This very steep, high altitude, gravel pass will be remembered a long time after you have travelled it. It is located on a reasonable gravel road between Merweville (40km) to the east and Sutherland (50km) to the west. It climbs 263 meters in altitude over just 2,6 km producing an average gradient of 1:10 with the steepest sections (which are concreted) ramping up to under 1:5. Whilst a 4WD in dry conditions is not mandatory, it could be a life saver in the wet. The pass is subject to heavy winter snowfalls and offers spectacular views with steep drop-offs down cliffs of some 300 meters in height. There are some sections on this pass which have negative cross-flow. If it's snowing, this could result in a rollover. We recommend not driving this pass under snow conditions, as things get considerably worse higher up the mountain. The chances of getting help in this remote part of the Karoo are slim.
The Middelberg Pass is a real classic offering exquisite views and rugged, mountainous terrain on a mix of gravel and tar with hairpin pins and some very steep drop-offs. It traverses the Middelberg mountain range between the Koue Bokkeveld and Citrusdal. It is suitable for all vehicles and together with the Buffelshoek pass which precedes it from the south and the Elandskloof Pass which follows it in the north, this trio of passes is virtually one long pass.
On the flatter plateau areas there are farms peppered with citrus orchards and rooibos plantations, with blue dams with crystal clear, high quality water. The pass has a stiff average gradient of 1:14 with some sections (which are tarred) as steep as 1:5. This is a fairly modern pass having been constructed some 50 years ago.
Be aware that the maintenance of this road is not great, which means the gravel sections can be rough, rutted and corrugated. We recommend tyre deflation for improved traction with the added benefit of providing a softer ride. Take the pressures down to at least 20% of normal.
This is one of the most unusual and dramatic Northern Cape gravel passes offering challenging driving, multiple switch-backs, steep ascents and descents, serious drop-offs, as well as grand views over deep ravines and a sweeping Karoo-scape. This road is better suited to a 4WD vehicle or at least a "bakkie" with good ground clearance.
The pass descends 238 vertical metres in just 3,1 km producing a stiff average gradient of 1:13. There are one or two very steep sections at 1:5. If it is snowing, this will be a highly dangerous road to any vehicle. It is best to not have time constraints when driving this pass, as the going is slow and there are many farm gates to open and close.
Notice: We have received a report that the farm owner over whose land this pass traverses has locked the first gate near the summit, making this pass out of bounds to the general public. Should we receive any news that this situation has changed, we will update this page accordingly. Watch the video and see what you are missing!
The Gifberg (Poison Mountain) Pass is a challenging gravel pass (with two short tarred sections over the steepest parts) that ascends the Matsikamma mountain and connects the mountain top farms of the Gifberg with Vanrhynsdorp about 20 km to the north. The pass offers outstanding views, hiking trails, San rock-art, wildflowers, rockpools and waterfalls. It is the source of the Troe-Troe river which flows northwards through Vanrhynsdorp. The pass was originally built in 1917 and improved, widened and partially hard-surfaced over the years in an effort to improve safety.
The Dwarskloof Pass is located between the N2 (east of Caledon) and the village of Greyton. It is a minor and completely safe pass and if you didn't know it was an official pass, you would probably miss it completely. It is nothing more than a long descent down a gravel farm road towards the Riviersonderend valley. The gradient is a very easy 1:44 and the steepest part is 1:11. It is perfectly safe for all vehicles and bicycles will have no issues either.
We filmed the pass from south to north to maximise on the beautiful mountain backdrop. Despite the placidness of this pass, it does offer magnificent scenery. In front of you the looming bulk of the Sonderend Mountains form a formidable obstacle, whilst the fields on either side are a mass of rolling hills clad in green and yellow (wheat and canola) in winter and spring. This is also a place you are likely to see South Africa's national bird - the Blue Crane.
This is one of the most spectacular gravel passes in the Western Cape offering stunning scenery of craggy mountains, vertical rock walled poorts, old-school engineering, game spotting, birdlife and a fabulous 4 star lodge to ease weary travellers into the bushveld way of life. The pass has 60 bends, corners and curves compressed into its 7,6 km length with an average gradient of 1:13 which is remarkable considering that the lower part of the pass where it becomes a poort is fairly flat. Yet there is no point on the pass which is excessively steep. There are some sections that reach 1:6 so this road with it's steep unguarded drop-offs, requires focused attention by drivers.
This historic pass dates back to 1862 and was completed by Thomas Bain's brother in law - Adam de Smidt. The road is named after the many fossilised ticks found in the rocks when the road was built. This used to be the main road between Laingsburg and Prince Albert up till the late 1960's when the Dept. of Water Affairs built the Gamkakloof Dam, which had a number of consequences, including making this road obsolete.
Firstly it made the road a dead end as there was no way around the new dam and secondly it spelt the end of the farming community in the Gamkakloof, as the new road bulldozed eastwards through the Gamkaskloof gave this community access to Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp. They left the kloof in a steady trickle until there was no-one left. That is one of the negative sides of progress. The full story on the on the Gamkaskloof can be read elsewhere on this website.
This gravel road passes is fairly long at 20,8 km. It is (as the name suggests), virtually an extension of the Tarka Pass which ends where this pass starts. The road meanders on an East-West axis, through the mountains starting at an altitude of823m and traces the course of a small river past several isolated farms, before summiting at 1343m.
This small 2,7 km long poort drives through the natural gap in the northern-most of the four ridges comprising the Grootrivierberge between Willowmore and Jansenville in the Karoo. Typical of a poort, the road follows the path of the Plessisrivier and there is not much gain or loss in altitude. Both start and end points are at crossings of the same river. The road is generally maintained to a reasonable condition and is suitable for all vehicles.
The Pot River sources in the Drakensberg, where the pass of the same name traverses its western flank. It's asurprisingly long pass, initially crossing over the Pot River about 22 km north-west of Maclear. This is a reasonable, gravel road and can be driven by normal cars in fair weather. In wet weather you are best off in a 4x4 or a 'bakkie' with decent ground clearance.
Most of the pass consists of a fairly straightforward ascent along the main spur of the mountain, with the only set of sharp corners, consisting of a set of double hairpins, being near the southern end of the pass. From the summit point at 1783m ASL the road displays an altitude variance of 461m over a distance of 8.9 km, producing an average gradient of 1:19 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:6.
If you're driving between Rhodes and Maclear this is one of three passes you will traverse along the R396 - the other two being Elands Heights and the major pass is of course, the Naude's Nek Pass.
Pitseng Pass is dwarfed by the nearby Naude’s Nek Pass, but nevertheless it is a substantial pass in its own right. In good conditions the pass can be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, but in wet weather or snow a 4x4 will definitely be required. Together with its sister pass, Luzi Poort, the road is often used as a shortcut by travellers wishing to get from Mount Fletcher to Rhodes or vice versa; it is a much shorter route than going via Maclear, and it is certainly more scenic. Either way, Naude’s Nek still has to be negotiated. There is a significant height gain / loss of 368 metres, and the pass is 8 kilometres in length.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.