done by everyone in our group of eight.  People who are not able to climb the ladder could simply turn around and still enjoy the views over the valley.

Golden Gate National Park, South Africa

Golden Gate National Park really earns its name during the “golden hour”

We came around the corner just as the sun was hitting the sand stone cliffs, bathing them in a golden light and convincing me that the “golden” in Golden Gate National was adeptly earned.  It almost made up for not seeing a Burchell’s Zebra – almost!

golden gate national park golden gate hotel

I love the location and the views from the Golden Gate Hotel.

Know Before You Go to Golden Gate National Park:


We enjoyed a complimentary stayed at the Golden Gate Hotel which is an ideal location for exploring the park since hiking trails start from right outside the hotel. My hotel room stared right at the golden hills, making for a relaxing setting.  The rooms were very reasonably priced – a room for 2 people starts at 885 South African Rand, approximately 83 Euros, especially considering the views, modern amenities and location.  I would definitely stay here again.


  • Hiking – there are a wide choice of hikes from 45 minute hikes to full day hikes
  • Themed guided walks –  ranging from herbal trails to cultural routes
  • Game watching (from your own vehicle) be on the look out for:  Burchell’s Zebra, rare bearded vulture, equally rare Bald Ibis, Black Wildebeest, Eland and Oribi and of course my personal favorites, baboons!
  • Horse riding
  • Absailing
  • Canoeing

When to Visit:

  • Best time to visit is in Fall (April – May)
  • Winter temperatures in June to August can drop below 0 C and snow is not uncommon in winter, so bring appropriate clothing if you go during winter
  • It can be quite rainy from September to April

Logistics of Getting There:

Golden Gate National Park is located ~320km from both Johannesburg and Durban.  Self-guided visitors will find renting a car to be the most convenient option.  While you’re in the area the Drakensberg World Heritage Site  is a must-see if you’re looking for a wow factor!  I also visited a Zulu Village which gives you a glimpse into the lives of locals. It’s located ~240km south of Golden Gate National Park.

Visit the Golden Gate National Park homepage for more information.

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Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.


  1. Christy @ Technosyncratic May 24, 2012 at 1:48 am - Reply

    That’s quite the rickety-looking staircase!! Such beautiful views, though – I love the way the flowing grass complements the stark cliffs.

  2. Laurel May 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    @Christy – Yeah it was a bit rickety, but all part of the adventure. The views were beautiful and I took soooo many photos of the grass and the cliffs, I was a bit obsessed.

  3. Leigh May 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Laurel – That looks like a fabulous place to hike, explore and relax. And you did a wonderful job of catching the golden hour.

  4. Laurel May 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    @Leigh – I think you would like it Leigh, it’s a great place for anyone who like hiking or being outdoors and its especially magical during the golden hour.

  5. Zhu May 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    The scenery and the light are amazing. That must have been a wonderful hike!

  6. Vi May 25, 2012 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Very nice colors during sunset..

  7. Cathy Sweeney May 26, 2012 at 2:51 am - Reply

    Welcomed to the park by baboons — perfect start to a great time in a beautiful place!

  8. Mandy @ Emm in London July 15, 2012 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    What an incredible post! I went to Golden Gate when I was 11 and I have to say, it left a lasting impression. We abseiled down one of the mountains and watched the sun set over the plane. Your post is just beautiful and brought all of that back to me.

  9. falko August 23, 2012 at 11:33 am - Reply

    I grew up about 20km from Golden Gate and I am probably the biggest fan in the world. Here’s a secret though, the Holkrans route shown in this post is my LEAST favourite in the park!

    Any day visitors should rather do the Wodehouse Peak Trail for the best experience. You will also regularly see herds of Black Wildebeest, or breeding pairs of Mountain Reedbuck. Not to mention the hundreds of fossils that litter the ground at the mudstone intrusions. The views are also fantastic.

    For longer walks: there is the 2-day Ribbok Trail (although it can be done in a day if you really move fast). Or, alternatively, you can do the reverse Ribbok up to Generaalskop peak (about 2750m above sea level) and then return the way you came.
    This is a better route if you want to see zebra, wildebeest and baboon troops.

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