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Mountain Passes of South Africa

This pass is for the more experienced off-road driver. It is a wonderful shortcut along the main Wild Coast route, cutting out a long section of fairly boring villages and it will save you about an hour on your ETA. The deep valley carved out by the Mnenu River stretches far inland, where the main road loops around to avoid the deep valley. The pass has wonderful scenery but mostly it's obscured by dense bush and lantana which grows about 4m high, hiding the views.

On the flip side of the coin, this pass has a few negatives as well, so before you add it to your bucket list read the full report, as the road has not seen any maintenance in the last two decades; the bridge has been washed away and the bush has encroached over the road substantially.

Your vehicle will get scratched and if it's been raining, there will be plenty of mud in the lower sections near the river. Only drive this pass if you are experienced at off-roading and have a high clearance 4x4 with low range. We would also advise a minimum of two vehicles in case of problems. If you get stuck on this pass, note that there is no mobile reception. Unless you have a sat phone, you'll in for a long walk to get assistance.

This interesting pass is the gateway to Mpande and Shark's Point - two popular destinations along this section of the Wild Coast. It's a fairly minor pass at 3.1km but it has lots on offer, including sections of indigenous forest, a few villages, a very steep climb and fabulous views towards the coast once you have crested the summit.

The pass climbs 121m from the river crossing to the summit over just 1.3 km producing very steep gradients of 1:5. In wet weather this section will be almost impossible to ascend for non 4WD vehicles. There are also ruts and axle twisters so momentum cannot be used either. But in fair weather it's quite doable in any vehicle.

Mpande is one of the finest beaches along the Wild Coast and a must visit destination. Most of the holiday cottages are located on the northern side of the river. The northern access road is well signposted about 5 km to the NE of the start of the Luzube Pass.



This short, mixed surface pass connects the village of Lambasi / Luphatana with the coast where the popular walk commences to Waterfall Bluff and Cathedral Rock on the Wild Coast. It is a dead-end road. There is an altitude variance of 144m which converts into a stiff average gradient of 1:11, but it is the very rough condition of the road that sets this one apart. The steepest part has a rudimentary concrete covering, which lasts for about 100m. When the pass is ascended (on your way back), a lovely waterfall consisting of about 8 cascades can be seen to the right of the concreted section. The waterfall occurs in the upper reaches of a tributary of the Mhlalane River, although most people refer to it as the Luphatana River.

The road and pass are not suited to non 4WD vehicles. We recommend a minimum of two 4x4 vehicles in case of a breakdown/recovery being required.

This interesting pass was built by the military in the 1980's and provides a safe all-weather pass for technicians to service the microwave and other towers at the summit point, where seven distinct peaks are known as the Seven Sisters. The quality of the road, although narrow, is very good with cuttings, good drainage and camber included in the construction. The views are spectacular for want of a better superlative and as there is to all intents and purposes no traffic, the area is wild and remote, despite its proximity to nearby Wellington and Paarl. Wildlife abounds with antelope and leopards being seen fairly often.

Statistically it's impressive too gaining 500m of altitude over 6 km, which produces an average gradient of 1:12, but the steeper sections ramp up to 1:5. Traction is good, except when there is snow around, in which case a 4WD vehicle is mandatory. The road is controlled by Cape Nature, Telkom, SA Government and private land owners and is restricted. We have added it to our database so the public can get a feel of what it's like via our video.

This pass should not be confused with the Skurweberg Pass in Mpumalanga. This is a more sedate pass, almost a country road really, that climbs up to the summit and descends down the other side and runs along the east-west axis. At 12.5 km it's on the long side and sports 22 bends, corners and curves of which only two are sharp at 90 degrees. Its mild gradients hide the considerable altitude gain of 341m where the steepest sections measure out at 1:7.

The pass is located 33 km to the north-west of Vryheid in KZN and is easily accessible via the tarred R33 route. It forms a connecting farm road with Utrecht some 35 km to the west. The pass is doable in any vehicle in fair weather.

The Nqutu Pass is named after the village at its summit point. This short, tarred pass is fairly steep with average gradient of 1:18 over a distance of 3,3 km. Being close to a busy town, you can expect pedestrians and livestock on the road, minibus taxis and other slow moving vehicles.

The name is of Zulu origin, and is derived from 'isquthu', ‘flat-topped vessel’, descriptive of a nearby hill from which the village takes its name.

Note that the entire pass has double barrier lines, so there is no overtaking allowed.

This short pass of 3,2 km connects Hlobane/Vaalbank in the north with the village of Bloemendal in the south. It has a classic low-high-low profile with a summit height of 1350m. What sets this pass apart from it's peers is the number of potholes (at the time of filming in September, 2021) that have to be avoided. It's probably one of the worst in South Africa and results in drivers weaving onto the wrong side of the road.

The good news is that the average speed is relatively low, so avoiding collisions is quite easy. The probable cause of the poor road condition is the constant presence of coal mining trucks which service several mines in the immediate area. Other dangers include heavy mountain mists and livestock on the road.

This hidden gem of a gravel pass connects Vryheid, Hlobane and Vaalbank with a number of game farms, forestry reserves and nature reserves in northern KZN. The pass has 34 bends corners and curves and displays a respectable altitude variance of 292m over a length of 8,2 km. You will be treated to attractive scenery throughout the traverse. The road provides access to the Loziba Wilderness Conservancy, Mawana Game Reserve and Thangami Game Reserve.

In fair weather this pass is suitable for all vehicles. Cautionaries include 'slippery when wet', livestock on the road and slow moving vehicles. Mountain mists are common in the area which can drastically reduce visibility.

Dassieshoogte is a moderate pass located on the tarred R34 route just south of Vryheid. It's of above average length at 6.1 km and has very easy curves with gentle gradients. It parallels the railway line for much of its length, under-passing it just after the northern start. The pass has its summit point close to the northern end followed by a long undulating plateau in the middle and a lower false summit towards the southern end.

The road is generally in a good condition and has safety shoulders throughout. It is suitable for all vehicles.

Sandwiched between the Krugersdorp Game Reserve in the west and the Blougat Municipal Nature Reserve in the east,  is a well known road commonly referred to as the Krugersdorp Hill Climb for its use as a hill climb race track, but officially it's called the Thomas Jackson Road.

It consists of several very tight hairpin bends and decends from the northern end of the Delporton industrial business park down to the Percy Stewart waste water treatment works, losing 76m of altitude in just 1,2 km, resulting in a stiff average gradient of 1:16.

The Krugersdorp Aerodrome is located close to the summit of the road. It's also called the Jack Taylor Airfield and Delportonia Airfield.


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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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