Burgers Pass

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Western start of Burgers Pass and right away you know this is a logging road Western start of Burgers Pass and right away you know this is a logging road - Photo: Mike Leicester

Burgers Pass is a typical forestry gravel road with a classic midpoint summit. It's just above the national average at 5,7 km and has an altitude variance of 175m, which produces an average gradient of 1:32, but don't be fooled by that statistic as some of the gradients on the eastern side reach 1:5. There are plenty of bends corners and curves to keep drivers busy - 36 of them of which 10 have a turning arc of greater than 90 degrees and 5 of those exceed 150 degrees. There is one very sharp hairpin bend at the 3,8 km mark.

If you enjoy driving through dense forests, then this pass will tick most of the boxes, plus it carries very little traffic, other than forestry vehicles, so you should enjoy peace and quiet. This pass is best driven on a Sunday or public holiday, which will ensure an absence of forestry vehicles.

Cautionaries: This pass is in the very heart of the prime forestry zone around Graskop and Sabie. If you intend driving it in the week, expect forestry vehicles. Remember in forestry areas to always switch your headlights (not your parks) on. In bright sunlight the road is in a constant state of flux changing rapidly between deep shadows and bright sunlight. It takes a second or two for driver's eyes to adjust to these rapid changes, so by having your lights on, it makes you much more visible to other vehicles.

It's much easier approaching this pass from the eastern side, so although we filmed it from the west, the eastern approach is the better option, unless you enjoy navigational challenges.

Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

FULL-SCREEN MODEMODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.

 Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the west as we have filmed it, involves a complex routing.
Starting at the southern end of Pilgrim's Rest, just after crossing the old stone bridge, turn right at GPS S24.898754 E30.750645.
Drive south-west for 1,8 km till you arrive at a fork at GPS S24.912598 E30.746024. Keep left at this fork and follow this road first into the south and then into the west for 0,8km to arrive at a second fork at GPS S24.915342 E30.741986, where you must turn right. Follow this road in a generally south-easterly direction through large areas of plantations for 3,3 km to arrive at a 4 way intersection at GPS S24.912600 E30.746000 where you must turn right. Drive WNW for 800m to the next intersection, where you must turn left and cross the bridge. Immediately after the bridge there is a fork at GPS S24.933113 E30.747574. Keep left at the fork and follow the road along the western bank of the river for 1,6 km to arrive at a T-Junction at GPS S24.945846 E30.745601 where you must turn left. Drive for 800m into the south-east (this section is marked by tall trees on either side of the road) until you arrive at the next fork at GPS S24.950805 E30.750460 where you must turn left again. Drive south-east for 3,2 km to arrive at the western start of the pass.

Burgers PassA mix of plantations and open views / Photo: Mike Leicester

For those approaching from the east, head west out of Graskop on the tarred R532 following the signs toward Sabie for 11,5 km and turn off the R532 onto a gravel road at the apex of a big left hand bend at GPS S24.969409 E30.804961 which marks the eastern start of the pass.

Pass Description: The pass starts at its western end at an altitude of 1353m at the crossing of a small stream, The Grootfonteinspruit and immediately begins climbing via a wide left hand bend at a gradient of 1:10. The heading changes briefly into the north as the road enters a tight right hand bend at the 0,6 km mark. This bend curls through a full 120 degrees. A smaller road leads off to the left at the apex of this bend.

Burgers Pass summitNear the summit / Photo: Mike Leicester

There are many side roads leading off this main pass, so be careful not to take any of them, as once you are off the main road, there is no signage and it's very easy to become disoriented in the maze of forestry roads. After an easy right hand curve a prominent fork appears at the 1 km mark. Make sure you keep left here. This is the most likely point drivers will make a mistake, so make a note of this before setting off to drive this pass.

After the fork at the 1,1 km point, the road, which is still climbing steadily at 1:10, curves through another big left hand bend of 150 degrees, which changes the heading into the north-east. This doesn't last long and at the 1,5 km mark the road bends gently into the ENE, then follows a number of easy bends as the ascent continues relentlessly towards the summit, which is reached at the 2,3 km mark at an altitude of 1516m at a wide right hand bend of 90 degrees. It's best to premark the summit point as it is (currently) inside a dense plantation and will not be immediately obvious.

Burgers Pass forestsA beautifully scenic drive through some dense forests / Photo: Mike Leicester

Two famous hiking trails are located nearby. The Fanie Botha Hiking Trail (one of the first to be established as part of the National Hiking Way System) more or less follows the route of the pass but slightly to the south and the Prospectors Hiking Trail actually crosses the pass near the summit point, so be aware of hikers.

The descent starts immediately still maintaining a gradient of 1:10 and heads into the ESE. At the 2,8 km mark, the road reaches a watershed point, where another 90 degree right hand bend leads into the most technical section of the pass - a chicane style double switchback. At the time of filming in 2018 the forests had been cleared and it currently provides good views down over the forest clad valley below.

Slow down for the chicane section, which consists of two major bends of 170 and 180 degrees respectively. At the end of the chicane section, the road plummets into a dense forest and soon crosses a small side stream, then swings to the right and heads directly into the south.

Burgers Pass near the eastern endThe pass bisects tall stands of pine plantations / Photo: Mike Leicester

This is one of the most enjoyable parts of the pass. Roll down your windows, slow down your speed and listen to the birdsong. The one and only true hairpin on the pass is reached at the 3,8 km mark, where there is also a double stream crossing.

The next section of just over 0,5 km is the steepest on the pass, where the gradients reach 1:5. If it's been raining and you are not in a 4WD vehicle, traction will definitely be a problem here. The road heads into the ESE then enters a major right hand bend of 150 degrees but the radius is wide, so it's not a big problem.

This is soon followed by an even bigger left hand bend of 160 degrees radius, which eventually straightens out into the east, where the gradients ease off and the pass ends at the 5,7 km point at an altitude of 1341m at a T-junction with the R532. Turn left to go to Graskop or turn right to reach the Mac Mac Falls.

Forestry: South Africa has a plantation area of more than 1.5 million hectares, representing only 1.2% of the land area.  This percentage compares poorly to the 30% of the USA and the 67% of Japan. One of the largest afforested areas in South Africa (an area of 0.6 million hectares) is in the Mpumalanga province.

The Forestry Industry contributes 8.7% of the gross value of the country's agricultural output.  The plantation forests of South Africa use just 3% of the country's total water resource.  Irrigation, which is the norm in the growing of many agricultural crops, is never utilised in forest plantation management.  The rainfall, therefore, needs to be higher than 750 mm per annum to sustain commercial forestry.  

Fact File:


S24.962261 E30.777437


S24.958804 E30.790664


S24.969409 E30.804961














5,7 km




6 minutes


60 kph








Graskop (17 km)

Route Map:

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Route files:

||Click to download: Burgers Pass - (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software systems)

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