Nestled just outside the charming town of Harrismith, South Africa, lies a captivating natural wonder that will leave you in awe. Welcome to Platberg Mountain Reserve, a picturesque stand-alone mountain boasting a unique flat top that stretches for an impressive 9 kilometers. In fact, the name “Platberg” derives from the Afrikaans word “plat,” meaning flat. Rising majestically to a height of 2,394 meters, this mountain has become an iconic landmark of the region.
But Platberg Mountain Reserve is more than just a scenic masterpiece. It offers a plethora of exciting activities and attractions for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike. One noteworthy event is the annual Platberg Mountain Race, a thrilling 15-kilometer foot race. As part of the renowned Berg Bohaai festival, participants challenge each other in a race to conquer the mountain’s rugged terrain, with both ascent and descent forming part of the exhilarating journey.
As an extension of the eastern foothills of the Drakensberg mountain range, Platberg Mountain Reserve forms the core of the reserve itself. Referred to interchangeably as a nature reserve and a game reserve, it encompasses the western slopes and summit of the mountain. Within its boundaries lies the historic yet now derelict Drakensberg Botanical Garden, once a popular attraction that drew visitors from near and far.
The allure of Platberg Mountain Reserve extends beyond its intriguing history. For avid hikers and mountain bikers, the mountain offers a network of hiking trails and a donkey pass road leading to its summit. Among the outdoor enthusiasts, the donkey pass road is renowned as the only viable route to conquer the mountain on two wheels. MTB enthusiasts will find the Platberg Nature Reserve MTB Trails an exhilarating challenge, with the two concrete strips on the path regarded as a radical climb. Additionally, the reserve boasts two dams nestled within the former wildflower gardens. These dams are remnants of a once elaborate series of aqueducts that transported water from the Gibson Dam, a picturesque reservoir located at the summit of Platberg, to the town of Harrismith.
At the top of Platberg, a unique ecosystem thrives, creating a natural marvel. The mountain acts as a sponge, absorbing rainfall and allowing it to trickle slowly from its sheer cliffs and kloofs, forming breathtaking waterfalls and babbling streams. Amidst this enchanting landscape, you can stumble upon a historical blockhouse, originally constructed to safeguard the man-made aqueducts. Although the path to reach it has become overgrown over the years, the blockhouse serves as a testament to the area’s rich heritage.
Wildlife enthusiasts will revel in the presence of various animal species within the reserve. Herds of eland, blesbok, mountain reedbuck, and black wildebeest roam freely, adding to the allure of this natural paradise. Additionally, you may encounter waterbuck and fallow deer, further enhancing the diversity of wildlife within the reserve. As you reach the summit of Platberg, prepare to be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see, showcasing the stunning landscapes that South Africa is renowned for.
Popular Attractions And Points of Interest at Platberg Mountain Reserve
Platberg Mountain Reserve is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, offering an array of activities and attractions that will leave you enchanted. Beyond its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife, there are several captivating points of interest and exciting adventures to explore in and near the reserve. Let’s dive into the tapestry of experiences awaiting you.
Hiking and Mountain Biking
Strap on your hiking boots or hop on your mountain bike to embark on an unforgettable journey through Platberg Mountain Reserve. The reserve boasts a network of well-maintained hiking trails, catering to different skill levels and offering scenic vistas along the way. Immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the mountain as you traverse its slopes and take in the breathtaking views. Mountain bikers can challenge themselves on the exhilarating MTB trails, navigating rugged terrains and conquering thrilling descents.
Platberg Mountain Reserve is a paradise for birdwatchers, offering abundant birdlife and diverse avian species. With its varied ecosystems, from grasslands to rocky cliffs, the reserve provides a habitat for a wide range of birds. Keep your binoculars handy as you explore the trails and catch sight of striking raptors, colorful sunbirds, and elusive endemic species. The melodies of the feathered residents will serenade you throughout your journey.
If you have a passion for photography, Platberg Mountain Reserve will ignite your creativity. Capture the enchanting landscapes, dramatic rock formations, and cascading waterfalls as you meander through the reserve. Whether you’re an amateur or a seasoned photographer, the ever-changing light and natural wonders will provide endless opportunities for capturing stunning images.
For the adventurous souls seeking an adrenaline rush, Platberg Mountain Reserve offers exciting rock climbing opportunities. The rugged cliffs and rock faces provide a challenging playground for climbers of all levels. Clamber up the vertical ascents, test your skills on the crags, and be rewarded with awe-inspiring views from the summit.
Cultural and Historical Exploration
Delve into the rich heritage of the region surrounding Platberg Mountain Reserve. Pay a visit to the historic town of Harrismith, known for its Victorian architecture and charming atmosphere. Explore the Harrismith Museum, which showcases the area’s cultural and historical significance. Engage with the local community and uncover fascinating stories that have shaped the area over the years.
While the Drakensberg Botanical Garden within the reserve is now derelict, Platberg Mountain Reserve still showcases breathtaking wildflower displays during the blooming season. As you traverse the trails, be captivated by vibrant bursts of colors as indigenous wildflowers carpet the landscapes. This natural spectacle creates a picturesque setting for leisurely walks and picnics.
Extend your exploration beyond Platberg Mountain Reserve by venturing into nearby game reserves and national parks. Take a safari tour and encounter South Africa’s iconic wildlife up close. Spot majestic lions, graceful giraffes, mighty elephants, and other fascinating creatures in their natural habitats. Explore Golden Gate Highlands National Park and Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve, both within a short distance from the reserve, for unforgettable wildlife encounters.
Immerse yourself in the local culture by participating in vibrant festivals that celebrate the region’s traditions. The Berg Bohaai festival, which includes the thrilling Platberg Mountain Race, showcases the community’s spirit, offering a chance to connect with locals and experience the vibrant atmosphere of the festivities.
Platberg Mountain Reserve and its surroundings are a treasure trove of experiences, blending natural wonders, cultural heritage, and thrilling adventures. Whether you seek solace in nature, engage in outdoor activities, or delve into the local culture, this captivating destination promises to create lasting memories. Embark on a journey of discovery and embrace the magic that awaits you in and around Platberg Mountain Reserve.
The Hound and Hare
If you find yourself traveling between Johannesburg and Durban, be sure to make a delightful pit stop at The Hound and Hare, nestled in the picturesque Eastern Free State. This charming country pub is a haven for food enthusiasts, offering a delectable menu that will satisfy even the most discerning palates.
Step into The Hound and Hare and prepare to tantalize your taste buds with a range of mouthwatering dishes. Start your culinary adventure with the irresistible cheesy garlic snails or the flavorful tongue in sweet mustard sauce. For those craving hearty fare, indulge in the succulent Kassler chops or the classic chicken Cordon Bleu. Vegetarian options are also available, ensuring that every guest finds a dish to suit their preferences. And make sure to save room for the grand finale – the homemade malva pudding, a true treat for the sweet tooth.
Beyond its delectable offerings, The Hound and Hare provides a welcoming and inviting ambiance, making it an ideal spot to take a break during your journey. As you savor your meal, take the opportunity to mingle with the locals and soak up the warm hospitality of the Eastern Free State. Engage in friendly conversations, learn about the region’s rich history, and perhaps even gather insider tips on hidden gems to explore in the area.
The Hound and Hare serves as a gateway to the remarkable attractions that await in and around Platberg Mountain Reserve. After satisfying your appetite, venture forth and discover the natural wonders that define this region. Embark on exhilarating hikes through the reserve’s trails, where breathtaking vistas and encounters with wildlife await at every turn. Engage in birdwatching and capture the colorful plumage of endemic and migratory species with your camera lens.
If you yearn for more cultural experiences, delve into the surrounding towns and embrace the vibrant heritage of the Eastern Free State. Explore the historic town of Harrismith, where you can visit the Harrismith Museum and gain insights into the area’s past. Delight in the architecture that reflects a bygone era and immerse yourself in the local arts and crafts scene.
For those seeking outdoor adventures beyond Platberg Mountain Reserve, venture further to Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Marvel at the imposing sandstone cliffs and roam the scenic hiking trails that wind through the park’s vast landscapes. Don’t forget your binoculars as you may spot rare antelope species and captivating birdlife.
Whether you’re a food lover, an adventurer, or a cultural enthusiast, The Hound and Hare and its surrounding attractions offer a delightful blend of experiences. So, plan your visit, treat yourself to a feast of flavors, and embark on a journey that combines gastronomy, natural beauty, and warm hospitality in the heart of the Eastern Free State.
Bald Ibis Trail
For outdoor enthusiasts seeking a captivating hiking experience, the Bald Ibis Trail in Platberg Mountain Reserve is an absolute must. Located approximately 25 kilometers outside of Harrismith, this two-day trail offers a memorable journey through the rugged beauty of Rensburgkop, known for its prominence in the popular television drama series, The Mountain.
Spanning a total distance of 27 kilometers, the Bald Ibis Trail showcases the magnificent sandstone kranzes and presents opportunities to spot raptors, including the iconic bald ibis. While the trail’s markers have eroded over the years, it has been reclassified as a wilderness trail, adding an extra touch of adventure. It is recommended to bring a GPS device to ensure a smooth navigation throughout the trail.
The trail caters to hikers of varying fitness levels. Those seeking a less strenuous hike can adapt the two-day itinerary into shorter day routes, with options for three and five-hour walks. This flexibility allows visitors to tailor the experience to their preferences and fitness levels.
Base camp serves as the starting and ending point of the trail, providing essential amenities for hikers. Here, you’ll find a converted barn equipped with bunk beds, comfortable mattresses, and an indoor fireplace to keep you warm during the cooler evenings typical of the Drakensberg region. The availability of hot showers and flush toilets adds to the convenience and comfort of the base camp facilities. For hikers opting for the two-day adventure, an overnight stay at Twin caves near a picturesque waterfall is an option. These caves are specifically set up for hikers, featuring beds, a braai grid for barbecues, and the opportunity to collect firewood for campfires. Bringing a gas stove along is also advisable for cooking purposes.
Day one of the trail covers a distance of just under 18 kilometers and takes hikers up the mountain to the krans (cliffs). From there, the trail follows the base of the krans to Windy Corner, named for the gusty winds that can make the section challenging. However, the breathtaking views from the top make it all worthwhile. Please note that the first day can be physically demanding, especially in hot weather conditions. Along the trail, you’ll also encounter a massive cave adorned with well-preserved San paintings. It is important to respect and preserve these ancient artworks by refraining from disturbing them.
Day two offers a more leisurely pace, covering a distance of 9 kilometers as hikers walk below the majestic cliffs of the mountain. This portion of the trail allows for a tranquil and immersive experience, allowing you to appreciate the natural wonders that surround you.
The Bald Ibis Trail in Platberg Mountain Reserve promises an unforgettable adventure, combining awe-inspiring landscapes, wildlife sightings, and the thrill of exploration. Lace up your hiking boots, pack your essentials, and embark on a journey that will leave you with cherished memories of the Eastern Free State’s natural beauty.
Aansluit MTB Trails
Nestled within the breathtaking landscapes of Aansluit Landgoed, near Verkykerskop in the Harrismith region of the Free State, awaits an exhilarating mountain biking experience on the Aansluit MTB Trails. With its rolling terrain, stunning views, and a network of 30 kilometers worth of tracks, this intermediate-level route promises an unforgettable cycling adventure.
Aansluit Landgoed is an expansive 800-hectare working farm and conservation area, surrounded by the enchanting sandstone hills of the Klein Drakensberg. Located just a three-hour drive from either Johannesburg or Durban, this idyllic destination invites cyclists to immerse themselves in its natural beauty.
To reach the Aansluit MTB Trails, take the R722 north from Harrismith, following the road that leads you to the charming village of Verkykerskop. This little village is a hidden gem, known for its green living ethos and its collection of antique shops, a general dealer, and a cozy coffee shop. Housed within historical farm buildings, Verkykerskop exudes a sense of nostalgia and offers a glimpse into the region’s rich heritage. The village exudes a friendly and tight-knit community spirit, where everyone knows and looks out for one another.
For avid mountain bikers, the Aansluit area is a true paradise. The diverse landscape presents a variety of terrains, including rolling escarpment grasslands, flat-topped sandstone ridges, majestic mountains, picturesque gorges, koppies (small hills), and the occasional wetland. Such terrain ensures an exciting and dynamic cycling experience.
The Aansluit MTB Trails offer three distinct routes, catering to different skill levels and preferences. The first trail covers a challenging 7.8 kilometers, featuring hilly sections and branching tracks that lead to stunning cliffs. This route is perfect for those seeking a thrilling and adrenaline-pumping adventure.
The second trail spans 6.8 kilometers, leading riders to the old farmhouse picnic site. Along the way, cyclists can take in the serene beauty of the surroundings and enjoy a well-deserved break at the picturesque picnic spot.
If you prefer a more leisurely ride that allows you to soak in the breathtaking scenery, opt for the third trail, also spanning 6.8 kilometers. This route meanders along the edge of the Meul River escarpment, offering a flatter and more accessible ride. It is ideal for beginners or those seeking a more relaxed cycling experience.
In addition to the dedicated MTB trails, the farm is crisscrossed with gravel roads and cattle paths, providing ample opportunities for long-distance riders to explore and create their own adventurous routes. Combine these paths into a full day’s worth of riding, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Aansluit Landgoed and its surroundings.
The Aansluit MTB Trails are a testament to the region’s commitment to outdoor recreation and the preservation of its natural heritage. As you pedal along the tracks, you’ll discover the essence of the Free State’s stunning landscapes, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Whether you’re an avid mountain biker seeking thrilling challenges or a leisure cyclist in search of captivating scenery, the Aansluit MTB Trails near Platberg Mountain Reserve beckon you to embark on an unforgettable adventure. So, saddle up, breathe in the fresh country air, and pedal your way through the beauty of Aansluit Landgoed, immersing yourself in the wonders of the Free State’s cycling paradise.
Maluti Cave Hike
Located in the awe-inspiring Drakensberg region, renowned for its pristine wilderness trails, the Maluti Cave Hike offers an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this breathtaking landscape. Nestled in the base camp at Tseki, Phuthaditjaba (Witsieshoek), this hike unveils the wonders of the Maluti Mountains and presents a range of options for hikers seeking different durations and levels of difficulty.
With the trail starting and finishing at Tseki, hikers have the flexibility to choose from two, three, or four-day options. The hike requires a moderate to difficult level of fitness, ensuring a rewarding challenge for outdoor enthusiasts.
One crucial tip to keep in mind is that the dirt road approach to Tseki can become challenging, especially after rainfall. It is advisable to have a 4×4 vehicle at your disposal to navigate the road safely.
What sets the Maluti Cave Hike apart is that it offers a marked trail in an area that was previously lacking designated routes. The trail provides hikers with the convenience of staying in huts along the way. In case one of the huts is unavailable due to fire damage (as had happened before), the alternative of sleeping in one of the numerous caves in the area is also available. This eliminates the need to carry a tent, allowing hikers to venture into the higher reaches of the berg with lighter backpacks.
The hike encompasses a series of circular trails that extend both east and west of Tseki. Each of these trails can be explored independently or combined to form a four-day adventure. This flexibility allows hikers to tailor their experience based on their preferences and time constraints, ranging from a one-day excursion to a more extensive four-day trek.
Day One sets the tone for the hike, covering a distance of 9 kilometers. This initial leg can be quite demanding but rewarding, as it takes you past numerous caves that house captivating San rock art, providing a glimpse into the ancient cultural heritage of the area. Along the way, you’ll also encounter several enchanting water features, adding to the allure of the journey.
Day Two presents hikers with a choice. You can either follow a marked trail to the top of the berg and back (10 kilometers), offering panoramic vistas and a sense of accomplishment, or opt for the circular route with a knowledgeable guide (15 kilometers). The latter option traverses terrain with sheer drops, so those with a fear of heights may prefer the former. Regardless of the path chosen, both options promise awe-inspiring views and a deeper connection with the rugged beauty of the Maluti Mountains.
Day Three continues to offer diverse possibilities. You can embark on the river route to Tseki Hut (10 kilometers), which allows for refreshing swims in the crystal-clear waterholes along the way. Alternatively, you can opt for a route to Matsieng Hut, which includes further exploration of caves adorned with mesmerizing rock art. Matsieng Hut rewards hikers with the captivating Thabana-Tshowana Dam, home to an array of water birds that add a touch of tranquility to the surroundings.
The Maluti Cave Hike near Platberg Mountain Reserve provides a gateway to an enchanting realm of natural wonders and cultural treasures. As you traverse the trails and delve deeper into the mountainous terrain, you’ll be captivated by the sheer beauty and rich history that define this remarkable region. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your essentials, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the Maluti Mountains, where adventure and discovery await at every turn.
Platberg Nature Reserve MTB Route
For adrenaline-seeking mountain bikers, the Platberg Nature Reserve MTB Route offers an exhilarating adventure through the stunning landscapes of Platberg Mountain. As a prominent landmark situated on the border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, Platberg Mountain captivates visitors with its flat-topped peak soaring 2,394 meters above sea level. Nestled close to the town of Harrismith, this nature reserve spans an expansive 1,400 hectares, providing a playground of outdoor challenges for hiking, mountain biking, and 4×4 enthusiasts.
While the route is not for the faint of heart, as it forms part of the annual Dirty Harry MTB Classic, it presents a thrilling opportunity for experienced riders seeking an adrenaline rush. The trail is well-marked and easily accessible, making it a popular choice among mountain biking enthusiasts.
The journey begins with a gradual ascent up the lower slopes of Platberg Mountain, allowing riders to warm up and get into the rhythm. However, be prepared for the ultimate test as you approach Donkey’s Pass, a grueling vertical climb up dual concrete strips that stretch for approximately 3 kilometers. This pass is renowned as the sixth highest and second steepest pass in South Africa, challenging even 4×4 vehicles, let alone bicycles. There is no shame in dismounting and pushing your bike through this demanding section.
Once you conquer Donkey’s Pass, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas that unfold behind you, showcasing the majestic Sterkfontein Dam, as well as sweeping panoramas of the iconic Drakensberg Mountains and the dramatic Van Reenen’s cliffs. The view from the top is truly awe-inspiring, making the challenging ascent all the more worthwhile.
As you continue along the route, you have the option to follow the flat terrain along a jeep track on the mountain’s summit. However, finding the track from Donkey’s Pass can sometimes be challenging, so be prepared to navigate and explore. Descending from Platberg Mountain is relatively easier, as you keep an eye out for the illuminated cross that marks the way. However, please note that the rocky twists and turns of the footpath on the descent are not bike-friendly and should be approached with caution.
Alternatively, some riders opt to stay parallel to the cliffs along the contour path, bypassing Donkey’s Pass. This route offers stunning views that are nearly as impressive as those from the summit, providing a thrilling experience for those who prefer a different challenge.
The best time to embark on the Platberg Nature Reserve MTB Route is during any season of the year. However, if you want to immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the Berg Bohaai festival, including the Dirty Harry MTB Classic, be sure to plan your visit accordingly, as the reserve tends to be bustling with activity during this time.
Get ready to push your limits, feel the adrenaline surge through your veins, and soak in the awe-inspiring beauty of Platberg Mountain as you conquer the challenges of the Platberg Nature Reserve MTB Route.
Whether you are seeking a challenging outdoor adventure, an opportunity to connect with nature, or simply a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Platberg Mountain Reserve offers it all. Embrace the enchantment of this natural treasure and prepare to be captivated by its beauty and grandeur.