Translated from the Afrikaans to mean 'Blacksmith's Shop', this route delivers the best views when driven from south to north. The pass begins at the crest of the hill just past the turn-off to the Cape Point Reserve at an altitude of 146m ASL, then drops immediately down a 1km fairly straight section (with a gradient of around 1:11) towards a sharp left-hand bend of 90 degrees, where parking is available. The road forms part of a wonderful circular route around the Cape Peninsula and carries a lot of tourist traffic including tour buses 7 days per week.
Red Hill Road is 7.6 km in length, packing a fantastic scenic punch into that distance, with most of it in the final 3.4 kms of descent. The road starts at the intersection of the M65 (the coastal road from Cape Point to Kommetjie) and the M66 (Redhill's official route designation.) It plays host to one of Cape Town's favourite long distance road running races - the 36 km Redhill Race. The road contains over 30 corners, bends and curves, which include no less than 6 hairpin bends - four of which occur on the eastern side of the mountain. Allow space on the hairpins for bigger vehicles, which will require the entire width of the road to negotiate the bends. Despite the extreme bends, the gradients are actually quite reasonable at 1:14 at the steepest point.
The Pakhuis Pass (meaning 'packing shed' in Afrikaans) begins just outside Clanwilliam, connecting it with the Karoo town of Calvinia and beyond. The pass's surveyor and builder, Thomas Bain, was an incredibly energetic man of many talents, which included art, rock paintings, geology, cartography and engineering. This is a major pass which has recently been fully tarred over its entire length and offers a wide variety of scenery, grave sites, weathered rock formations, picnic sites and some of the Cederberg's finest hiking trails.
The pass is suitable for all vehicles but do comply with the speed limits, especially along the northern switchback section, where the gradients are quite steep and the corners (although nicely radiused by the road builders), are quite sharp. The pass is in the Top 20 passes nationally in terms of its length (26,4 km) and has a big altitude gain of 824m. Most of the new road follows Thomas Bain's original lines.
Grootrivierhoogte forms part of the exceptionally beautiful route through the Southern Cederberg, connecting farms like Kromrivier, Matjiesrivier, Nuwerus and Mount Ceder, with the plateau of the Koue Bokkeveld. The road is made up of two major passes - the other being the Blinkberg Pass. Both offer stunning mountain scenery in crisp mountain air. The passes are seriously steep in some places - as steep as 1:5 !!!
Grootrivierhoogte is one of the steepest along this route and light front wheel cars will struggle on the final section near the summit in wet conditions, but for the vast majority of the year, this pass is doable in any vehicle. Take time to stop at the summit and allow the mesmerising mountain views to captivate your soul. From the summit one can look to the south and see part of the Blinkberg Pass, whilst the northern view includes Nuwerus, and Cederberg Oasis.
The Gydo Pass was built at the same time as Michells Pass by Andrew Geddes Bain and his team of convict labourers circa 1848. This important pass connected the Warm Bokkeveld with the higher altitude Koue Bokkeveld, as well as the remote, but fertile (and therefore lucrative) Witzenberg Valley a few kilometers west of the head of the pass.
Michell's Pass (frequently misspelt as Mitchell's Pass) was named after Charles Michell who planned the original route through the Skurweberg & Witzenberg Mountains from Tulbagh and Wolseley through to Ceres. He was a talented military engineer, who perhaps gained more fame for his exploits by eloping with the 15 year old daughter of a French colonel. This might explain why he was "transferred" to the Cape of Good Hope! Michell went on to become the Surveyor-General for the Colony and designed and built several prominent Cape passes and bridges and was a major influence in road construction in the Cape, together with the popular Colonial Secretary, John Montagu, had the vision to plan a network of roads through the Cape Colony that would pave the way to a successful growth in the region's economy.
Chapman's Peak Drive dates back to the early 1900's and is without question one of Cape Town's Top 10 tourist destinations. Its popularity is due to the incredible scenery on offer, viewed from a road which has been been literally hewn out of the almost vertical cliff faces on the Cape Peninsula's western side.
The 10 km long pass connects Hout Bay in the north with Noordhoek in the south and was converted into a toll road in 2003 to cover the high costs of maintaining the road to a safe standard. Along its length you will drive through more than 80 bends, corners and curves and see some impressive modern engineering, including massive steel catch nets and two semi-tunnels. Many sections of unstable rock-face have been reinforced with shotcrete.
This pass is loaded with drama and history dating back to 1910 and is best appreciated driven slowly. It must have seemed an impossible task building a road on such an inhospitable and dangerous cliff face, but the road building pioneers did the job!
The more observant viewers will notice that we have not included our standard vertical profile nor simulated fly-past clips in the first video. The reason for this is that Google Earth simply cannot 'read' the road correctly and the results are too distorted to provide an accurate simulation. This is the only pass in South Africa, where this has occurred.
Meiringspoort is a Top 10 destination. The poort bears a tough history of floods and landslides amongst incredible hardships, yet our engineers and road builders mastered the art of building a magnificent road through this awe-inspiring poort. Part 1 covers the first 8 km. of the poort. The second video covers the final 8 km and and includes the Interpretive Centre and main waterfall and ends near the charming village of De Rust.
The pass is in superb condition and offers typically gentle poort gradients, but the 63 bends, corners and curves do require a high level of concentration. It's easy to become mesmerised by the mind boggling scenery, so drivers need to remain focused and understand that the lack of safety shoulders and large volume of heavy trucks means a certain level of danger is always present. It's best to drive this poort on a weekend or public holiday, when there are fewer trucks. Stop often and enjoy one of South Africa's finest poorts which is packed with history.
Like its neighbouring pass, Katbakkies Pass, the Peerboomskloof Pass was originally carved out by the local Khoi people as a cattle path. Farmers later used it as a wagon road to cross over the mountains from the Koue Bokkeveld to the Ceres Karoo. Only recently tarred and 4,5 km long, it provides picture-perfect views of the open, rugged expanse of the Tankwa Karoo and the mountain range separating it from the Koue Bokkeveld.
The first 2 km of the pass are tarred and sports a stiff gradient of 1:7. This tarring was done fairly recently and the road remains narrow with no road markings, so don't be fooled by the tar surface as it is still a dangerous pass. The pass initially enters the bottom end of the poort via an S-bend. The second part of the bend is very sharp and immediately a gravel track leads off to the left which goes to a picnic area. Once the top of the tarred section is reached at 704m ASL, the surface is once again gravel, but the gradient initially remains steep as the road heads up towards the plateau section, whereafter the gradients ease off to a more comfortable 1:20. The upper portion of the pass is relatively easy.
The decisively steep Katbakkies Pass traces over what was once an old sheep-trekking route over the Skurweberge mountains. It joins the Koue Bokkeveld with the Ceres Karoo and Tankwa Karoo. It was recently (1999) tarred and although fairly short, it has a serious average gradient of 1/13 which will tax many an underpowered vehicle and especially the two sections about quarter way up the western ascent, which measure out at UNDER 1:4! The pass is sometimes covered in snow during winter as the snow line of 1000m ASL is well below this pass's maximum altitude of 1200m. It's a narrow road and has no road markings, so take it slowly and enjoy the spectacular barren landscape.
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.