This historical gravel road pass was built between 1867 and 1869. It's a long pass at almost 17 km and it has a substantial altitude variance of 383m which produces a fairly mild average gradient of 1:44, but the vast majority of the steeper gradients occur on the eastern side of the pass, where there are some steep sections at 1:5.
Fortunately it seldom rains here, so the road is generally quite safe for non 4WD vehicles. The scenery along which the road traverses is exceptionally dramatic with towering rock faces and a generally bone-dry river bed in view most of the time. This road is not suitable for cars lacking good ground clearance. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Wildeperdehoek Pass as they are inseparably linked, both geographically and historically.
Hennings Pass is an off the beaten track gravel road, becoming a jeep-track that is only suitable for 4WD vehicles. It lies near the Verloren Valei and runs in a southerly direction along the banks of the Crocodile River. It is roughly 20km SE of Dullstroom and 18 km NW of Machodorp (as the crow flies). For those wanting to drive this route, please note that is slow going and it is an out and back route, so allow plenty of time.
As far as passes go this is really not much of a pass with a moderate altitude variance of 52m and only short sections even vaguely resembling a true mountain pass, but it is an official pass and is recorded as such on the official government 1:50,000 maps.
So why drive it? This road is remote and you will more than likely be the only vehicle there. So if you enjoy being away from the crowds and in the bush, then by all means go and drive this one. The road is a dead-end and ends at a farm, so the entire route has to be backtracked when you are done.
This true offroad pass covers almost 30 km of rough dirt road and jeep tracks as it traverses the Drakensberg through the Lekgamaleetse Provincial Nature Reserve. Due to the technical nature of this pass, we have broken it up into two sections - Part 1 West and Part 2 East. This road is only suitable for high clearance 4x4 vehicles and adventure motor cyclists.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: April, 2021
Driving from west to east it now takes 6 hours to reach the summit.
From the start to the reserve gate: 2.5 hours as the road is in extremely poor condition and very rocky and overgrown. Take a panga or bush cutter with you. The scenery is magnificent, but you will need to be in 1st and 2nd gear Low Range the entire distance.
From the reserve gate to the summit things are sketchy. The duty ranger reprts that no vehicle had passed his control point in the last 4 months. Inside the reserve there is almost no road left. The recent heavy rain took away the road and you had to drive and push the bush out of the way till you reach the switchbacks. The grass is very tall and you will need a seed-net.
The last 2 km before the summit you will cross some very deep ruts between 1.0 and 1.5m deep. These require some road building, so make sure you have a spade or two handy.
(This notice information was submitted by Jacques Booyse who drove the route over the Easter Weekend 2021.)
Cecil Mack's Pass is located in the Northern section of KZN on the border with Swaziland. It is a rough, gravel road better suited to off-road vehicles with 4WD. This is not one for the casual weekend traveller. The pass has something of a chequered history including severe cyclone damage, military control and now, obsolesence. Please note that the road is blocked at the Swaziland border and no traffic may proceed beyond that point, other than on foot.
Michel's Pass is located in the Eastern Cape between Hogsback in the east and Seymour in the west. The 6,5 km gravel pass is in excellent condition (as at April 2018) but is subject to severe thunderstorms in summer and snowfalls in winter with a summit altitude of 1442m ASL. The track is marked strictly for 4WD vehicles with high ground clearance and low range, but since it has been recently repaired it is now doable in a 4x2. It is best to check with local busineses and B&B's in Hogsback whether the road is passable or not.
This stunning (4x4 only) gravel pass is located in the heart of the Eastern Cape between Balfour and Whittlesea on the R351 and climbs 699 meters in altitude to summit at 1625m ASL, producing an average climb gradient of 1:15 with some sections as steep as 1:5.
For the adventure biker fraternity the pass is rated orange in good weather and red when it's raining/snowing. The pass is named after the Kat River, which is a tributary of the Great Fish River. The name derives from the wild cats that were abundant along the river banks during the nineteenth century.
This pass is not suitable for normal cars and a high clearance vehicle with 4WD and low range is required along the higher sections. Deflate tyres to at least 1,4 bar (or lower) to create additional traction and a softer ride. The pass is best driven with a minimum of two vehicles in case of a breakdown.
The Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 route is a Grade 2/3 4x4 route starting (unofficially) at the turnoff on the tarred R62, one km east of Kareedouw and ends some 70 km further north at the Doringkloof farmstead in the Western Baviaanskloof. The 4x4 section officially starts at the neck at the final descent to the Baviaans Lodge. If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend first watching the Orientation & Overview video.
This has to be one of the most iconic gravel roads in South Africa, holding almost pilgrimage status to gravel-road devotees. It winds through 37km of rugged mountain scenery, culminating in the vertigo-rush, single-width Elands Pass, and terminates in the Gamkaskloof - reminiscent of a lush oasis and paradoxically nicknamed Die Hel (The Hell).
Due to it’s length, we have produced a multiple video set to help orienteer first time drivers. We discourage anyone from trying to complete this as an out and back drive in a single day, due to the slow average speed of around 25 kph. Besides the time issue, it would be a shame to have to rush through this magnificent part of South Africa and not have the time to allow the Gamkaskloof to work its magic on you.
This steep, high altitude gravel pass is situated between the N9 route and the village of Nieu-Bethesda, where artist Helen Martins turned her Karoo home into a fantastical landscape, with concrete and ground-glass sculptures of owls, camels and angels. The town was established in 1875 and is dominated by the peak known as Kompasberg (Compass Mountain) which is the 6th highest mountain in the Eastern Cape and forms part of the Sneeuberg range. The town is very secluded and as such has become something of a retreat for artists and writers.
A gravel pass in KZN between Harrismith and Bergville - in the vicinity of the Sterkfontein Dam. The pass starts at 1349m ASL and summits at 1751m. It is 5,6 km long producing an ascent gradient of 1/14 making it very steep. Be prepared to crawl along this road at less than 10 kph and allow plenty of time. Probably between 60 and 90 minutes to cover the 5 km. It is only suitable for 4x4 vehicles with good ground clearance and low range! Remember to drop your tyre pressures to around 1,0 to 1,2 bar to prevent punctures and improve traction. This road is a rough one!
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.