Bakkers Pass (D794)

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The approach road to the pass The approach road to the pass - Photo: Mike Leicester

This fairly steep gravel pass lies between Rankins Pass in the east (40 km) and Thabazimbi 18 km to the south-west. Note that Rankin's Pass is not a pass, but a tiny SAPS outpost and a small general dealers store. Bakkers Pass summits at 1464m and descends a total of 314 vertical metres producing an average gradient of 1:14. The steepest sections are at 1:8. We recommend using a reasonable clearance vehicle for this road as it gets a bit rough in places. An SUV, bakkie or 4x4 will cope well.

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.)

[Video footage supplied by Mike Leicester]

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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: We filmed this pass from east to west to maximise on available lighting conditions. Getting to the eastern start, take the N1 northwards from Johannesburg or Pretoria and take the turn-off to the left to Modimolle (Nylstroom) on the R33. Continue northwards through Modimolle on the R33 for a further 44 kms. This entire section is on tar. Turn left to Alma onto a gravel road at GPS S24.454953 E28.161775. Alma is 10 km west of this turn-off. Continue westwards through Alma and drive Rankins Pass (the non-pass) which is 17km west of Alma. Immediately after Rankins Pass take the first gravel road to the right (GPS S24.535061 E27.894203) drive up Trichardts Pass and continue heading west for 38 km to arrive at the eastern start of Bakkers Pass.

For those wanting to traverse the pass from the west:  From Thabazimbi continue straight through the town. Do not turn left onto the R510. After about 15 km continue straight over a four way intersection (after stopping). The road forms the southern border of the Marakele Nature Reserve, which is packed with game. The road is a  terracotta coloured gravel which quickly turns to mud after heavy rain. Bakkers Pass starts at an altitude of 1150m opposite the farm Blespaardspruit.

This is a rough road. A high clearance vehicle is preferred.This is a rough road. A high clearance vehicle is preferred / Photo by Pieter BothaThe entire area is known as the Waterberg Biosphere and covers a massive area. More than a hundred years ago, Pres. Paul Kruger allocated farms in this wild and remote place to 'troublesome' burgers. This is the area simply known to South Africans as the Bushveld. To the north of Bakkers Pass lies a a huge tract of land which forms the Marakele National Park and the mountains ahead are, of course, the Waterberge. Four prominent peaks are immediately noticable. They are from the left Aasvoelkop [1765m], and three unnamed peaks of 1892m, 2087m and 2070m respectively. Bakkers Pass merely scatches around in the foothills of these majestic mountains and follow them in an westerly direction.

Klipspringers are commonly spottedKlipspringers are commonly spotted / Photo by omgdasilvaOur video and text explore and describe the pass from east to west. All along the Marakele National Park you are likely to spot game like waterbuck, hartebeest, blesbok, giraffes, blue wildebeest and eland.

Very soon after the start there is a sharp 90 degree right hand bend, which brings the heading from  west to north. One gets a good view of just how majestic the mountains are. The going is slow on this road and a speed of 30 kph is probable.

After 600m the road bends sharply to the left in sympathy with a ravine and the descent begins at a gradient of 1:12

The descent has a total of 17 corners of which 12 of them are extremely sharp. Due to the rough nature of the road surface and the tight bends, speeds really have to be low by necessity. The drop offs are steep and completely unguarded in many places.

The Waterberg provides a perfect backdropThe Waterberg provides a perfect backdrop / Photo by Mark Stroncks
The road winds in and out of three separate ravines whilst continuously descending. If you have time to look up to your right, you'll be able to see the towering peak of Aasvoelkop (Vulture's Peak)

For the final part of the descent, the road makes a wide right hand turn around a buttress of the mountain, as it descends towards the plains in the west. Whilst the gradients on this pass are not very steep, the road is rough in places which makes it a better proposition to drive this road in a higher clearance vehicle. It can be driven in a normal car, but be prepared to drive very slowly to cope with prevailing conditions..

[This pass was a reader submission by John Parkin]

 Fact File:


 S24.489410 E27.569327


S24.486710 E27.566702


S24.500456 E27.547870














4.25 km




6 minutes


40 - 60 kph


Gravel (D794)






Thabazimbi (15km)

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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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