Wodehouse Peak Trail is a fantastic loop including a peak, with constantly changing environments, and herds of game. Once you get to the top, it is a totally different world, and there are great views over the Drakensberg on the opposite side of the valley.
You can start Wodehouse Peak Trail from either Glen Reenen Rest Camp or Golden Gate Hotel. We’d camped at the camp site the night before, but we moved our car to the parking at the reception opposite before this hike, so it didn’t look like we were overstaying the camping.
- You don’t need a permit for this hike, though you do need to pay the National Park entrance fee (or show Wild Card) at Glen Reenen or the Hotel reception.
- We hiked this trail in May. It was a bit chilly at the beginning, then became warmer as the sun came out.
- Take binoculars for checking out the game, which might be far away.
- There is one very small section of easy scrambling on the way down – there are some metal posts, but will be slippery if wet.
- It is possible to start at the Hotel – this is almost opposite Brandweg Buttress – you would just have to cross the road at the Hotel and then find the path that is there
- Golden Gate Hotel also has a bar, coffee lounge and restaurant if you’re hungry and thirsty when you get back.
- For a gorgeous much shorter walk check out Holkrans Hike, another great hike starting nearby.
- Find about more in our guide to Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
We set off straight from the Glen Reenen Rest Camp. We started early, and set off, leaving over the bridge in the campsite. Initially it was a highway with a concrete path, and we zoomed along in the residual cold of the morning. We were walking beneath some dramatic rock formations, and you could hike further towards them (out-and-back Eco Ravine and Boskloof Trails) to take a closer look. We didn’t have so much time, and those areas were still in the shadow and cold, so we didn’t do these extensions.
Optional Extension to the Wodehouse Peak Trail
This hike itself, the Wodehouse Peak Trail, also includes the Brandweg Buttress and Mushroom Rock trails.
There are two trails – Eco Ravine and Boskloof – which would be short detours off the main trail, to explore the ravines that have eroded through the dramatic sandstone cliffs. Doing these both could add up to an hour on to the trip.
The Wodehouse Peak Trail goes via the top of Brandwag Buttress, which is the most obvious bit of pink/orange cliff between the Hotel and the Rest Camp. There is a viewpoint about 50 metres to the left when you get to the top, worth checking out. But you actually have to continue to the right.
There are then many steps downwards, on the other side of the Buttress, and you sadly lose most of the height you have gained so far. The path continues fairly flat, with some gentle climb. The climb gets steeper and steeper. You will see the Ribbok Hiking Trail continuing straight, while you must turn right. The junction is obvious, you go steeply uphill.
Here we surprised a pair of mountain reedbuck. We scared them, and they also scared us! They came out of nowhere. One of the reedbuck sprinted off down a cliff so quickly. It was incredible how far it got in 15 seconds, we’d spent 10 minutes walking up that way!
Flora and Fauna
We saw a mountain reedbuck, wildebeest and zebra. The wildebeest here are black wildebeest, rather than the more common blue wildebeest that you see in Kruger. The zebra are also a rarer type, being mountain zebra, rather than plains/Burchell’s zebra. You can tell the difference easily because mountain zebra are more black and white and more stripy than the other ones.
On the trail upwards, the scenery changed, and large flat areas opened out. The plains were covered in black wildebeest, though they were quite far away. We also saw a small herd of mountain reedbuck closer by, and zebra really really far in the distance.
It was so different here from down in the valley! And with views over the valley to the Drakensberg, with their layer upon layer of rock.
We were a bit confused about the actual ‘Peak’. I’m not sure if we went to Wodehouse Peak itself. The peak that we thought it was didn’t seem to have a path up it. But we did get to a peak, so maybe that was it. Anyway, it was nice.
We continued along the ridge, noting the wildebeest spread below in the little valley. Then the path turned down back to the main valley and the rest camp. There was a short section of slightly steep rock face that you had to negotiate – with (slightly useless) metal poles to help you. It would only be tricky if you were very afraid of this kind of thing.
We passed Mushroom Rock a little further down, and then it was smooth sailing back to the rest camp and our car.
Geology seen on the Wodehouse Peak Trail
From the top ridge, you can see nicely the geology of the park by looking across the main valley. You can see the three main rock types and where they meet:
Darker layers of basalt lie on top of paler sandstone making up the steep cliffs below. At the base of these cliffs, gentler grass-covered slopes are underlain by mudstone.
The basalt is all fairly homogeneous. However, the sandstone has different characteristics, since it was formed in different environments, and so it is divided into different ‘formations’. The most distinctive formation, although it is only 100 m thick, is what forms most of the dramatic cliffs in Golden Gate Highlands NP. This formation and can be seen throughout the Drakensberg. It is easy to recognize once you get your eye in, as it’s pale and has a more resistant layer at the top, forming overhangs.
The best examples in this park are Mushroom Rock, Brandwag Buttress, and the cliffs that you walk under at the beginning of this hike. It is distinctive because of its colour – pale orange and pink and red, and also because it erodes by undercutting. This leaves the top sticking out more than the rock below – hence forming shapes like a Mushroom. This formation is also where most of the caves in the Drakensberg can be found. They are formed when the overhang becomes more extreme, and space for a nice sheltering cave is formed below the overhang.