MacKay's Nek Pass on the tarred R410 route between Queenstown in the west and Lady Frere in the east, is a fairly short, but dramatic pass that can surprise unwary drivers with its steep gradients and very sharp bends. It's only 3,8 km long, but crammed into the first 2,5 km are two full horseshoe bends and one ninety degree right hand curve. The gradients are steep on the western side of the pass, reaching 1:7 and when added to an already high altitude of over 1200m ASL, many vehicles will experience a sensation of feeling underpowered.
Tienfontein Se Hoogte, also sometimes called Tienfonteinhoogte, is a minor pass located on the tarred R26 road near Zastron in the eastern Free State. This road forms part of the picturesque Western Maloti Mountains Route, which runs from Fouriesburg in the north to Rouxville in the south, following the border with Lesotho. It makes for an attractive and very scenic alternative to the N1 and the N6 when travelling from Gauteng to the Border region of the Eastern Cape, but be aware that some parts of this road are badly maintained.
Like so many of the poorts in South Africa, Kommissiepoort is fairly flat and has no significant corners. It is situated on the tarred R26 in the eastern Free State, more or less equidistant between Ladybrand and Hobhouse. This road, the western part of the Maloti Mountain Route, also hosts three other passes, Retiefsnek near Bethlehem, Kommandonek near Ficksburg, and Tienfontein Se Hoogte near Zastron. The name is sometimes spelled as “Commissie Poort” or “Commissiepoort”.
This easy tarred pass is located about halfway between Middeldrift and King Williams Town on the R63 main road. The pass offers scenic views of the forests around Keiskammahoek and Pirie and gives access to the R354 as well as to two railway stations and the busy industrial developement of Dimbaza. The pass is 9 km long, has two gentle curves and only climbs 75 vertical metres. There's plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful forested mountains and rural village scenery.
This is a pass not to be missed. It ascends and descends the Ribbokberg via the Valley Road and has some very steep gradients, which are not problematic as the entire pass is tarred. It's a slow drive offering fabulous and dramatic scenery culminating in the Valley of Desolation. No visitor to Graaff Reinet should miss this opportunity. The pass is 7,3 km long and it is not designed to be driven if you're in a hurry. Permits are required which can be obtained at the entrance gate. Bookmark this one - it is a real gem and rates high in our Eastern Cape Top 20 passes.
Sand River Heights (Sandrivierhoogte) is located on the national N1 highway between the small towns of Ventersburg and Winburg, and is one of only three passes on this highway north of Bloemfontein. The road is wide, with two lanes in either direction, and is extremely well designed and built, so it presents few dangers, except for the “surprise” factor. After travelling on long straight roads for many kilometres, especially if approaching from the south, the pass seems to appear out of nowhere, and can catch an unsuspecting driver unawares.
Kommandonek is located on the tarred R26 road between the small Eastern Free State towns of Fouriesburg and Ficksburg. Although it traverses an area that is sprinkled with spectacular sandstone mountains, the pass itself is not particularly impressive, being only 4 kilometres long and with a height gain of only 77 metres. The R26 has a notoriously bad reputation for the numerous potholes which plague sections of this road, but the pass can be driven in any vehicle. The name of the pass is no doubt derived from the frenetic military activity in this region during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War.
Ezzey’s Pass, also sometimes called Ezzey’s Cutting, is located on the tarred R38 road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden. This part of the Lowveld has a rich history in more ways than one, and the area is dotted with gold mines, ghost towns, and constant reminders of its past. Although the pass holds few apparent dangers, we strongly recommend that you drive this road without exceeding the speed limit, as there have been a number of serious accidents on this section. The road is narrow, with many blind corners, so keep a sharp lookout for other cars and trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and animals. The pass is 10,4 km long and contains 23 bends, curves and corners. Take it slowly and enjoy the scenery.
The N4 is a national highway that stretches across the entire northern section of South Africa, from the Botswana border in the west, through Pretoria, to the Mozambique border in the east. Astonishingly, there are only four official passes on this road, and Magatasnek is the only one located on the western half. The pass lies just to the west of Rustenburg.
The N4 is heavily tolled, and has a reputation as a dangerous road, in particular the section between Brits and Rustenburg, where there is only a single lane in each direction for much of this route. Impatient motorists tend to overtake slow moving traffic without any regard for the road markings and signs, resulting in a number of injuries and fatalities.
This 4,27 km long tarred pass is a northern extension of the fabulous Robinson Pass and sweeps through the Brakpoort about 18 km south-west of Oudtshoorn. The road descends 144 vertical metres, producing an average gradient of 1:30 with the steepest section presenting at 1:14. There is one dangerous corner of 90 degrees where some negative cross-flow has seen several vehicles departing the road for the much rougher ground of the ravine on the right. On the sharpest part of this corner, solid concrete crash barriers have been created and judging by the many metal scrapes and paint marks on the concrete, it has already served its purpose in saving lives.
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.