Mountain Passes

The Karretjies Pass is a rough, narrow track that descends down a side arm of the Bobbejaanskloof, itself a side canyon to the much bigger Doring River canyon. Although this pass is short at just 1,5 km and has an altitude variance of only 72m, it is the rough nature of the road that makes it something of a challenge. It offers majestic canyon views, steep drop-offs and a feeling of intense isolation in a harsh and barren landscape.

The road has been hacked out of the side of the mountain and is only just wide enough for one vehicle. Overtaking or passing is impossible. You will need a high clearance 4x4 to drive this pass and low range will be an advantage for more precise control. The pass forms part of the Old Postal Route that connects the Biedouw valley in the west with the Eilandsvlei farm near the R355 in the east in the Tankwa Karoo. Do not attempt this pass without reviewing our page on the Old Postal Route first, which contains very important information on navigation and safety.

The Old Postal Route is a basic gravel track of 53,2 km that connects the Biedouw Valley in the Cederberg with the Eilandsvlei farm near the R355 in the Tankwa Karoo. This was once a route used to deliver post between these two remote communities.

The route consists of two mountain passes separated by a long high altitude plateau and includes a bridgeless crossing of the Doring River at the eastern end. It is not suitable for normal cars. Four wheel drive with high clearance is essential and low range is an additional benefit to have at your disposal.

Most of the route is Grade 1 and fairly straight-forward to drive, but here and there a few tricky sections raise the bar to Grade 3, depending on weather conditions. The two most likely places drivers will have problems, is the crossing of the Doring River and offroad navigation, as there are multiple unsigned intersections, so your navigation needs to be precise. Unless you have a GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa where you can see the route clearly, you will more than likely get lost. We don't recommend driving this route between June and October, when water levels in the Doring River will probably be too high. In summer, the river crossing is usually bone dry.

The route will take between 4 to 6 hours to complete, depending on a  number of factors. There are cottages and camping available at Mertenshof near the western start and good camping can be enjoyed at Die Mond off the R355 at the opposite end of the route.

The route is best driven in a group in case of a breakdown. Take full recovery gear with as well as a puncture repair kit that you know how to use. If you enjoy remote gravel road driving, with huge vistas and a unique stillness you will find in few other places in South Africa, then this route is for you.

This gravel pass is located near the foot of the much bigger Mokobulaan Pass and forms a southern extension to it. It follows the course of the dominant river in the valley - the Houtboslooprivier, after which the pass is named. At 10,3 km it's well above the national average in terms of length and offers some lovely Lowveld scenery as it descends steadily to the valley floor and features some good views of the Wonderkloof gorge on it's northern side.

With an average gradient of 1:31 this pass can be driven in a normal car, but when conditions are wet, there could be traction issues on the steeper sections which max out at 1:10. There are 44 bends, corners and curves, including one very sharp hairpin of 180 degrees, compressed into it's length and the usual gravel road cautionaries for Mpumalanga passes apply here, which include rutted and uneven surfaces due to washaways, dense mountain mists, heavy logging trucks and livestock on the road.

Hendriksdal Pass is located just to the south of Sabie, on the tarred R37 route which connects the little town with Nelspruit (Mbombela). The pass is fairly long at 9,5 km and presents an altitude variance of 218m  via 22 bends, corners and curves, most of which have an easy radius.

The pass is named after the original farm in the area, which later also gave its name to a railway station dating back to the 1920s. The road is in a good condition (unlike many of the other roads in this area) and presents very few hazards, provided that the speed limit is adhered to. The pass offers up magnificent elevated views of Sabie itself, as well as the mountains and tree plantations which abound in this area.

Grey's Pass in Cape Town's city centre is comfortably the shortest official pass in South Africa with a length of 97m. It also walks off with the winner in the category "Lowest Altitude Gain" of just 1 metre. This "pass" in no way conforms to our definitions of a mountain pass in any respect, but it is an officially listed pass, so we are documenting and indexing it. It takes another statistical record, in that it is the first pass that we show in it's full length with no editing necessary (and that includes filming it in both directions).

 

This lovely tarred pass with its sweeping curves and grand views is located midway between Sabie and Graskop on the R532 and also provides access to the renowned Mac Mac Falles as well as the Mac Mac Pools just a few kilometres further south. The road is in a good condition and is suitable for all vehicles, on the proviso that barrier line restrictions and speed limits are adhered to. It's not a major pass in the greater scheme of things but it does provide magnificent scenery in a picture perfect Lowveld setting.

The entire area around Graskop and Sabie is prone to heavy rainfall and frequent mountain mists. In such low visibility conditions, adapt your speed according to conditions, put on all your lights (in daylight hours) including your hazards. At night switch your main beams off and use your fog lights to reduce glare.

This short, but extremely steep pass is the access road to a set of telecoms towers on the conical peak just south-east of Graskop, accessible from Kowyn's Pass. At 0,8 km it's one of the shorter passes on our database and you will experience very steep gradients of 1:4. With an average gradient of 1:9,4 it slots in as the 12th steepest pass in South Africa.

We do not recommend this road for inexperienced drivers for a number of reasons, one of which is that it is very narrow and there is nowhere to pull over should you meet up with an oncoming vehicle and a stall at one of the many drainage ditches could mean a burnt out clutch. This little pass has to be driven in 1st gear (high range) as you cannot drive it in full 4x4 mode, due to the issues around axle wind up on the hard surface.

The views from the summit are breathtaking covering a full 360 degrees. If you feel the drive is too hectic, you can always walk up as it's really not far and is doable in 15 minutes on foot.

Korfnek is a part of a rough track which forms a shortcut between Dullstroom and Stofberg in the high mountains of Mpumalanga, very close to the border with Limpopo. The name translates as “Basket Neck”, but its origins cannot be established. The pass itself and the approach road from the northern side are in an extremely poor condition, and it is obvious that the route is not being maintained by the authorities but probably only by the local farmers. 

The use of a high-clearance vehicle with all-terrain tyres is strongly recommended, and a 4x4 will be required during or immediately after wet weather. The route offers up some splendid views over the Laersdrifspruit Valley, but drivers will be unlikely to experience these as extreme concentration is required when traversing this pass.

 

This short pass descends along the Groenkloof along the north-south axis and offers good views over the coastal plain in the Pearly Beach area. The road is generally in a good condition, but like all gravel roads things can change quickly in wet weather.

The pass is 3,6 km long and displays an altitude variance of 164m producing an average gradient of 1:22 with the steepest section measuring in at 1:14. It connects Pearly Beach in the south with the Baardskeerdersbos and Elim settlements and also provides an access route to the Salmonsdam Nature Reserve as well as Sandy's Glen Pass.

This long gravel pass is located along a narrow valley formed by the east-west mountain chain between Standford and Napier in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. It is also sometimes spelled as Sandies Glen Pass. Both versions are used on signage on the pass. The pass takes its name from the farm of the same name. It consists of a long, slow climb from the western side through a number of farms. The steepest gradients of 1:11 occur near the summit. The pass offers a variety of attractive scenery ranging from open meadows to dense stands of eucapyptus to open mountain-scapes.

It connects the tiny hamlet of Papiesvlei in the west with Napier in the east. The road is suitable for all vehicles and is mostly in a reasonable condition. The usual cautionaries for gravel roads apply and as always, conditions can change rapidly after rain. 

Mountain Passes South Africa

Our website is 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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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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