The Golden Highway Pass connects the old mining ghost town of Eureka City, high up on a plateau of the Makhonjwa Mountains, with the Sheba Mine located in a valley far below. The end point is very close to the entrance of the famous Bray’s Golden Quarry. Originally just an unnamed track, the pass acquired its name when a local builder was contracted to provide concrete paving strips on some of the route. The story goes that he mistakenly used unprocessed ore extracted from the mine as part of his building mix, and that therefore an unknown amount of raw gold ended up as part of the road surface!
There are various routes that connect the De Kaap Valley with Eureka City, but all of these require the use of a 4x4 vehicle with low-range capability. They range from a Grade 2 to a Grade 3, but can quickly deteriorate to a Grade 4 or even a Grade 5 in wet weather. The Golden Highway Pass itself is not difficult (mainly because of the concrete paving), but fallen trees and boulders can block the pass at any time, so users should be prepared for this eventuality. There are numerous hairpin bends, at least four of which require a 3-point and perhaps even a 5-point turn, depending on the vehicle.
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.
A straightforward, easy tarred pass suitable for all vehicles, on the N11 between Volksrust and Amersfoort, that clears a neck on the eastern side of the aptly named Graskop mountain [2203m] which is completely covered in grass, about 16 km north of Volksrust. It's a pass with an average gradient of 1:38 over a distance of 4,37 km with the steepest parts being at 1:10. This pass should not be confused with the much bigger and more majestic Grasnek Pass in the Baviaanskloof, in the Eastern Cape.
A tricky, high-altitude gravel pass a few kilometres north-east of Dullstroom with lots of stones, deep ruts and steep inclines. It offers lovely scenery and challenging driving, with the road reaching a maximum altitude of 2102m ASL. At 12,5 km it's much longer than the national average and although the average gradient is a pleasant 1:28 the steepest section occurs at the 6 km mark and it has gradients as steep as 1:6. If it's raining, take extra precautions here and moderate your speed to suit the conditions. The road is not suitable for vehicles with low clearance and even 4x4's will have issues here in wet weather. We issue a cautionary for bikers.
Hendriksdal Pass is located just to the south of Sabie, on the tarred R37 route which connects the little town with Nelspruit (Mbombela). The pass is fairly long at 9,5 km and presents an altitude variance of 218m via 22 bends, corners and curves, most of which have an easy radius.
The pass is named after the original farm in the area, which later also gave its name to a railway station dating back to the 1920s. The road is in a good condition (unlike many of the other roads in this area) and presents very few hazards, provided that the speed limit is adhered to. The pass offers up magnificent elevated views of Sabie itself, as well as the mountains and tree plantations which abound in this area.
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.
The Hilltop Pass is a wide, tarred road in good condition and is named after the farm 'Hilltop' at the summit. The 6,24 km long pass offers beautiful views over the De Kaap Valley and the Barberton Nature Reserve. The pass is located on the R40 and connects Barberton in the south with Nelspruit in the north. The pass is peppered with sharp corners, including 3 bends in excess of 120 degrees. It should be noted that there are no lay-bys to stop safely. The pass descends a total of 326 vertical metres producing a stiff average gradient of 1:14 with the steepest parts registering 1:6
This gravel pass is located near the foot of the much bigger Mokobulaan Pass and forms a southern extension to it. It follows the course of the dominant river in the valley - the Houtboslooprivier, after which the pass is named. At 10,3 km it's well above the national average in terms of length and offers some lovely Lowveld scenery as it descends steadily to the valley floor and features some good views of the Wonderkloof gorge on it's northern side.
With an average gradient of 1:31 this pass can be driven in a normal car, but when conditions are wet, there could be traction issues on the steeper sections which max out at 1:10. There are 44 bends, corners and curves, including one very sharp hairpin of 180 degrees, compressed into it's length and the usual gravel road cautionaries for Mpumalanga passes apply here, which include rutted and uneven surfaces due to washaways, dense mountain mists, heavy logging trucks and livestock on the road.
Mpumalanga is rich in natural beauty and what better way to experience this than driving some of the fabulous passes the province has to offer. Rich in forests with fast flowing rivers and multiple waterfalls and major attractions like the Blyde River Canyon, Bourkes Luck Potholes, Pilgrims Rest and the many game reserves, it's no wonder local and foreign tourists alike flock to this region. Often the real gems are the smaller passes tucked away in the backwaters where few people get to. Jaap se Hoogte is one of those passes.
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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