Mountain Passes

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. 

Both this pass and the mining village situated at its northern end were named after a large farm which sprawls across the hills and valleys in this remote part of northern KwaZulu-Natal. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in most vehicles, although difficulties could arise in wet weather. Located in the middle of a triangle formed by the towns of Wakkerstroom, Utrecht and Paulpietersburg, this is one of those passes that you would be unlikely to find or traverse unless you actively look for it, or you have some other reason to be in the area. It has a classic up-and-down profile, gaining 222 metres in height over a distance of nearly 6 kilometres.

 

 Ossewakop (“Ox Wagon Hill”) looms above the small Mpumalanga town of Wakkerstroom on its eastern side, the peak approximately 400 metres higher than the settlement. It is impossible to miss, as some enterprising residents have created the large outline of a Voortrekker wagon and the dates “1838 – 1938” (to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great Trek) with whitewashed rocks on the slopes just below the summit. The route up the mountain is difficult and torturous, so please read the cautionary notes before embarking on this trip. The remarkable views over the town and its surrounds from the beacon on top of the mountain certainly make the effort to get up there worthwhile.

Waterval Pass is located on a minor gravel road which connects Amersfoort in the west with Dirkiesdorp in the east, in the southern part of the Mpumalanga province. The pass is named after a farm in the area, which in turn derives its name from a small waterfall which cascades over a hollow bluff on the southern side of the road. Although a big pass by any standards (it is nearly 6 km long and gains over 300 metres in height), it is marked on very few maps and is relatively unknown, possibly because of its remote location. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but like all gravel roads in South Africa, the surface can deteriorate rapidly in wet weather.

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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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