Mpumalanga

This long, altitude gaining pass is located in the mountains to the north of Ngodwana and is a restricted road which falls under the jurisdiction of South African Paper and Pulp Industries (SAPPI). It is a big pass and covers a total of 27,6 km. The pass is tarred with an average gradient of 1:26, but there are some steep sections at 1:8. The public are discouraged from utilising the road, but for those persistent enough, you can get a permit from the SAPPI office at Camelot. [Details lower down on this page]

Caution: This is a dangerous road! Despite it being tarred, it has many corners with negative cross-flow and potholes are an ever present hazard. The road carries heavy logging vehicles which often use the entire width of the road to negotiate corners. Almost every one of its many bends has a name of a driver who has been injured or died there. Thick mountain mists bedevil the pass, sometimes reducing speed to a walking pace. There can be a temperature variance of up to 20 degrees, so take warm kit with. 

This short tarred pass is an easy one and is located on the R36/R539 between eNtokozweni [Machadadorp] (6km) in the SW and Lydenburg in the NE (70km). It traverses commercial timber plantations and open grasslands and plays host to two historical sites. The pass has an easy average gradient of 1:18 with the steepest section being at 1:11 

 

 

This lovely pass packing a substantial descent of 225 vertical metres is located on the R539 between eNtokozweni (Machadodorp) in the south west and Nelspruit in the east. It is the second pass of a quartet of passes on the R539, the other three being the Crossroads Pass at the start of the R539, Patata Nek Pass 15 km further east and finally, Schoemanskloof Pass which follows shortly after Patata Nek. The 3,6km long pass summits at 1595m ASL producing a fairly steep average gradient of 1:16. The pass is suitable for all traffic.

This is a typical road that drives through a low point (neck) between two mountains or hills. With a length of just under 4 kms, this gravel road descends steeply with some of the gradients at 1:6 to drop 153 vertical metres from a summit altitude of 1870m. Views looking down towards the town of Volksrust are excellent. The pass connects the R543 with farms in the Vlakpoort area. The road is suitable for all vehicles, except in heavy rain or snow when 4WD would be much safer.

Diepgezet Pass is located in eastern Mpumalanga, about 40 km south of Barberton and very close to the northern border of Swaziland (which was renamed to Eswatini in 2018). The entire pass falls within the boundaries of the Songimvelo Nature Reserve, but there are no restrictions or gate fees applicable. It connects the tarred R40 route from near the Josefsdal (Bulembu) border post with the mostly-abandoned mining town of Diepgezet. 

The gravelled road is in a reasonable condition and can be driven in a normal vehicle, but a high-clearance vehicle is recommended and a 4x4 would probably be required in wet weather. The pass offers up spectacular mountain scenery and has a height an altitude variance of 738 metres, putting it in the top 3% of the highest altitude-gaining passes in South Africa. The name is derived from Dutch and means “located deep” (within a valley).

The beautiful Elands Pass will always be remembered once driven. It has an abundance of scenic beauty, with waterfalls, a railway line looping under the road, history in abundance and a beautifully engineered tar road to make for a comfortable drive. Perhaps the only detraction is that the N4 is a very busy road with lots of heavy-duty commercial traffic. The pass connects Machadodorp (eNtokozweni) in the west (8km) with Nelspruit in the east (85 km). The historic town of Waterval-Boven (Emgwenya) lies at the western end of the pass. The pass is 9,4 km long and gains 198m in altitude producing a gentle average gradient of 1:47 with the steepest parts near the tunnel being at 1:12

 

This is a serious gravel road and jeep track for the more experienced driver and should not be attempted unless in a 4WD vehicle with decent ground clearance. The pass is located in the mountains north-east of Barberton and leads to the historic ghost town known as Eureka City which dates back to the gold rush in 1885 to 1895. The pass is 8,5 km long and climbs 478 vertical metres producing an average gradient of 1:18 with some stiff sections of up to 1:6. Allow a full day and you'll need to get a permit in Barberton.

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.

This pass lies 12km to the NE of Lydenburg on a private nature rerseve. Translated it means Gold Fields Pass. It is a gravel pass but is generally maintained to a reasonable level and will be suitable for most vehicles in dry weather. Like all gravel roads, they can quickly deteriorate in rainy weather and become slippery, muddy, corrugated and potholed. The pass traverses a narrow valley bisected by the Spekboomrivier, which boasts two classically designed high arched, stone bridges along it's course - the downstream bridge is the old road bridge and the one about 2 km further upstream is the rail bridge, but the rail bridge is not visible from the R36. The valley opens up progressively towards the south-east. This is a dead end road and lies on private property and is only accessible to guests staying at one of the lodges in the Mount Anderson Reserve.

This short, but extremely steep pass is the access road to a set of telecoms towers on the conical peak just south-east of Graskop, accessible from Kowyn's Pass. At 0,8 km it's one of the shorter passes on our database and you will experience very steep gradients of 1:4. With an average gradient of 1:9,4 it slots in as the 12th steepest pass in South Africa.

We do not recommend this road for inexperienced drivers for a number of reasons, one of which is that it is very narrow and there is nowhere to pull over should you meet up with an oncoming vehicle and a stall at one of the many drainage ditches could mean a burnt out clutch. This little pass has to be driven in 1st gear (high range) as you cannot drive it in full 4x4 mode, due to the issues around axle wind up on the hard surface.

The views from the summit are breathtaking covering a full 360 degrees. If you feel the drive is too hectic, you can always walk up as it's really not far and is doable in 15 minutes on foot.

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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.
 

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