Bells Pass (R70)

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Bushbuck at the Erfenis Dam Nature Reserve Bushbuck at the Erfenis Dam Nature Reserve - Photo: Wikimedia

This short, easy pass is located close to the junction of the N1 and the R70, near Winburg in the Free State. The official route designation is the R70. This tarred road was in poor condition at the time of filming in February, 2016. It presents moderate gradients and only four very gentle curves. It lies to the east of the large irrigation dam - the Erfenis Dam, which is a popular weekend destination for locals offering fresh water angling, camping as well as a nature reserve at its north-western end near the dam wall.


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[Video footage supplied by Mike Leicester / Video cover photo NG Church, Winburg by Wikipedia]

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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: Heading south on the N1 towards Bloemfontein, take the off-ramp marked R70 and turn right at the end of the off-ramp to cross over the N1. Remain on this road for 800m to arrive at the northern starting point of Bells Pass at a T-junction. Continue straight on to drive the pass.

The road joins the towns of Windburg in the north with Brandfort (54 km) to the south-west and lies predominantly within the huge maize producing region of the Free State. This is a flat part of South Africa, so mountain passes are far and few between. Searching on a map hardly shows any signs of a pass with the tell tale curves and corners. This pass simply rises up the hillside at a fairly straight angle with only the vertical profile indicating an altitude increase of just 78m over 2,7 kms.

Happy angler catch and releaseGreat fresh water angling at Erfenis Dam / Photo: PanoramioFrom the start the road curves almost imperceptibly to the left through a wide bend as it gently gains altitude at a gradient of 1:16. The summit point of 1448m ASL is reached 1 km after the start and here a substantial cutting appears. Close to the summit on the left is the Nationale Monument vir Voortrekkers. Whilst digging into local history, for those who have the time and inclination, one can visit the birthplace of President Steyn on the farm Rietfontein as you enter the town of Winburg, It is about 1 km off the main road on the western side of town. Just after the summit a minor road leads off to the right, which leads to the farm Ongegund.

The descent into the south-west is both longer and steeper than the ascent, producing the steepest gradient of the pass at 1:12. The cutting on the right hand side is fairly long and lasts for almost 1 km. From the descent one gets good views over the Free State plains and farms. The farm Rhona is on the right hand side of the road and soon after the pass ends at the 2,7 km mark adjacent to the farm Tafelkop

The main geographical feature near the pass and a major attraction to residents of nearby Winburg is fresh water fishing at the Erfenis Dam, which also has a proclaimed nature reserve, which makes for a great weekend getaway.

Fact File:


S28.540742 E26.976710


S28.546472 E26.968915


S28.556250 E26.955533


















2 minutes


80 kph


Tar (R70)






Winburg (5km)

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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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