Burgers Pass is a typical forestry gravel road with a classic midpoint summit. It's just above the national average at 5,7 km and has an altitude variance of 175m, which produces an average gradient of 1:32, but don't be fooled by that statistic as some of the gradients on the eastern side reach 1:5. There are plenty of bends corners and curves to keep drivers busy - 36 of them of which 10 have a turning arc of greater than 90 degrees and 5 of those exceed 150 degrees. There is one very sharp hairpin bend at the 3,8 km mark.
If you enjoy driving through dense forests, then this pass will tick most of the boxes, plus it carries very little traffic, other than forestry vehicles, so you should enjoy peace and quiet. This pass is best driven on a Sunday or public holiday, which will ensure an absence of forestry vehicles.
Cautionaries: This pass is in the very heart of the prime forestry zone around Graskop and Sabie. If you intend driving it in the week, expect forestry vehicles. Remember in forestry areas to always switch your headlights (not your parks) on. In bright sunlight the road is in a constant state of flux changing rapidly between deep shadows and bright sunlight. It takes a second or two for driver's eyes to adjust to these rapid changes, so by having your lights on, it makes you much more visible to other vehicles.
It's much easier approaching this pass from the eastern side, so although we filmed it from the west, the eastern approach is the better option, unless you enjoy navigational challenges.
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.
This lovely tarred pass with its sweeping curves and grand views is located midway between Sabie and Graskop on the R532 and also provides access to the renowned Mac Mac Falles as well as the Mac Mac Pools just a few kilometres further south. The road is in a good condition and is suitable for all vehicles, on the proviso that barrier line restrictions and speed limits are adhered to. It's not a major pass in the greater scheme of things but it does provide magnificent scenery in a picture perfect Lowveld setting.
The entire area around Graskop and Sabie is prone to heavy rainfall and frequent mountain mists. In such low visibility conditions, adapt your speed according to conditions, put on all your lights (in daylight hours) including your hazards. At night switch your main beams off and use your fog lights to reduce glare.
This gravel pass offers spectacular views of forests, rivers and waterfalls and will also elevate you by 695 vertical meters. It has a summit height of 1473m which is guaranteed to provide magnificent 360 degree views. It runs through the Blyde River Canyon National Park and is 15,3 km long ends at the crossing of the Mac-Mac River at its eastern end. It is located approximately 15 km north-east of Sabie. The road is an interesting alternative off the main tar roads to get to either Hazyview or Graskop from Sabie.
The pass has plenty of bends, corners and curves to keep you honest - in fact 48 of them, of which 9 exceed 90 degrees radius. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of ruts, washaways and corrugations and for this pass there is the added danger of slow moving heavy forestry vehicles with long stretches of deep shadow and dappled sunlight which affects the driver's vision.
Bergvliet Pass lies on the tarred R536 route between Hazyview and Sabie in the east of the Mpumalanga province. Named after the Bergvliet plantation through which it traverses, this pass forms the most curvy and scenic part of the “Infamous 22”. This stretch of road between Sabie and the Kiepersol turnoff is 22 km long (hence the name), and is acknowledged as being one of the best motorcycling roads in South Africa, if not the world.
The regional authorities are well aware of this, and the road surface is maintained in a pristine condition, in stark contrast to the other half of the R536 on the Hazyview side, and the Kiepersol road, which are riddled with potholes and broken tar. If you are driving this route in a car, bakkie or SUV, pay close attention and be on the lookout for motorcycles which could encroach onto the wrong side of the road, on any day of the week.
Bakenkop Pass is named after the prominent mountain near its western extremity, which is easily identifiable whilst driving the pass itself from the host of radio towers on its summit. The route forms part of one of the original trails which bisect the lower section of the Drakensberg escarpment, and is located just to the south-east of Sabie, running in a generally west-east configuration towards Kiepersol and Hazyview. The gravel track is extremely rough and rutted, and we strongly recommend the use of a high-clearance vehicle, or a 4x4 during or after wet weather. This is logging country, and the road traverses both pine and eucalyptus plantations for its entire length, also offering up some splendid views over the Lowveld.
This is undoubtedly the most famous pass in Mpumalanga - and with good reason too. It is 26,2 km long (and even longer depending on where one starts measuring), plus it displays an altitude variance of 671 vertical meters through a complex network of curves as it ascends up the Drakensberg escarpment between Sabie in the east and Lydenburg in the west. The pass forms part of the Mpumalanga Panoramic Route and carries appropriately heavy traffic - both tourist and commercial. It is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. It is named after the famous Long Tom cannon.
With 66 bends, corners and curves and a fairly easy average gradient of 1:39 and no part being steeper than 1:10 this pass is a magnificent spectacle with grand views and rugged frontier and Anglo-Boer War history adding to its allure.
This is another of the Top 10 Mpumalanga passes with stunning views and an altitude drop of 512m through the Drakensberg escarpment over 7,8 km., producing an average gradient of 1:15. This is a steep pass in places with gradients in excess of 1:11 and is on route R533. It was was completed in October 1959 and named after a local Sotho chief, Koveni who controlled the land along the track. The name, Koveni, became Anglicized to Kowyn. The area around the pass is truly 'out of this world' with a wide range of attractions for the traveller.
At the time of its original construction, the engineering work on this pass was one of the most advanced in South Africa with the half tunnel and cantilevered roadway with a concrete surface forming a stable structure near the summit ridge. Today (2018) the once proud pass is taking strain where many potholes have made an appearance. The Mpumalanga roads authorities appear to have no funds to appear the road and potholes are being filled with gravel (which obviously only lasts till the next rainshower). Drive carefully on this pass which is prone to thick mountain mists, but the biggest danger is opposing traffic that crosses the median line in an effort to avoid the potholes.
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
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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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