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Mountain Passes

The Seweweeks Poort is probably the most beautiful 18 km stretch of gravel road anywhere in South Africa. With easy gradients, multiple river crossings, mind-boggling geology, camping and self catering accommodation all packed into an almost perfect micro-climate, this road is an absolute joy to drive or ride, as it twists and turns through every angle of the compass, as it follows the contorted bends of the river and falls entirely under the control of Cape Nature Conservation and more specifically the Swartberg and Towerkop Nature Reserves. It is also a certified Unesco World Heritage Site.

This poort is one of our Top 20 all time favourite roads. Add it to your bucket list!

An easy gravel pass with gentle gradients and rugged scenery in the heart of the Karoo on the R381, which together with the historic Molteno Pass and the small Blounek Pass, forms a trio of passes on the R381/P0058 which connects Beaufort West in the south with Loxton and the Northern Cape to the north. Two river crossings and a narrow ravine make this an interesting drive. Cautionary: The second set of bends to the left are very dangerous, with no barriers and steep drop-offs. Add very tight corners, negative banking and loose gravel and this is a receipe for a rollover down into the ravine. We recommend a speed of 30 kph through this section.

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This short poort is just over 1 km in length and rises just 24 metres. It forms part of the R358 route between Bitterfontein and Loeriesfontein in Namaqualand. If you want to get away from it all - this is a good place to escape to. You might find a few cars here during the flower season of August and September, but for the rest of the year, you will probably be the only vehicle on the road. The poort is so-named after the red rocks found in the walls of the poort. It's best to add the GPS coordinates of this poort into your GPS, otherwise you will probably not be aware of it. In terms of technical complexity, this little poort is insignificant with only one minor bend and a tiny altitude variance.

The Rooinek Pass is located approximately 17 km due South of Laingsburg in the Western Cape. The pass is fairly short at 3,15 km. and only gains/loses 73 meters of altitude, giving rise to an average gradient of 1:43. It is statistically a safe pass and has it's steepest gradient at 1:9. 

 

This very steep, high altitude, gravel pass will be remembered a long time after you have travelled it. It is located on a reasonable gravel road between Merweville (40km) to the east and Sutherland (50km) to the west. It climbs 263 meters in altitude over just 2,6 km producing an average gradient of 1:10 with the steepest sections (which are concreted) ramping up to under 1:5. Whilst a 4WD in dry conditions is not mandatory, it could be a life saver in the wet. The pass is subject to heavy winter snowfalls and offers spectacular views with steep drop-offs down cliffs of some 300 meters in height. There are some sections on this pass which have negative cross-flow. If it's snowing, this could result in a rollover. We recommend not driving this pass under snow conditions, as things get considerably worse higher up the mountain. The chances of getting help in this remote part of the Karoo are slim.

The Potjiesberg Pass is a long pass on the N9 south of Uniondale. It descends from the Karoo plateau to the valley that hosts the R62 route. There are some big descents and motorists should exercise caution on this pass - especially heavy trucks can have braking issues here. The pass is broken up into two distinct sections, with a valley separating the two.



Beaufort West and its environs sport several interesting passes. Just 10 km north of the Karoo town is the 15 km long Molteno Pass - a mix of tar and gravel that ascends or descends 647 vertical metres to summit on the high plateau at 1574m. The pass connects Beaufort West with Loxton some 110km to the north.

This is a scenic drive offering a variety of landscapes to gaze on, plus it gives access to a bush camp, the Gamka Dam and the Bontebok Pass. The road follows the eastern boundary of the Karoo National Park for most of its length. It is on route R381 and it's administrative number is P0058.

The Middelberg Pass is a real classic offering exquisite views and rugged, mountainous terrain on a mix of gravel and tar with hairpin pins and some very steep drop-offs. It traverses the Middelberg mountain range between the Koue Bokkeveld and Citrusdal. It is suitable for all vehicles and together with the Buffelshoek pass which precedes it from the south and the Elandskloof Pass which follows it in the north, this trio of passes is virtually one long pass.

On the flatter plateau areas there are farms peppered with citrus orchards and rooibos plantations, with blue dams with crystal clear, high quality water. The pass has a stiff average gradient of 1:14 with some sections (which are tarred) as steep as 1:5. This is a fairly modern pass having been constructed some 50 years ago.

Be aware that the maintenance of this road is not great, which means the gravel sections can be rough, rutted and corrugated. We recommend tyre deflation for improved traction with the added benefit of providing a softer ride. Take the pressures down to at least 20% of normal.

This is one of the most unusual and dramatic Northern Cape gravel passes offering challenging driving, multiple switch-backs, steep ascents and descents, serious drop-offs, as well as grand views over deep ravines and a sweeping Karoo-scape. This road is better suited to a 4WD vehicle or at least a "bakkie" with good ground clearance.

The pass descends 238 vertical metres in just 3,1 km producing a stiff average gradient of 1:13. There are one or two very steep sections at 1:5. If it is snowing, this will be a highly dangerous road to any vehicle. It is best to not have time constraints when driving this pass, as the going is slow and there are many farm gates to open and close.

Notice: We have received a report that the farm owner over whose land this pass traverses has locked the first gate near the summit, making this pass out of bounds to the general public. Should we receive any news that this situation has changed, we will update this page accordingly. Watch the video and see what you are missing!

This lovely, old (and very well designed) pass, which is also known as the Railway Pass, is unfortunately only suitable for 4WD vehicles with good ground clearance. There were a total of four passes built down the mountainside since the 1700's. This was the third road towards the Overberg and was constructed in 1904 to compliment the railway line. The line chosen was very cleverly done allowing for a major climb to take place at very comfortable gradients. The old pass is in a pictureque setting as it follows the course of the Jakkals River, which is a tributary of the Bot River. The Jakkalsrivier shares the narrow ravine with the road and the railway line. Sections of the pass falls within or close to, the Houw Hoek Nature Reserve.

IMPORTANT CAUTIONARY (27th May, 2019): The squatter camp at the eastern foot of the pass has now sprawled right over the old road that leads into Botrivier. Our advice is to not venture through the camp as your life and property could be at risk (muggings, stonings, high-jackings). IF you want to drive the old pass, please do a U Turn at the first opportunity that you see any sign of squatters and drive back up to the top.

 

 

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

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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