Mpumalanga is rich in natural beauty and what better way to experience this than driving some of the fabulous passes the province has to offer. Rich in forests with fast flowing rivers and multiple waterfalls and major attractions like the Blyde River Canyon, Bourkes Luck Potholes, Pilgrims Rest and the many game reserves, it's no wonder local and foreign tourists alike flock to this region. Often the real gems are the smaller passes tucked away in the backwaters where few people get to. Jaap se Hoogte is one of those passes.
With a summit alltitude of 2001m ASL, this is one of only 19 passes in South Africa above 2000m. The road approximates the direction of the Kastrolnek pass, except slightly further north. It connects Wakkerstroom with the farming areas west of Dirkiesdorp. Think carefully before driving this pass, especially if poor weather is threatening and you are not in a 4WD vehicle.
This long and beautiful pass is one of the hidden gems of the Lowveld and provides an alternative route to Nelspruit to the N4. It joins Nelspruit with Ngodwana at Sappi's massive paper mill and in the process bisects the little mountain top village of Kaapsehoop (originally Kaapschehoop), from which the pass gets its name.
The pass summits at 1653m ASL and ascends from just south-west of Nelspruit, gaining 736m of altitude over 20 kms, producing an average ascent gradient of 1:20 with the steep bits measuring in at 1:10. Stop at the village near the summit and explore the peaceful charm of the free range horses, Anglo-Boer war and mining history, quaint architecture and the walk in the nature reserve. The western descent of 12 km ends at Ngodwana and forms a T-junction with the N4.
Kastrolnek translates into 'Saucepan Neck' and it will be a case of "out of the frying pan and into the fire" if you venture over this pass during a snowstorm, as the maximum altitude is an energy-sapping 2030m ASL, but mostly it's a safe and straightforward drive in dry weather conditions. The pass is 6.8 km long and ascends 233 vertical metres producing some very steep gradients of up to 1:6. The pass connects Piet Retief with Wakkerstroom on the tarred R543.
Kiepersol Pass is located in the Sabie River Valley in Mpumalanga, between the towns of Hazyview and Sabie, on a minor road (D514) leading off to Kiepersol. The pass is named after the small hamlet on its eastern side, which is in turn named after the Kiepersol (Cabbage Tree), which grows prolifically throughout the province.
The road is tarred, but in a terrible state; massive potholes, which could seriously damage your vehicle were you to hit them, are scattered everywhere along the pass, and the most serious problem that you will encounter are other motorists weaving about across the road in an effort to avoid these hazards. Although it has a fairly significant altitude gain of 181 metres, the route displays none of the characteristics usually associated with a pass, and it is not easy to recognise it as such when driving it for the first time, but it is an official pass.
This gravel pass offers spectacular views of forests, rivers and waterfalls and will also elevate you by 695 vertical meters. It has a summit height of 1473m which is guaranteed to provide magnificent 360 degree views. It runs through the Blyde River Canyon National Park and is 15,3 km long ends at the crossing of the Mac-Mac River at its eastern end. It is located approximately 15 km north-east of Sabie. The road is an interesting alternative off the main tar roads to get to either Hazyview or Graskop from Sabie.
The pass has plenty of bends, corners and curves to keep you honest - in fact 48 of them, of which 9 exceed 90 degrees radius. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of ruts, washaways and corrugations and for this pass there is the added danger of slow moving heavy forestry vehicles with long stretches of deep shadow and dappled sunlight which affects the driver's vision.
Koffiehoogte is in reality, an integral part of the triplet passes of Masjiennek, Long Tom and Koffiehoogte, which form a virtually continuous pass between Lydenburg and Sabie. Koffiehoogte is the most easterly of the three and forms the connecting section between Long Tom Pass and the Lowveld town of Sabie.
Whilst this smallest of three passes is often overlooked in favour of its more glamorous sister passes, it is nontheless a substantial pass in its own right, covering a distance of 7,7 km which is well above the national average and displays an impressive altitude gain of 423m producing an average gradient of a stiff 1:18. The road is well engineered with 21 evenly radiused corners including two bends of 170 degrees each.
Add in heavy mining and logging vehicles, dense mountain mists and heavy rain, this pass needs to be taken seriously. Overtaking is difficult due to the many blind corners and almost continuous barrier lines. This in itself creates impatience and some drivers take big risks.
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”. It was named after the Korf family who farmed near the foot of the pass. 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 is another of the Top 10 Mpumalanga passes with stunning views and an altitude drop of 512m through the Drakensberg escarpment over 7,8 km., producing an average gradient of 1:15. This is a steep pass in places with gradients in excess of 1:11 and is on route R533. It was was completed in October 1959 and named after a local Sotho chief, Koveni who controlled the land along the track. The name, Koveni, became Anglicized to Kowyn. The area around the pass is truly 'out of this world' with a wide range of attractions for the traveller.
At the time of its original construction, the engineering work on this pass was one of the most advanced in South Africa with the half tunnel and cantilevered roadway with a concrete surface forming a stable structure near the summit ridge. Today (2018) the once proud pass is taking strain where many potholes have made an appearance. The Mpumalanga roads authorities appear to have no funds to appear the road and potholes are being filled with gravel (which obviously only lasts till the next rainshower). Drive carefully on this pass which is prone to thick mountain mists, but the biggest danger is opposing traffic that crosses the median line in an effort to avoid the potholes.
Kranspoort is located on the national N11 road between Groblersdal and Middelburg, very close to the Loskop Dam. The road is in an excellent condition and has been extensively refurbished (construction was completed in late 2017). The pass is nevertheless still considered to be extremely dangerous, and road users should apply due caution and heed the speed limit of 60 kph which applies for the majority of the length of the pass.
The biggest hazards which could be encountered are the mine trucks which use this route, and which could lose their brakes when descending the pass under heavy load. The name is misleading, as this is much more of a pass than a poort, and it is far steeper than one would expect. It comes as somewhat of a surprise after the long flat straight sections on the approaches from both the northern and southern sides.
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.