Mountain Passes

Signal Hill road is an out and back scenic drive/pass that starts at Kloof Nek and climbs very steeply under the eastern flank of Lions Head, to level off along the spine of the ridge. It runs due north providing superb views of the city bowl and further towards False Bay. As the road curls around Lions Rump (Signal Hill) you will experience rapidly changing views of first, the main harbour, then the V&A Waterfront, Green Point with the Cape Town Stadium as its focal point, then Sea Point. Nelson Mandela's incarceration on Robben Island brings back memories of another era in our history. It lies only 3 nautical miles out into the blue waters of Table Bay.

 

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This road falls under the category of a suburban pass and after a short steep ascent from Kloof Nek it climbs rapidly via two 180 degree hairpins to level out at the lower cableway station. Thereafter it runs more or less on an even contour line all along the north face of Table Mountain. Some years ago, rock slides caused the the road to be closed at the 4,1 km mark, leaving the remainder of the eastern section open only to hikers and cyclists. The road provides unparalleled views of Cape Town, the harbour, Robben island and the Cape Flats. It is usually extremely congested with tourist vehicles wanting to access the cableway and hiking trails.  

 

 

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Kloof Nek Road falls under the category of a suburban pass and Cape Town has no shortage of those! The road is steep and dangerous and has something of a reputation for fatal accidents. It connects the city centre with Camps Bay through the obvious neck between Table Mountain and Lions Head. It was built in 1842 when Kloof Nek was used primarily as a look-out post for soldiers and the road was used as a supply route to Camps Bay.

 

 

 

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This old farm road has been modernised over the years and today carries bumper to bumper traffic to the northern suburbs around Durbanville. The 8,8 km long tarred road (designated as the M13), descends 220m producing an average gradient of 1:40, but the curvy part near Hillcrest is steep at 1:5. The pass plays host to a number of quality wine estates, including Bloemendal, Nitida, Hillcrest and Durbanville Hills.



 

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This rough gravel road is enjoyed by mountain bikers and adventure motor cyclists, as it is quite challenging in some sections with a variety of road conditions which can vary greatly depending on the time of year. It connects the Bot River estuary farming area with the R320, as well as with the Karwyderskraal farm on the mountain plateau. It also services the farms on the eastern side near the Hemel en Aarde valley. It offers locals a distinct shortcut for those wanting to avoid the congestion on the R43 to Hermanus and Onrus.

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The Elgin Valley Road is known to the locals simply as "Valley Road". It is a 12 km U-shaped loop that traverses some steep valleys, the sides of which are covered in apple orchards, vineyards or pine forests. This 300m high mountain plateau is perfect for the production of both apples and wines suited to a cooler climate. The valley is dotted with dams and lakes both large and small and has become the epicentre of the Grabouw region's eco-tourism efforts. Young couples flock here to the farms to get married in pristine countryside settings, whilst the mountain biking fraternity are attracted by the miles of quality single track and testing mountainous terrain. 

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This substantial gravel road pass provides an alternative to the Houw Hoek Pass and paralells it a little further to the south. These days the road is used primarily by the Elgin farming community as well as those interested in hiking and mountain biking. Most of the southern section of the pass falls within the Mount Hebron Nature Reserve. From the summit area access to the Kogelberg Nature Reserve can be gained, where the well known Pedeberg Hiking Trail is located as well as several excellent MTB trails. The pass climbs 384 meters over 12 km to produce an average gradient of 1: 31

 

 

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The Rooiberg Pass was built in 1928 and there appears to be scant information as to who the designer was. It joins the tiny village of van Wyksdorp with Calitzdorp over the Rooiberg Mountain. This is not a pass to be trifled with and it is often only negotiable in a 4WD vehicle depending on the condition of the road. It is also a long pass at 18 km with a level section in the middle. All these considered, it is one you simply have to drive once in your life. We gave this pass a Top 40 rating. 



 

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The Jan Muller Pass is not an official pass, but the bridge over the Gouritz River is named after a certain Jan Muller. For want of a better or more appropriate name, we thought Jan Muller's Pass or the Gouritz River Pass would fit fairly well. This rugged gravel road pass is fairly short at 3,63km and descends in a series of tight switchbacks from the eastern approach to cross the Gouritz River over a low level concrete bridge (which is subject to regular flooding). The western ascent is very steep with  a gradient of 1:3, but the authorities have concrete-stripped this section allowing for good traction. It makes the road driveable in a normal car.

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This thoroughly enjoyable and fairly long pass of 19 km straddles the Vreysrant Mountains between Herbertsdale and Van Wyksdorp. The road is generally well maintained to a high  standard, despite the gravel surface. The northern section can get quite narrow at times, but should present no problems providing speed limits are adhered to. There are at least half a dozen river crossings over low level culverts, which can be dangerous if the rivers come down in flood - as was the case just one week prior to us filming. In the video clip there is ample evidence of fresh repair work and it can be seen just how high these rivers can get. Poor judgement or ego driven decisions could be fatal. If you are not prepared to walk it, then dont drive it.





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The Hoogte Pass (translated as Heights Pass) lies between the seaside settlement of Groot Brakrivier and George on the tarred N2 highway. This pass is a joy to drive for its smooth surface, perfectly banked curves,  and comfortable gradients. With it's lowest point at just 1m above sea level, it rises to a summit altitude of 202m producing an easy average gradient of 1:37 - It is also known under any of the following name derivatives:
The Grootbrak Pass
The Grootbrakhoogte Pass
The Grootbrakrivier Pass
The Grootbrakrivierhoogte Pass
The Brakrivier Pass
The Great Brak Pass
The Great Brak River Pass
The Small and Great Brak River Cuttings

To add to the confusion, the old pass (R102) also bears any one of the above names. take your pick!` We have kept things simple and taken the name off the official government 1:50,000 map.

 

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The Witnekke Pass is a tarred pass located on the R323 route between Laingsburg in the north-west and Ladismith in the south-east. It forms one of four passes and poorts along the R323, making for a particularly pleasant drive. The others are the Seweweekspoort, Koueveld Pass and Rooinek Pass.

 



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The Windheuwel Poort is a short, natural poort which cuts through the hills and mountains adjacent to the Beervlei Dam, on the N9 route, 32 kilometers north of Willowmore and 80 km south of Aberdeen in the Great Karoo. The dam is instantly recognizable for it's unusual wall construction, consisting of multiple side by side,  interlinked arched walls. The dam is also better known for being bone dry for many months of the year. Water is the most precious commodity in the Karoo.

 

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Uniondale Heights is a 4,62 km long tarred pass on the N9 route between Uniondale and Willowmore. It is located just outside Uniondale and descends from the Karoo plateau of around 820 meters ASL down the mountain to the north of the town via a well designed, modern pass with easy gradients, good cambers and gentle curves. The pass terminates right opposite the centre of Uniondale at the crossing of the Kammanassie River.

 

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Welcome...

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

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