The Kingscote Cutting is an impressive example of road engineering where the hills have been carved into to make a safe and more level driving surface. It's named after the nearby Kingscote farm and lasts for 4,3 km descending a total of 260 vertical metres, producing an average gradient of 1:17. It's located on the tarred R617 route between Kokstad and Underberg with sublime views of the Drakensberg for most of the distance.
The oddly named Khyber Pass (undoubtedly a tongue in cheek reference to the famous Khyber Pass in Afghanistan) is essentially a logging road that descends/ascends the Karkloof Valley to the north of Howick in KZN. Despite the heavy duty forestry type traffic which uses it, the road is usually in a surprisingly good condition. As is the case with all gravel roads, rain can change the status from good to bad within hours. If you're not in a 4WD vehicle, apply some common sense on this pass. The road descends 233m over only 3,2 km producing a stiff average gradient of 1:14 and expect some very steep sections at 1:6. The road can be driven in either direction. Adapt the directions if you are driving it in the opposite way.
This a big pass of 14,6 km climbing 436m from the south to summit at Brook's Nek at 1616m ASL which is also the border between the two provinces. There are many sharp bends along the pass and an enforced 80 kph speed limit exists for your safety. The pass forms part of the N2 highway between Mount Ayliff and Kokstad. It's subject to heavy mountain mists in summer and snowfalls in winter.
The Jan Phillips Mountain Road (or more correctly Jan Phillips Bergpad) runs along the eastern flank of the famous Paarlberg Mountain approximately 3/4 of its height and along the 300m contour - and provides access to the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, Meulwater picnic site and a vast number of hiking and mountain bike trails at the summit of the mountain. Jan Phillips was a respected wagon maker in the town in the 1800's. It's a fairly long gravel road of 10,8 km that starts and ends at either end of the town of Paarl. The northern descent has been closed for several years after severe flood damage and the chances of that section ever being opened up again, seem slender. So for now it has to be driven as an out and back route. It's an easy enough drive for any vehicle, but the road is quite narrow in places. If you comply with the 30 kph speed limit (which very few people do) you will not have any problems.
A short, steep, cul-de-sac road of 2,7km that gives access to the seat of the Afrikaans language situated on a beautiful granite rock system on the western slopes of Paarlberg. The road is tarred, modern and well designed, but it is fairly steep with an average gradient of 1:13 and the steepest sections being at 1:6 near the turn-off to the amphitheatre. Regardless of whether you are Afrikaans or not, a visit to this holy grail of the young language of South Africa's Dutch pioneers, is a must if you are in the Paarl area. The monument, it's design, and the grounds attract large numbers of visitors for the aesthetic beauty of the architecture and the immaculate grounds and gardens. It speaks volumes for the Afrikaans people.
This is a very minor pass close to Ladysmith in KZN of only 2,6 km, with an easy average gradient of 1:55 and the steepest parts along the eatsern descent being only 1:20. The pass has no bends and very little to offer the enthusiastic pass hunter other than Anglo-Boer history in nearby Ladysmith. The road roughly parallels the N11 which is 3 km to the south as well as the course of the Sandrivier about the same distance to the north, and provides a quieter gravel alternative to the busy N11..
Take a 23 km drive along the rim of South Africa's most spectacular canyon - The Blyderivier Poort or nowadays known as the Molatse Canyon - and marvel at the scenic wonders the poort has on offer - like the Three Rondavels, God's Window, the Pinnacle and Bourke's Luck Potholes. The road (R532) connects the northern towns accessible from the R36 (Hoedspruit, Burgersfort and Orighstad) with the southern towns of Graskop and Sabie. There is a significant altitude gain of 480 vertical metres, but due to the length of the pass, the average gradient is a mild 1:47. The steepest gradient you will experience is on the northern sector, where it gets to 1:14.
This gravel pass lies off the R355 between Middelburg and Burgersfort and provides an easy-west link for local farming communities. The pass can be devided into two halves with the western 4 km being very easy and then the Wapdskloof proper is descended for the final 3,7 km providing good scenery and some steep gradients, where the driving is more challenging. The pass can be driven in almost any vehicle, but like all gravel roads, conditions can deteriorate very quickly in bad weather.
This is a short, safe and attractive pass on the tarred R538 that connects White River in the south with Hazyview in the north. It is quite steep in places with a maximum gradient of 1:8 and the road follows a long valley with some dominant granite outcrops to the east. The pass is fairly short at 3,3 km and is suitable for all vehicles.
A tricky, high-altitude gravel pass a few kilometres north-east of Dullstroom with some deep sand and steep inclines. It offers lovely scenery and challenging driving, with the road reaching a maximum altitude of 2102m ASL. At 12,5 km it's much longer than the national average and although the average gradient is a pleasant 1:28 the steepest section occurs at the 6 km mark and it has gradients as steep as 1:6. If it's raining, take extra precautions here and moderate your speed to suit the conditions. The road is not suitable for vehicles with low clearance and even 4x4's will have issues here in wet weather. We issue a cautionary for bikers.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.