Mount Carmel Pass (D1054)

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Gravel travel on Mount Carmel Pass Gravel travel on Mount Carmel Pass - Photo: Chris Smit

Mount Carmel pass is a 13,4 km long gravel road descending 310 vertical meters through the Mount Carmel range of the Drakensberg. It is located about 25 km north-west of Nelspruit on the D1054. The road connects several farms around Schagen and is mainly used by farmers and forestry vehicles. The road is in fair condition and is suitable for all vehicles.This pass traverses the beautiful valley through the Mount Carmel Conservancy. It loses 310 metres of altitude producing an easy average gradient of 1:43 with the steepest sections being at 1:10. As the case for most gravel roads, we issue the usual 'slippery when wet' cautionary.

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[On car footage supplied by Mike Leicester]

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Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some
impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.

Digging into the details:

Locating the northern start: The start can be accesed via the R539 either from the south via Sudwala Pass or from the north via the R37. Turn to the east at GPS S25.344915 E30.721896. 

Mount Carmel Pass viewsView from the top of Mount Carmel / Photo: JustB021This description is based on a north - south traverse. This is a fairly long gravel pass and other than the two sharp bends mentioned earlier, the going is generally easy.

The pass starts at 1001m ASL and climbs into the south-east at a gradient of 1:11 for 1,5 km past the Mayo farms, where the summit of 1043m is reached. At the 1,8 km point, the first steep part of the descent commences at a gradient of 1:10 via a double S-bend where the second bend is fairly close to being a hairpin. It is the only really sharp bend on the pass, and a speed of 40 kph is recommended.

Here the road swings clockwise around a 1046m high peak and heads briefly towards the south-west, where it goes into a 160 degree bend to the left. This final part of this descent is very steep as the road follows an S-bend to the summit. A gravel road heads off to the right - this road will also ultimately return you to the R539, but the pass itself takes the main road to the left.

From the 2,7 km mark the gradient eases off considerably as the road continues to descend to a low point at the 5 km mark. Here there is another short climb of 1,5 km to tackle when the second lower summit of 945m is crossed. This climb includes an S-bend with some sharper bends.

Southern end of the passSignage at the southern end of the pass / Photo: Mike LeicesterThere are three forks on this road. At the second and third forks, keep right in both cases., and continue descending past Killarney, Rietfontein.

Soon the third fork appears at the Mount Carmel farmstead. Take the right hand fork (as the left hand road ends in a dead end.) Over the next 3 km, the road starts descending gently past the farms Bergsig and another farm named Schagen. The road traverses a series of farms for the last few kilometers - Karibu, Kwangoni, Kloofplaas and Hokaai.

For the next 7 km and till the southern end of the pass the road descends gently at a gradient of approximately 1:20. The pass ends at the crossing of a small stream via an unguarded low level concrete bridge. About 300m after the bridge there is a T-junction with the N4. Turn left to go to Nelspruit (25 km) or turn right to Ngodwana (27 km).

Mount Carmel itself, plays host to a popular MTB route known as the Mankele MTB.

Nelspruit, the capital of Mpumalanga province, was founded in 1895 by three brothers of the Nel family who grazed their cattle around the site of Nelspruit during the winter months. During the Boer War, Nelspruit served briefly as the seat of government for the South African Republic (not to be confused with the Republic of South Africa), an independent Boer republic. The leadership of the South African Republic included Paul Kruger.

The settlement was a key stopover for the Eastern railway built in the late 19th century which ran from the newly discovered Witwatersrand goldfields to Delgoa Bay (modern day Maputo) in Portuguese East Africa (modern day Mozambique).

The discovery of gold in the region at places like Pilgrim's Rest and Barberton, further spurred on development.

Fact File:


S25.344915 E30.721896


S25.350876 E30.732679


S25.427913 E30.785553














13,4 km




15 minutes


40 - 60 kph


Gravel (D1054)






Nelspruit (32km)

Route Map:

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From Address:

Route files:

||Click to download: Mount Carmel Pass (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software systems)

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