The Thomas Bain-built "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna features the Hoogekraal Pass, covering 3 km of breathtakingly beautiful views along its narrow gravel road. It descends to and from the Hoogekraal River, and ends just before the Geelhoutsvlei Timber Mill - another Garden Route location, rooted in the history of the Knysna woodcutters. This pass ends west of the forestry village of Karatara.
Like the Kaaimansgat, Silver River and Touw River passes, this pass has very similar characteristics in terms of distance and altitude variance as well as the classic inverted profile of a pass that descends to a river and rises back up the other side again.
This is the first of 7 passes when driving from west to east which has a bridge wide enough to carry two lanes of traffic. All of the bridges were made from concrete and stone and designed in the Victorian style of the early 1900's. It is only the steel bridge over the Touw River which is different.
The Hoogte Pass (translated as Heights Pass) lies between the seaside settlement of Groot Brakrivier and George on the tarred N2 highway. This pass is a joy to drive for its smooth surface, perfectly banked curves, and comfortable gradients. With it's lowest point at just 1m above sea level, it rises to a summit altitude of 202m producing an easy average gradient of 1:37 - It is also known under any of the following name deratives:
Great Brak Pass
Great Brak River Pass
Small and Great Brak River Cuttings
To add to the confusion, the old pass (R102) also bears any one of the above names. Take your pick! We have kept things simple and taken the name off the official government 1:50,000 map.
Ceres has an abundance of passes connecting it to the outside world. One of the oldest is the Hottentots Kloof Pass, which was the original wagon route between Cape Town and the Karoo through Ceres, long before the N1 was thought about. Together with the Karoo Poort these two passes carried considerable wagon traffic to the northern areas. The modern pass we drive on today does not follow the original wagon route, which is slightly further south, a little lower down the slope.
Houw Hoek Pass was built shortly after Sir Lowry's Pass was completed in 1833. The distance between the two passes is approximately 25km and covers some beautiful mountainous terrain. This middle section was known as Coles Pass - so named after the very same Sir Lowry Cole. The name Houw Hoek translates into 'Hold Corner' and is derived from the need to hold back, or slow down the ox-wagons whilst negotiating the steep descent down the pass.
This lovely, old (and very well designed) pass, which is also known as the Railway Pass, is unfortunately only suitable for 4WD vehicles with good ground clearance. There were a total of four passes built down the mountainside since the 1700's. This was the third road towards the Overberg and was constructed in 1904 to compliment the railway line. The line chosen was very cleverly done allowing for a major climb to take place at very comfortable gradients. The old pass is in a pictureque setting as it follows the course of the Jakkals River, which is a tributary of the Bot River. The Jakkalsrivier shares the narrow ravine with the road and the railway line. Sections of the pass falls within or close to, the Houw Hoek Nature Reserve.
This fairly steep gravel pass lies on the east/west axis on the southern side of the Swartberg Mountains and connects the Kruisrivier farming area in the west with the Swartberg Private Game Lodge at the eastern end of the pass. Continuing eastwards along this road (P363) will bring you to the foot of the Swartberg Pass as well as ultimately to the Cango Caves.
The 13.4 km long Huisrivier pass lies on the R62 between two valleys in the Little Karoo between the towns of Ladismith in the west and Calitzdorp in the east. This pass is unique in that its geology is unusually unstable and several pioneering engineering techniques had to be applied to successfully build a safe all-weather pass. The pass, which includes two river crossings, is not particularly steep, where the engineers have managed to limit the speepest gradients to a fairly comfortable 1:12. The pass is suitable for all vehicles with the only natural dangers being rockfalls, but the substantial catch walls appear to be taking care of that as well. The road carries heavy trucking traffic and overtaking is sometimes difficult.
This short and fairly steep gravel pass is located on an isolated farm access road a few kilometers to the east of Redelinghuys in the Sandveld region. This pass is mainly used by 4x4 enthusiasts to access the Jakkalskloof 4x4 route - a tough and tricky route down steep inclines and through deep sand. The road is a dead-end, but a normal car will mange the pass to the farm house at the summit without any problems, but cars with low ground clearance might have some issues.
The Jan Muller Pass is a short, steep pass, with a descent and ascent over the low level bridge over the Gouritz River which is also named after Jan Muller. This rugged gravel road pass is fairly short at 3,63km and descends in a series of tight switchbacks from the eastern approach to cross the Gouritz River over a low level concrete bridge (which is subject to regular flooding). The western ascent is very steep with a gradient of 1:4, but the authorities have concrete-stripped this section allowing for good traction. It makes the road driveable in a normal car.
The Jan Phillips Mountain Road (or more correctly Jan Phillips Bergpad) runs along the eastern flank of the famous Paarlberg Mountain, approximately 3/4 of its height and mainly along the 300m contour - and provides access to the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, Meulwater picnic site and a vast number of hiking and mountain bike trails at the summit of the mountain. Jan Phillips was a respected wagon maker in the town in the 1800's. It's a fairly long gravel road of 10,8 km that starts and ends at either end of the town of Paarl.
It's an easy enough drive for any vehicle, but the road is quite narrow in places. If you comply with the 30 kph speed limit (which very few people do) you will not have any problems. Be wary of corrugations, which can easily cause loss of control. We recommend tyre deflation to 1.4 bar before driving this route.
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.