The statistics for this pass are not particularly impressive, as it is only 2.9 km long and has a height gain/loss of only 103 metres. But dry statistics don’t always paint the right picture. This stunningly beautiful pass is absolutely worth the time and effort it takes to get there, and will leave a lasting impression on your soul. The “road” is little more than a track, and has a few tricky sections with large rocks, sharp stones and patches of very soft sand, so do not tackle this pass if you are not driving a 4x4 fitted with all-terrain tyres. If you attempt this pass on an adventure motorcycle, be prepared to fix a puncture or two and/or to pick up your bike a few times!
Roughly translated, the name of this pass means “road of the mountain people”. It is located in the middle of nowhere, about 56 km from Postmasburg and quite close to the famous Witsand Nature Reserve. The pass statistics are not particularly impressive, with the exception of the maximum gradient, which works out in excess of 1:3; there is a 400-metre-long section of this pass which is very, very steep! The road is in a relatively poor condition, and it should not be attempted in a normal car; at the very least, a high-clearance vehicle is required. It is very easy to get lost in this part of the world, even if you are using a GPS, as many of the “public” roads are blocked by locked gates.
The Devil's Pass is a rough jeep track only suitable for 4x4 vehicles. It runs from east to west up the Southern slopes of the historical Mhlobane Mountain to summit at 1562m ASL, offering 360 degree panoramic views. This is a not track to be tackled lightly as it is a dead end at the summit, which means you have to back-track to where you started. Allow plenty of time (4 hours) to complete the circuit. It is probable that a permit is required to do this route and it might even be closed to vehicles and only accessible on foot. Inquire at Vryheid Tourism.
Sani Pass is the mother of all South African mountain passes. Statistically and in every sense, it out distances, out climbs, and out performs all it's competitors with consummate ease to have become the most iconic gravel pass in SA.
Situated between KZN and Lesotho the pass was built circa 1950 and remains a challenging drive in 4x4 vehicles with all the drama, scenery, bad weather and treacherous conditions expected of a pass with a summit altitude of 2876m ASL.
This is high altitude stuff. Go prepared for bad weather at any time and expect snowfalls as late as October. Snow has fallen on the pass in every month of the year, albeit not in the same year.
To maximise on the scenery, we filmed the pass in the descending mode. For most drivers the pass will be driven in the ascending mode for first timers, so we have retained our original 2 part video set filmed in the ascending mode, filmed in October, 2012. The videos appear at the bottom of the page.
The Sandspruit Pass is a rough, gravel road pass in the area to the North East of the tiny settlement of Geluksburg in KZN. This is strictly a 4x4 route route - and you will need low range and good clearance as well. Some sections along the top of the mountain are badly rutted and will probably result in a recovery if the weather is wet (even in a 4x4). The pass has historical value as it was once a route used by the legendary Piet Retief.
Normandien Pass is named after the farm and small settlement located near the foot of the pass on the eastern side, which consists of just of few buildings, a shop and a police station. It is without question one of the best gravel passes in KwaZulu-Natal, and one which many avid off-road enthusiasts aspire to conquer. It has all of the elements that make up a great pass – altitude (at 1995 metres ASL, this is the second highest pass in KZN, after Sani Pass), steep gradients, difficult road conditions, lots of twists and turns, and breath-taking views. Depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, this pass could be driven in a high clearance vehicle, but a 4x4 is strongly recommended.
Mike's Pass is a rough, high altitude, 4x4 pass in the Drakensberg in KZN. You will be rewarded with incredible views and mountain top fresh air to invigorate your senses. Snow in winter is common, in which case the pass will probably be closed to the public. Some sections have concrete strips.
Latest info: As at September, 2014 we have it on good authority that this pass is now only accessble in a NCS vehicle (the nature reserve's own vehicles) at a cost of R60 per person - minimum 4 persons. Trips are on offer 4 times per day - at 0900; 1200 and 1600. The controlling authority must have had good reason to have made this decision and I doubt very much it would have been based on profit. We invite them to contact us with an explanation as there appear to be many disappointed gravel pass fans who would have loved to drive this pass in their own vehicle.
This historical gravel road pass was built between 1867 and 1869. It's a long pass at almost 17 km and it has a substantial altitude variance of 383m which produces a fairly mild average gradient of 1:44, but the vast majority of the steeper gradients occur on the eastern side of the pass, where there are some steep sections at 1:5.
Fortunately it seldom rains here, so the road is generally quite safe for non 4WD vehicles. The scenery along which the road traverses is exceptionally dramatic with towering rock faces and a generally bone-dry river bed in view most of the time. This road is not suitable for cars lacking good ground clearance. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Wildeperdehoek Pass as they are inseparably linked, both geographically and historically.
Hennings Pass is an off the beaten track gravel road, becoming a jeep-track that is only suitable for 4WD vehicles. It lies near the Verloren Valei and runs in a southerly direction along the banks of the Crocodile River. It is roughly 20km SE of Dullstroom and 18 km NW of Machodorp (as the crow flies). For those wanting to drive this route, please note that is slow going and it is an out and back route, so allow plenty of time.
As far as passes go this is really not much of a pass with a moderate altitude variance of 52m and only short sections even vaguely resembling a true mountain pass, but it is an official pass and is recorded as such on the official government 1:50,000 maps.
So why drive it? This road is remote and you will more than likely be the only vehicle there. So if you enjoy being away from the crowds and in the bush, then by all means go and drive this one. The road is a dead-end and ends at a farm, so the entire route has to be backtracked when you are done.
This true offroad pass covers almost 30 km of rough dirt road and jeep tracks as it traverses the Drakensberg through the Lekgamaleetse Provincial Nature Reserve. Due to the technical nature of this pass, we have broken it up into two sections - Part 1 West and Part 2 East. This road is only suitable for high clearance 4x4 vehicles and adventure motor cyclists.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: April, 2021
Driving from west to east it now takes 6 hours to reach the summit.
From the start to the reserve gate: 2.5 hours as the road is in extremely poor condition and very rocky and overgrown. Take a panga or bush cutter with you. The scenery is magnificent, but you will need to be in 1st and 2nd gear Low Range the entire distance.
From the reserve gate to the summit things are sketchy. The duty ranger reprts that no vehicle had passed his control point in the last 4 months. Inside the reserve there is almost no road left. The recent heavy rain took away the road and you had to drive and push the bush out of the way till you reach the switchbacks. The grass is very tall and you will need a seed-net.
The last 2 km before the summit you will cross some very deep ruts between 1.0 and 1.5m deep. These require some road building, so make sure you have a spade or two handy.
(This notice information was submitted by Jacques Booyse who drove the route over the Easter Weekend 2021.)
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.