Groot Zuikerboschkop Pass

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A farm dam at Morgenzon A farm dam at Morgenzon - Photo: LuftFan

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.

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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

Getting there
: We filmed this pass from east to west (ascending) and describe the approach from this perspective as well. From Dullstroom head south out of Dullstroom for 1,8 km and take the first gravel road to the left (east) at GPS S25.437266 E30.095209. Remain on this road for 22 km and use the Highlands Gate Golf and Trout Estate on the right hand side of the road as your land mark to confirm you are on the right road. The turn-off and eastern start of the Groot Zuikerboschkop Pass is approximately 8 km north of the estate entrance. Turn left (west) onto the gravel road at GPS S25.379707 E30.226621

For those wanting to drive the pass from west to east (descending), head north-east out of Dullstroom on the tarred R540 for 3,3 km and turn right (east) onto a gravel road at S25.397618 E30.126968 which is the western start of the pass.

Lunsklip WaterfallIn rainy weather you might see this waterfall on the Lunsklip River in full flow near the start of the pass / Photo: Deon Joubert The pass is named after the mountain at the western end of the pass and forms the bulk of the Dullstroom Nature Reserve. There are two distinct peaks in this area and the southern peak is the larger one, aptly named Groot Zuikerboschkop. The smaller Klein Zuikerboschkop lies 20 km to the north-east just to the left (north) of the R540.

This is primarily a farming access road and the 12,5 km traverses the properties of three big farms. They are from east to west Kruisfontein, Morgenzon and Palmietfontein.

The pass starts at the staggered junction with the alternative gravel road which forms an easterly route to the R540 starting at Dullstroom and ending at Kleinzuikerboschkop well north of Santa. At the Kruisfontein farmstead near the start, the road heads in the general direction of south-west with two tall rows of trees flanking the road.

There are one or two tricky corners along this 3 km climb and when negotiating the big U-shaped bend at the 1,2 km point (once you have sufficient elevation), stop and look to your left (south) up the valley of the small river you are crossing and you will count no less than 10 small dams occurring in rapid section over a distance of only 1,54 km - It must be a South African record!

The view down the valley to the right is of the Lunsklip River, where a wide waterfall is visible when the river is flowing strongly. 

Once past the first turn-off to the first of four Morgenzon farms at the 3,1 km point, the road levels off briefly for 150m, then begins the serious part of the ascent where you will encounter some very steep gradients with lots of loose stones. Non 4WD vehicles and motorcycles need to handle this ascent with diligence and care, as loss of traction is a reality - even in dry conditions. In wet weather this road should only be driven in a 4x4.

The steepest gradients (at 1:6) occur on the approach to the valley where the Morgenzon farmstead is located. It's easy to get confused here as there are four sets of buildings spread out over 4 kilometres, each named the same - Morgenzon with the largest cluster being the first one at the 3.2 km point. There are also many turn-offs on this section of the road, so make sure you remain on the main track.

The pass offers a great deal of variety from grassy open plains to densely wooded sections and some great mountain views. Allow at least 40 minutes to drive this route as the going is by necessity very slow.

The last three kilometres over the Palmietfontein farm are essentially flat and the pass officially ends at the T-junction with the R540 about 6 km north-east of Dullstroom. [Some info and technical data submitted by Mike Leicester]

The village of Dullstroom lies at an altitude of 2076m above sea level, on the Steenkampsberg Plateau, an elevated area of about 20 km wide. The area extends about 10 km from the south of, and 40 km to the north of Dullstroom. The average altitude is 2000 meter above sea level. The highest point is at Die Berg at 2331 meter. The highest point on the South African Railway system is reached near the Nederhorst Siding at 2097 meters, 7 km north of Dullstroom. Dullstroom and Groot Zuikerboschkop fall in the Drakensberg Ecozone.

The high annual rainfall, averaging 820mm per annum, is conducive to excellent gardening conditions and, during the high flowering season, many species of different wild flowers grow naturally. The grasslands and wetlands in this area provide a habitat for a remarkable variety of interesting fauna and flora.

The hospitable village is South Africa’s premier fly fishing destination and boasts a wealth of self-catering and hotel accommodation at luxury resorts and spas, catering for both the weekend and holiday angler. There are numerous other opportunities for amusement and sophisticated summer fun in and around this country retreat though, and if you are wondering what to do near Dullstroom when the fish go off the bite, there are a number of other waterfront activities to enjoy around the Dullstroom countryside.

The Rainbow Lodge close to DullstroomDullstroom offers fresh water fishing at many lodges like this one / Photo: RainbowLodge.co.zaThe Crocodile River has its origins in Dullstroom, and flows from here to the Kruger National Park, so if you don’t mind a 2-hour drive through the scenic Highlands Meander, you can follow the river to Crocodile Bridge and enjoy a day at South Africa’s best-known game viewing destination.

Along the way, the river branches off into major tributaries, such as the Steelpoort, Klip, Elands and Lunsklip rivers, which in turn feed smaller water features and marshes, providing excellent opportunities for fly-fishing and bird-watching along their banks.

One of these wetlands is incorporated into the Dullstroom Dam Nature Reserve, which is a fantastic setting for relaxing in nature and enjoying outdoor summer pastimes such as picnicking and walking. This peaceful place is just 3km from the centre of town along the R540. Likewise, the Sterkspruit Nature Reserve, 60 km away, features gorgeous cliffs, woodland and kloofs for hiking and bird watching along this beautiful stream, filled with rainbow and brown trout. Similar reserves in the area include the Ohrigstad Dam Nature Reserve, just 74km from Dullstroom, and Loskop Dam Nature Reserve, 84km distant.

Loskop Dam is a popular destination for water-skiing, swimming and boating and is home to several species of antelope, including the world’s largest – the eland.

Pack a tasty picinic basket and enjoy alongside the picturesque waterfalls at Lone Creek in Sabie, an hour’s drive away or at Battery Creek falls at Kaapsehoop, 76km from Dullstroom. Uniquely, Komati Springs, located 104km from your Dullstroom accommodation, offers scuba diving in a disused flooded mine and cave system which provides excellent conditions for underwater exploring.

[Info courtesy Dullstroom Tourism]

Fact File:

GPS START  S25.379707 E30.226621
GPS SUMMIT S25.391706 E30.148727
GPS END  S25.397618 E30.126968
DISTANCE 12,5 km
TIME REQUIRED 35 minutes
DATE FILMED 22.08.2015
NEAREST TOWN Dullstroom (6 km)

Route Map:

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