This is an impressive pass by any standards. At 7.9 km long it climbs a whopping 705m producing a stiff average gradient of 1:11 with the steepest parts reaching 1:6. Crammed within that distance are no less than 59 bends, corners and curves of which 5 are full hairpins and another 6 exceed 90 degrees.
The scenery is majestic and changes perpetually as the road winds its way up to the Waboomsberg summit point, to end at a cluster of telecoms towers. You will be treated to 250 degree views of the Warm Bokkeveld and making up the other 110 degrees are views of the Gydo Plateau.
Whilst the road is 98% gravel, there are 8 short tarred sections (with the odd pothole) ensuring reasonable traction on the steeper sections. Besides the wonderful views, you are also likely to spot small antelope like steenbok, duikers and klipspringers and for the birders, you are almost guaranteed to spot a few raptors, sunbirds and other LBJ's.
The pass falls entirely on private land and permission is required (at a fee) to drive the route (Contact numbers lower down). It is a cul-de-sac, so the whole route has to be retraced back to the start. This route is a viable alternative to Matroosberg in the snow season, as the road condition is far superior and holds very few real dangers.
Elandshoogte is a long rambling pass on the R396, which connects Maclear with Rhodes. The pass traverses the majestic forested intermediate area between the lower escarpment and the high mountains of the Drakensberg range. The road is usually in a reasonable condition and in fair weather can be driven in most vehicles, but in heavy rain or snow, a 4WD vehicle will be mandatory.
The pass contains 61 bends, corners and curves within its 10.7 km length and of those 16 are greater than 90 degrees and one is a full hairpin of 180 degrees. The road presents as an undulating road with no less than 3 false summits and routes through a commercial forestry zone, so please drive with your headlights on at all times to make your vehicle more visible to forestry vehicles that commonly use this road extensively.
The road follows the Naude's Nek Pass when driving from north to south and is itself followed by the Pot River Pass. Cautionaries include dense mountain mists with poor visibility, slippery surfaces in wet weather, forestry vehicles and ruts, wash-aways and corrugations.
This official pass is so minor that unless you have inserted the waypoints in your GPS, chances are you would drive right over it and not be aware that you have just driven an official pass. It is one of 5 Withoogtes in South Africa, the other four all being in the Northern Cape. The pass has three easy bends and only gains 24m in altitude, producing a gentle average gradient of 1:58 with the steepest parts being at 1:14. It forms part of a long east-west gravel loop that connects the R318 near the summit of the Rooihoogte Pass with the summit of the Ouberg Pass north of Montagu and includes several very minor official passes including Moordenaarshoogte, Koppie se Nek and Tollie se Poort.
There are no serious dangers on this road, but as is the case with all gravel roads, the surface can change rapidly depending on weather conditions. In general terms this is a typical Karoo road in a low rainfall area, so the most common issues are loose gravel on the corners and the inevitable corrugations. Cattle grids occur frequently and it's best to lower your speed to 30 kph for these.
If you didn't know this was an official pass, you would drive right over it and be none the wiser. Technically, it doesn't fit the description of a pass or a poort, but the government has decided it is a pass, so it's a pass! We have a number of these little minor passes on our database and we faithfully record each and every one for the sake of having a complete and accurate record of every listed pass.
It's short at 3,4 km and climbs only 38m producing an average gradient of 1:89 and never gets steeper than 1:16. What this little pass lacks in impact, it makes up for in the beautifully tranquil Karoo surroundings. A small flock of sheep; a creaking windmill; a solitary kestrel floating on the still air; a donkey cart carrying its occupants to the next farm. The Karoo has a magic all of its own.
This road is also the southern gateway to the wonderful Anysberg Nature Reserve.
This relatively unknown pass runs along the east-west axis between Wakkerstroom in the west and the farming areas around Paulpietersburg in the east. With a summit height of 1925m it settles in as the 51st highest altitude pass in South Africa. Although the pass is technically fairly easy, the real reason to head out onto this big gravel traverse is to enjoy the exceptionally attractive scenery of rolling grasslands, dotted with green clad koppies, wide valleys, tumbling streams filled with trout and a general ambience of country tranquillity.
The pass contains 23 bends corners and curves within its 11,9 km length. Two of those exceed 90 degrees, but neither is particularly dangerous as this road is well engineered with none of the gradients exceeding 1:9.
Cautionaries for this pass include dense mountain mists, heavy rain, snow on occasion in winter and livestock on the road.
Flouhoogte is a moderate pass on a gravel road in the Overberg not far from the sleepy town of Stanford. It has a classic vertical profile with a central summit point. There are only four gentle bends on this pass as it climbs 145m to summit at 215m directly opposite the Flouhoogte farmstead, which is where the pass takes its name from.
Translated from Afrikaans it literally means Weak Heights, but as is the case with translations, it can also mean Faint Heights. The latter is the more likely meaning as in the previous century it would have been hard work getting goods up that steep hill using wagons, oxen and mules.
The pass offers wonderful pastoral scenery of cultivated farmlands, with sweeping mountain views on the left, with the ocean sparkling just 25 km away to the right. This pass gives access to Kleinrivier Kloof Pass, Sandy's Glen and Groenkloof passes.
This is without question a bucket list pass and if you're a gravel pass aficionado, then doubly so. After the long flat plains of the Koue Bokkeveld have been traversed, this pass comes as something of an eye opener as the summit is approached and suddenly the whole pass is there winding its way laboriously down the western flank of the big ravine carved out by the perennial Leeurivier in the Southern Cederberg. It ends at a delightful camping spot named Balie's Gat.
This road is not for the faint-hearted as it is single width only and many parts of the road are propped up by some very basic dry packed stone walls. These are more or less in the fashion of Thomas Bain's dry packed walls, but the construction work itself is much more rudimentary.
It takes about 20 minutes to descend the 205 metres over a total of 2,4 km and produces an average gradient of 1:12. The road has serious gradients of up to 1:6, plus it is very bumpy and rocky. Ideally a 4x4 is required and especially the climb back out of the valley is much better in low range. If you're towing a trailer, then low range is a definite requirement. Note that it is a cul-de-sac and the only way out of the valley is the same you enter it.
This fairly easy gravel pass is of moderate length at 5,4 km and displays an altitude variance of 180m. It has 11 bends, corners and curves of which 3 exceed 90 degrees. The pass connects the tarred main road (the R326) in the north in the vicinity of the western side of the Akkedisberg Pass with the main gravel road running along the east-west axis from Stanford to Sandy's Glen Pass.
The road is generally well maintained and is suitable for all vehicles, but like all gravel roads it is subject to damage when it rains hard. The pass makes for a scenic and easy drive offering mountain views and rolling hills mainly covered in wheat and canola as well as some cattle farms. There are a number of excellent guest farms in the immediate area. The other passes close by include Flouhoogte, Akkedisberg, Sandy's Glen and Groenkloof passes.
This attractive gravel pass of 11,8 km length has a classic inverted profile of a pass that drops down into a river valley and rises up the other side. The river in question is the Mkomazi River - a small but powerful river that drains a sizeable portion of the Drakensberg escarpment. The pass forms part of the long and winding Lotheni Road that connects Nottingham Road in the north-east with Underberg and Himeville in the south-west.
Despite being a gravel pass, the road engineering is sound and the gradients never exceed 1:10. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of wash-board corrugations, ruts, washaways, livestock on the road and loose gravel on the corners. The pass is named after the Bucklands farm over which it traverses and worth noting that a small nature reserve is crossed on the south-western side of the pass, called the Vergelegen Nature Reserve.
In fair weather this pass can be driven in any vehicle.
This fairly long gravel pass on the secondary MR00668 road, measures in at 9,9 km and displays an altitude variance of 229m. It has 13 bends, corners and curves of which only one is fairly sharp at 80 degrees. The pass connects Burgersdorp in the north-west with Jamestown and Dordrecht in the south-east.
It's not a specifically dangerous or technical pass, but like all gravel passes, it can quickly deteriorate in rainy weather and especially after snow. It has an impressive summit altitude of 1853m ASL which classifies it into the second highest group of passes in South Africa. If you enjoy lonely, remote passes then add this one to that list. It ticks the right boxes.
Cautionaries: Loose gravel, ruts, wash-aways, corrugations, livestock on the road, dangerous at night.
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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