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Mountain Passes

Kranspoort is located on the national N11 road between Groblersdal and Middelburg, very close to the Loskop Dam. The road is in an excellent condition and has been extensively refurbished (construction was completed in late 2017). The pass is nevertheless still considered to be extremely dangerous, and road users should apply due caution and heed the speed limit of 60 kph which applies for the majority of the length of the pass.

The biggest hazards which could be encountered are the mine trucks which use this route, and which could lose their brakes when descending the pass under heavy load. The name is misleading, as this is much more of a pass than a poort, and it is far steeper than one would expect. It comes as somewhat of a surprise after the long flat straight sections on the approaches from both the northern and southern sides.

This is another of the Top 10 Mpumalanga passes with stunning views and an altitude drop of 512m through the Drakensberg escarpment over 7,8 km., producing an average gradient of 1:15. This is a steep pass in places with gradients in excess of 1:11 and is on route R533. It was was completed in October 1959 and named after a local Sotho chief, Koveni who controlled the land along the track. The name, Koveni, became Anglicized to Kowyn. The area around the pass is truly 'out of this world' with a wide range of attractions for the traveller.

At the time of its original construction, the engineering work on this pass was one of the most advanced in South Africa with the half tunnel and cantilevered roadway with a concrete surface forming a stable structure near the summit ridge. Today (2018) the once proud pass is taking strain where many potholes have made an appearance. The Mpumalanga roads authorities appear to have no funds to appear the road and potholes are being filled with gravel (which obviously only lasts till the next rainshower). Drive carefully on this pass which is prone to thick mountain mists, but the biggest danger is opposing traffic that crosses the median line in an effort to avoid the potholes.

This long and beautiful pass is one of the hidden gems of the Lowveld and provides an alternative route to Nelspruit to the N4. It joins Nelspruit with Ngodwana at Sappi's massive paper mill and in the process bisects the little mountain top village of Kaapsehoop (originally Kaapschehoop), from which the pass gets its name.

The pass summits at 1653m ASL and ascends from just south-west of Nelspruit, gaining 736m of altitude over 20 kms, producing an average ascent gradient of 1:20 with the steep bits measuring in at 1:10. Stop at the village near the summit and explore the peaceful charm of the free range horses, Anglo-Boer war and mining history, quaint architecture and the walk in the nature reserve. The western descent of 12 km ends at Ngodwana and forms a T-junction with the N4.



Mpumalanga is rich in natural beauty and what better way to experience this than driving some of the fabulous passes the province has to offer. Rich in forests with fast flowing rivers and multiple waterfalls and major attractions like the Blyde River Canyon, Bourkes Luck Potholes, Pilgrims Rest and the many game reserves, it's no wonder local and foreign tourists alike flock to this region. Often the real gems are the smaller passes tucked away in the backwaters where few people get to. Jaap se Hoogte is one of those passes.

 

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.

The beautiful Elands Pass will always be remembered once driven. It has an abundance of scenic beauty, with waterfalls, a railway line looping under the road, history in abundance and a beautifully engineered tar road to make for a comfortable drive. Perhaps the only detraction is that the N4 is a very busy road with lots of heavy-duty commercial traffic. The pass connects Machadodorp (eNtokozweni) in the west (8km) with Nelspruit in the east (85 km). The historic town of Waterval-Boven (Emgwenya) lies at the western end of the pass. The pass is 9,4 km long and gains 198m in altitude producing a gentle average gradient of 1:47 with the steepest parts near the tunnel being at 1:12

 

Steenkampsberg Pass is sometimes mistakenly referred to as "De Berg Pass" after the highest peak in the range at an altitude of 2331m. This tarred pass joins Lydenburg in the north-east with the small settlement of Roossenekal in the SSW. It is approximately 30 km to either town. The pass gains 434 vertical meters over 17,1 km producing an average gradient of 1:20. The steepest parts are at 1:7. The scenery along the entire length of the pass is exceptional and well worth any detour you will have made to drive it.

 

This short tarred pass is an easy one and is located on the R36/R539 between eNtokozweni [Machadadorp] (6km) in the SW and Lydenburg in the NE (70km). It traverses commercial timber plantations and open grasslands and plays host to two historical sites. The pass has an easy average gradient of 1:18 with the steepest section being at 1:11 

 

 

This gravel road pass runs on the North/South axis through the Soutpansberg Mountains about 40 km. due West of Louis Trichardt. The pass is an out and back route starting at the R523 in the vicinty of Waterpoort and is exceptionally scenic as it approximates the course of the gorge cut by the Sand Rivier. This is strictly an off road pass and not suitable for non 4x4 vehicles.

Please read the footnote at the bottom of this page regarding access as at November, 2014 


Rankins Pass lies in the heart of the Waterberg Conservancy and is rich in game reserves. It lies approximately 180 km North of Pretoria. The road links Thabazimbi in the West with Modimolle (previously Nylstroom) in the south east. The small settlement of Alma lies near the start of the pass. Rankins Pass is not actually a true mountain pass but more of an outpost or toll point as there is no sign of any proper climbing or bends. It is nothing more than a small police station close to the Rhenosterfontein farm. This "pass" will make our unusual and bizarre stats page in that it is the only official pass in South Africa, that is not actually a pass. We have decided to include it on our website for sake of clarification.

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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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Master Orientation Map 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.

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