This short, rough gravel road winds its way up the slopes of the Goukamma River Valley just to the north of the N2 between Knysna and Sedgefield. The pass offers great views over the Ganzvlei farm, after which it is named, where it nestles on the green banks of the Goukamma River. The railway line (now defunct) lies between this pass and the N2. The road is primarily used by loggers living in the mountains and it's not suited to sedan vehicles, but any vehicle with good ground clearance will manage, although we recommend a 4WD vehicle is being optimal.
This is a serious off-road pass that involves a bridgeless river crossing, long sections of stepped rock inclines, sharp corners, razor sharp tyre slicing rocks, loose stones, steep gradients and immense views over the Doring River valley. It is only possible in a high clearance 4x4 with low range or for motorcycle riders, a lightweight bike will also do the trick. This road is not recommended for inexperienced drivers/riders. The pass straddles the border of the Western and Northern Cape and forms part of the R2266 gravel road that connects the Biedouw Valley with the R355 south of Calvinia.
This poort runs along the north-south axis through the mountains approximately halfway between Willowmore and Steytlerville. It's gravel and it's rough and we dont recommend this road for non 4WD vehicles or vehicles with low ground clearance. The 4,38 km long poort gains only 95m in altiitude, producing an easy average gradient of 1:46. This part of the Eastern Cape offers some of the best gravel roads in South Africa for the adventure traveller.
Let it not be said that we dont cover every mountain pass in South Africa! Over the past three years we have had many requests from pass fans as to exactly where the fabled Donkies Pass is. This week we unveil the first of two passes named after the asses. It took a lot of research finding these two passes, but thanks to the meticulous work done by one of our readers, Brits Steyn, who submitted an exceptionally well researched list of passes in KZN and Mpumalanga, we are able to accurately pinpoint these two 'off the beaten track' passes.
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A serious off-road route up (or down) the Drakensberg escarpment between the Vulintaba Country Estate in KZN and the farming area in the Free State near Memel. This one is for very experienced 4x4 drivers and MTB riders only - and is challenging, technical and steep. The pass is 3,23 km long and ascends 378m over that distance producing an average gradient of 1:8,5 with the steepest parts being at 1:3, making this the second steepest pass in South Africa. Vehicles will need to be full 4x4 with high ground clearance, low range and be equipped with recovery gear. The route traverses private property, so permission is required from both land owners.
This is a serious off-road jeep track over the Drakensberg starting in KZN and ending just over the border in the Free State. It lies on private land and permission has to be obtained from the landowners to complete the route. The pass is 4,91 km long and climbs 465m producing an average gradient of 1:10,55 with the steepest parts being at 1:3,2! This one is not for sissies!
This one is not for the faint-hearted. It is essentially a very rough 4x4 track, often not even visible - involving scouting ahead on foot at times. There are 15 stream crossings and a climb through a neck towards the northern side involving gradients of 1:3! The pass is basically a northern extension of Rogers Pass and is used by local farmers to manage their fire-breaks. It is also a dead end at its northern side and the only way to head east or west from the end of the pass is on foot. For those willing to take the risks of driving this very remote pass, you will be rewarded with absolute isolation and some of the best scenery the Drakensberg has on offer.
This is a very steep and rough 4x4 only jeep track route in the Drakensberg to the west of the Chelmsford Nature Reserve. It traverses private land and permission to use the route must first be obtained. Together with Brandons pass and Keays Pass, the three form a complex integrated route extending over a large area and can form a challenging circuit for 4x4 groups or club outings. You will need a high clearance 4WD vehicle with low range and recovery equipment for this one and a minimum of three vehicles in the interests of safety.
A tough Grade 5 4x4 route up the Nuweveld Mountains that is an old route connecting the rest camp at Karoo national Park with the summit area on the mountain plateau and joins the Klipspringer Pass as its termination point. This is for the more serious offroader with a robust 4x4 with low range and high ground clearance. The gradients get as steep as 1:3,3 so be prepared for some nail biting driving. In 4WD circles a Grade 5 is labelled as : "Probable damage to vehicle or possible injury to passengers and driver" Dont try this one alone or unless you have substantial offroad driving experience and understand advanced recovery techniques.
NOTE: After heavy rains in late 2020 this pass has been severely damaged and is currently closed.
A bigger pass of 10,2 km which loses 408m in altitude, producing an average gradient of 1:25 and the steepest parts being at 1:5. It offers dramatic views over deep kloofs and valleys with a jumble of green peaks wherever you look. It forms part of the Rooi Ivoor 4x4 route on the north/south axis which includes the Buffelskloof Pass as well as access to the Buffelskloof Dam. The route is restricted/private and there are control gates at both the Doornkloof farm in the north as well as near the Buffelskloof dam in the south. Only open to proper 4x4 vehicles with good clearance and low range.
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.