This gem of a pass is a well hidden secret, which lies in an isolated valley to the north of the Klipbokkrans and Baviaansberg mountains [1946m] and follows the natural kloof formed to the south of the Grasberg mountain [1638m]. It lies on the east/west axis and at 16,1 km is quite a long pass. It's not only long in terms of distance, but in time too. You will need at least 1,5 hours to complete the kloof itself and that excludes the southern return leg over many kilometres of farm roads.
Multiple farm gates and to a fairly dodgy road, which can be in various states of disrepair, all add to the remote and rugged allure. It's best done in a 4x4 or at least a "bakkie" with good ground clearance and diff-lock. Despite the average gradient being an easy 1:30, there are some very steep parts, especially near the summit, which reach 1:6. During winter and after rain, there are multiple river crossings to negotiate, none of which are crossed over any bridges. The rewards however, are magnificent.
This is not a lazy Sunday afternoon drive. This rough, steep gravel pass crosses the Grootrivier on the northern side of the Baviaanskloof Mountains via a river crossing just below a weir, without a bridge. Whilst the pass itself is a mere 5 km long, it is the access roads which make the driving of this pass, something of an adventure. First things first - You will not be able to drive this pass without being in a 4x4 vehicle with good ground clearance. 'Soft-roaders' will not have sufficient ground clearance. Adventure bikers will need to be experienced to handle this road, as it is long, rough, steep and dangerous over many sections, including the entire eastern section between the pass and Patensie.
The Rooiberg Pass was built in 1928 most probably under the supervision of the Divisional Council of Oudtshoorn. It joins the tiny village of Van Wyksdorp with Calitzdorp over the Rooiberg Mountain. This is not a pass to be trifled with and although it can be driven in a normal car, a high clearance vehicle would be better. It is also a long pass at 14 km and contains some fairly rough sections. There are a total of 69 bends, corners and curves which include 6 hairpins and many other bends with a turning radius in excess of 90 degrees. It's a road for the less hurried traveller and offers wonderful views on both the northern and southern sides with valleys and ridges bedecked in fynbos and in winter you'll be treated to the sight of the bright orange flowers of hundreds of thousands of flowering aloes.
The pass has an altitude variance of 509m over a distance of 14 km producing an average gradient of 1:27 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:7. All these considered, it is one you simply have to drive at least once in your life.
The statistics for this pass are not particularly impressive, as it is only 2.9 km long and has a height gain/loss of only 103 metres. But dry statistics don’t always paint the right picture. This stunningly beautiful pass is absolutely worth the time and effort it takes to get there, and will leave a lasting impression on your soul. The “road” is little more than a track, and has a few tricky sections with large rocks, sharp stones and patches of very soft sand, so do not tackle this pass if you are not driving a 4x4 fitted with all-terrain tyres. If you attempt this pass on an adventure motorcycle, be prepared to fix a puncture or two and/or to pick up your bike a few times!
Roughly translated, the name of this pass means “road of the mountain people”. It is located in the middle of nowhere, about 56 km from Postmasburg and quite close to the famous Witsand Nature Reserve. The pass statistics are not particularly impressive, with the exception of the maximum gradient, which works out in excess of 1:3; there is a 400-metre-long section of this pass which is very, very steep! The road is in a relatively poor condition, and it should not be attempted in a normal car; at the very least, a high-clearance vehicle is required. It is very easy to get lost in this part of the world, even if you are using a GPS, as many of the “public” roads are blocked by locked gates.
The Devil's Pass is a rough jeep track only suitable for 4x4 vehicles. It runs from east to west up the Southern slopes of the historical Mhlobane Mountain to summit at 1562m ASL, offering 360 degree panoramic views. This is a not track to be tackled lightly as it is a dead end at the summit, which means you have to back-track to where you started. Allow plenty of time (4 hours) to complete the circuit. It is probable that a permit is required to do this route and it might even be closed to vehicles and only accessible on foot. Inquire at Vryheid Tourism.
Sani Pass is the mother of all South African mountain passes. Statistically and in every sense, it out distances, out climbs, and out performs all it's competitors with consummate ease to have become the most iconic gravel pass in SA.
Situated between KZN and Lesotho the pass was built circa 1950 and remains a challenging drive in 4x4 vehicles with all the drama, scenery, bad weather and treacherous conditions expected of a pass with a summit altitude of 2876m ASL.
This is high altitude stuff. Go prepared for bad weather at any time and expect snowfalls as late as October. Snow has fallen on the pass in every month of the year, albeit not in the same year.
To maximise on the scenery, we filmed the pass in the descending mode. For most drivers the pass will be driven in the ascending mode for first timers, so we have retained our original 2 part video set filmed in the ascending mode, filmed in October, 2012. The videos appear at the bottom of the page.
The Sandspruit Pass is a rough, gravel road pass in the area to the North East of the tiny settlement of Geluksburg in KZN. This is strictly a 4x4 route route - and you will need low range and good clearance as well. Some sections along the top of the mountain are badly rutted and will probably result in a recovery if the weather is wet (even in a 4x4). The pass has historical value as it was once a route used by the legendary Piet Retief.
Normandien Pass is named after the farm and small settlement located near the foot of the pass on the eastern side, which consists of just of few buildings, a shop and a police station. It is without question one of the best gravel passes in KwaZulu-Natal, and one which many avid off-road enthusiasts aspire to conquer. It has all of the elements that make up a great pass – altitude (at 1995 metres ASL, this is the second highest pass in KZN, after Sani Pass), steep gradients, difficult road conditions, lots of twists and turns, and breath-taking views. Depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, this pass could be driven in a high clearance vehicle, but a 4x4 is strongly recommended.
Mike's Pass is a rough, high altitude, 4x4 pass in the Drakensberg in KZN. You will be rewarded with incredible views and mountain top fresh air to invigorate your senses. Snow in winter is common, in which case the pass will probably be closed to the public. Some sections have concrete strips.
Latest info: As at September, 2014 we have it on good authority that this pass is now only accessble in a NCS vehicle (the nature reserve's own vehicles) at a cost of R60 per person - minimum 4 persons. Trips are on offer 4 times per day - at 0900; 1200 and 1600. The controlling authority must have had good reason to have made this decision and I doubt very much it would have been based on profit. We invite them to contact us with an explanation as there appear to be many disappointed gravel pass fans who would have loved to drive this pass in their own vehicle.
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.