"Golden Gate" refers to the sandstone cliffs that are found on either side of the valley at the Golden Gate dam. In 1875, J.N.R. van Reenen, a farmer, and his wife stopped here as they travelled to their new farm in Vuurland. He named the location "Golden Gate" when he saw the last rays of the setting sun fall on the cliffs.
In 1963, 47.92 km² (11,840 acres) were proclaimed as a national park, specifically to preserve the scenic beauty of the area. In 1981 the park was enlarged to 62.41 km² (15,420 acres) and in 1988 it was enlarged to 116.33 km² (28,746 acres). In 2004 it was announced that the park would be joined with the neighbouring QwaQwa National Park. The amalgamation of QwaQwa National Park was completed in 2007, increasing the park's area to 340 km² (84,016 acres).
Flora and fauna
The park is in the eastern highveld region of South Africa, and experiences a dry sunny climate from June to August. It has showers, hails and thunderstorms between October and April. It has thick snowfalls in the winter. The park has a relatively high rainfall of 800 mm (30 inches) per year.
The park is 320 km (200 mi) from Johannesburg and is close to the villages of Clarens and Kestell, in the upper regions of the Little Caledon River. The park is situated in the Rooiberge of the eastern Free State, in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. The Caledon River forms the southern boundary of the park and the border between the Free State and Lesotho. The highest peak in the park (and also in the Free State) is Ribbokkop at 2,829 m (9,281 ft).
Valid to 31 October 2021:
- Daily fee: South Africans R59 per adult, R29 per child; SADC nationals R118 per adult, R59 per child; international visitors R236 per adult, R118 per child
- Hiking There are a variety of options ranging from 45 minutes to full day tours
- Game watching (from your own car)
- Abseiling/rappelling: 9m - R50, 28m - R100, 9m - R25 (Aug 2017)
- Rhebok trail (adults R175) (Aug 2017)
- Horse riding: 1-hr ride R100, 2-hr ride R155, Pony ride R55 (Aug 2017)
Prices in Aug 2017:
- Campsites (1-2 persons): R215-285
- Rondawels (1-2 persons): R810-1070
- Cottages (1-4 persons): R1495-2655