Free State Tourist AttractionsPlatberg Mountain Reserve
Where? The reserve is located about 4 km outside Harrismith, Free State
Just outside Harrismith, is a beautiful stand-alone mountain. Its flat top ('plat' means flat in Afrikaans) extends for 9 kilometres, and it stands 2 394 metres high. Locals talk about it as their own Table Mountain, and it is a landmark of the region.
Called Platberg Mountain it is an extension of the eastern foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. It forms the fulcrum of the Platberg Reserve (interchangeably referred to as a nature reserve and a game reserve) that covers the western slopes and summit of the mountain and includes the now derelict Drakensberg Botanical Garden (also known as the Harrismith Wildflower Garden), once a major draw card to the reserve.
Platberg has a number of hiking trails and a donkey pass road up the mountain's summit, so it is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. For MTB enthusiasts it is the only way up the mountain on a bike; the two concrete strips regarded as a 'radical climb'. Two dams in the former wildflower gardens are what remains of a series of channels, or aqueducts, delivering water from the Gibson Dam – the pretty dam on the summit of Platberg - to Harrismith.
The top of Platberg has an ecosystem all its own. It absorbs rainfall like a sponge, allowing it to slowly seep from its sheer cliffs and kloofs as waterfalls and streams. There is an historical blockhouse built to guard the man-made aqueducts, but now you can barely reach it the path is so overgrown.
Herds of eland, blesbok, mountain reedbuck and black wildebeest live in the reserve, as well as waterbuck and fallow deer.
Views from the top of Platberg are superb.
Platberg Mountain Race is an annual 15 km foot race. It's a case of 'who can get there first' and usually involves a scrambled ascent and descent of Platberg, as part of the Berg Bohaai festival.