The Ouberg Pass is a much revered gravel road pass by adventure travellers and is questionably the most impressive gravel pass in the Northern Cape. It is an impressive pass with an altitude gain of 820 meters over 10,4 km to produce a stiff average gradient of 1:13 but the steepest parts are at 1:6 - which is steep! It traverses a ridge of the Roggeveld Mountains north-west of the Verlatenkloof Pass (which is on the R354), and summits at 1402m on the upper Karoo plateau and it's a 40 km drive from the summit into Sutherland.
This is a major pass by South African standards and contains 44 bends, corners and curves, which include 8 hairpins and another 4 corners sharper than 90 degrees, as the road snakes its way laboriously down the mountain. Despite the size and scope of this pass, the gradients, although steep, are fairly consistent and the designer plotted a good line, making the pass safe to drive.
There is one large viewsite about 1/4 way down the pass, which provides a safe, level stopping point for many vehicles, where the views are spectacular. The pass does get snow from time to time in which case it should be avoided completely (even in a 4x4) as the drop offs are extreme and unguarded where an uncontrolled slide could spell disaster.
This miniature poort is just 2 kilometers in length and rises only 10 meters in altitude. It starts at 1085m ASL and 'summits' (so to speak) at 1091m and ends at 1081m. This little poort will definitely make the record books - probably being the lowest altitude gaining, official pass in South Africa. It lies deep in the 'thirstlands' of the Northern Cape on the R386, which is a gravel road, except for the actual poort itself, which is tarred.
This big gravel pass traverses the Mokobulaan Nature Reserve and gains 625m over 19 km to produce an average gradient of 1:30. It has some fairly steep sections at 1:8. There are 48 bends, corners and curves crammed into it's 19 km length, so sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace. There are a number of cautionaries for this road which include thick mountain mists, heavy rain, slippery and muddy sections, deep ruts and washaways, logging debris on the road and the presence of heavy logging vehicles on weekdays.
The pass connects Lydenburg in the north with the N4 in the south and follows a similar direction as the Long Tom Pass some 20 km to the north. It has a summit height of 1921m ASL producing sweeping views over the valleys and kloofs. This pass should be viewed/read in conjunction with the Wonderkloof Pass which follows it on the southern side on the same road.
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.
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.
This true offroad pass covers almost 30 km of rough dirt road and jeep tracks as it traverses the Drakensberg through the Lekgamaleetse Provincial Nature Reserve. Due to the technical nature of this pass, we have broken it up into two sections - Part 1 West and Part 2 East. This road is only suitable for high clearance 4x4 vehicles and adventure motor cyclists.
Many of the historical documents relating to the Utrecht area in KwaZulu-Natal make mention of a Knight’s Hill located to the east of the town, with a property called Knight’s Farm situated on its summit. Although the appropriate links have been difficult to establish, it is very likely that this farm belonged to either Humphrey Evans Knight or his son, Marthinus Mortimer Knight, and that this is the origin of the name of the pass. The gravelled road, like many of the backroads in KZN, is well maintained and is in a fairly good condition. It can be driven in any vehicle in good weather, although a 4x4 might be required after heavy rain.
This beautiful gravel road pass is located in the western KwaZulu-Natal highlands, close to the border with the Free State province. The pass was named after Thomas George Collings, who trekked with his wife from Oudtshoorn and was the first white person to use this route. The name is often misspelt as Collin’s Pass, and also as Colling’s Pass (with an apostrophe). The pass is subject to heavy snowfalls in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer, but generally-speaking is in a good condition. Keep a lookout for the usual array of farm animals all along the length of the pass.
The Van Der Stel Pass is a fairly easy, but long, gravel road pass between Bot River and the Theewaterskloof Dam in the Overberg region. It mainly serves the farming community. The road is generally well maintained and is suitable for all vehicles. This is a fairly long pass at 17 km, but the gradients are very easy at a mere 1:145 with the steepest section near the summit at 1:6
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!
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.