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.
The Gysmanshoek Pass follows an historical ox wagon route dating back to the mid 1700's. This is an old gravel pass through a natural cleft in the Langeberg Mountains between Heidelberg in the south and the Little Karoo/ Ladismith area in the north. It is driveable in a normal car in good weather, but if it's been raining, a 4x4 will be a better option.
Depending on the weather, things can get tricky on this pass. Not too many people have travelled this delightfully scenic and off the beaten track pass. It was originally named Hudson's Pass after the local magistrate. Take your time over this pass and stop frequently to enjoy the proteas, ericas and other flowering fynbos species. See if you can find the ruins of the old English fort which dates back to the Anglo Boer war.
The pass is 11,6 km long and contains 51 bends, corners and curves. The average gradient is a mild 1:36 but there are two very steep sections close to the summit,where the gradient gets as steep as 1:5 and FWD cars might well experience traction issues here (especially if driving from south to north) - even in dry weather.
The Gifberg (Poison Mountain) Pass is a challenging gravel pass (with two short tarred sections over the steepest parts) that ascends the Matsikamma mountain and connects the mountain top farms of the Gifberg with Vanrhynsdorp about 20 km to the north. The pass offers outstanding views, hiking trails, San rock-art, wildflowers, rockpools and waterfalls. It is the source of the Troe-Troe river which flows northwards through Vanrhynsdorp. The pass was originally built in 1917 and improved, widened and partially hard-surfaced over the years in an effort to improve safety.
Floorshoogte is a 16 km long tarred pass on the R43 between Villiersdorp and Caledon. It climbs/descends 257 meters to summit at 525m ASL producing a comfortable average gradient of 1:62, which is mainly due to an undulating middle section. The initial climb up from the Theewaterskloof Dam to the summit is a long, continuous climb with a gradient of 1:8
The Dwarskloof Pass is located between the N2 (east of Caledon) and the village of Greyton. It is a minor and completely safe pass and if you didn't know it was an official pass, you would probably miss it completely. It is nothing more than a long descent down a gravel farm road towards the Riviersonderend valley. The gradient is a very easy 1:44 and the steepest part is 1:11. It is perfectly safe for all vehicles and bicycles will have no issues either.
We filmed the pass from south to north to maximise on the beautiful mountain backdrop. Despite the placidness of this pass, it does offer magnificent scenery. In front of you the looming bulk of the Sonderend Mountains form a formidable obstacle, whilst the fields on either side are a mass of rolling hills clad in green and yellow (wheat and canola) in winter and spring. This is also a place you are likely to see South Africa's national bird - the Blue Crane.
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.
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.